Agilewords Blog

A Smarter Way to Review Business Proposals

  • By Ivan Walsh
  • March 11, 2011
  • No comments

How come it’s still so difficult to review a simple business proposal? Think about it. We’ve sent men to the Moon, mapped the genome, and raised the Titanic. So, you’d think we’d have found a nice, effective way to share business proposals, get feedback, and submit them on time.

Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept

How Most Business Proposals Get Reviewed

Old habits die hard. I grew up with email and use this to send documents to colleagues. And that’s fine, well, up to a point. Sending documents internally works when there are no security risks and when I'm asking one, maybe two, colleagues to review the document.

Here’s what I do:

  • Write the document in Microsoft Word. I have Word 2007.
  • Attach it to an email and send to the reviewer. Hopefully he has Word 2007 or there may be formatting issues later on.
  • Include a Due Date and reminder that I need it completed by this date. Otherwise, it might slide down his inbox and miss the deadline.

Then it’s a matter of waiting. And hoping they remember to do the review. If I get nervous I send out email reminders, phone them if they’re on the road, or head over to their office. It’s not ideal but I get the feedback eventually. The thing is I know it could be better.

The Nitty Gritty of Document Reviews

There is another issue. That’s how the documents are actually reviewed.

  • Feedback – Integrating comments, corrections and queries is possible when you're dealing with a small number of contributors, something you can manage. But, when you're trying to collate feedback from seven or eight different reviewers, it can get very difficult.
  • Security – While email is convenient, there are security risks. What happens if someone reads the business proposal or copies it to a memory stick and then loses it? Or if the email is intercepted and altered by a third party?
  • Schedule – How do I ensure that the document is completed on schedule? Remember, I have no visibility on the reviewer’s progress. To compensate for this, I send reminders, make calls and wander over to their desk. It’s time-consuming and not practical when dealing with offsite reviewers.
  • Visibility – The limitation of email is that it’s fine for distributing documents but gives little or no insight into how far they’ve progressed with the review. I can’t even tell if they’ve started.

A Smarter Way to Review Business Proposals

For the new release of Agilewords, we examined how we could improve it so document owners (i.e. the person responsible for getting the document reviewed on time) would have more visibility, better controls, and a more efficient way to integrate the feedback. We prioritized the key issues and design the application around their most pressing requirements. For example:

  • Feedback – Instead of copying and pasting text from different documents (and file formats), we use one single master document online. This means, once authorized, your team can login and add their comments. This reduces the hassle of comparing documents and checking one comment against the other. It also allows reviewers to see what others have written, avoid entering the same comment again, or make more informed observations.
  • Security – As all documents are held on a dedicated secure server (with security provided by the award-winning Rackspace), your business documents have multiple levels of protection. Every edit, change, and correction is tracked giving you a detailed audit trail. You also get immediate email notifications as changes as made. Again contrast this with email where you have limited visibility and there are greater security risks.
  • Schedule – When you're managing a team of reviewers, and the document is due by a specific date - say in response to a Request For Proposal - you want to control the schedule and get it completed on time. To help you achieve this, you can send invites to colleagues, ask for confirmations, and then add due dates to their tasks. This helps you manage the document review lifecycle and ensure that the write, review, and approve stages are completed faster.
  • Visibility – How about if you're managing five or six business proposals? How do you keep track of each one’s progress, assign roles, coordinate tasks, and see that reviewers are working to the deadline? That’s why we created the online Dashboard. This shows you the progress of each document, tasks, and communication all on one page. And it gets better! With a single click, you can create folders for new projects just like you would do on your PC. You're no longer tethered to your PC. You, and your team, can update the Business Proposals from any location that has web access.

Conclusion

We’re all creatures of habit. I’ve used email for over twenty years and found all types of shortcuts and workarounds to get documents reviewed. But I realized that times changed and I need to change with them.

The next time you review a business proposal, ask yourself, ‘Is there a better way to do this?’

I think you’ll find that some of those ideas are available in Agilewords. If you have ten minutes, take it for a test run. Let me know what you think.

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