Article

Seven Ways AI Improves Wellbeing for Proposal Professionals

July 17, 2024
Darrell Woodward

GenAI platforms can be leveraged to improve proposal professionals' wellbeing, leading to better work-life balance and more rewarding careers.

Article

Seven Ways AI Improves Wellbeing for Proposal Professionals

Jul 17, 2024

The RFP response business is full of dedicated professionals helping their organizations win more work. It’s a rewarding and fulfilling career but it’s also infamous for late nights, weekend working, last-minute rushes, and relentless pressure. Organizations are responding to more RFPs, proposal teams are short on numbers, deadlines seem to get ever shorter, and the drive is always to bid more.

                            1 in 5 RFP responders say their stress levels are unmanageable.                                                                                           

Small wonder then, that wellbeing, stress and burnout have become big topics in recent years. The proposal industry needs a break, and it might just come from an unlikely source.

Artificial Intelligence became the big tech topic of 2023, and it was immediately obvious that, if generative AI can write answers based on a question submitted, it was going to have a big impact on RFP response. At first there was disbelief that a machine could “write”, then came fear for our jobs. More recently, there’s been some acceptance of a future where proposal professionals and AI can work together.

It's easy to see how AI’s use in proposals can have a direct impact on efficiency, time saving, and increased productivity. The problem is the primary benefit always seems to be “bid more”. But that’s not a benefit to proposal professionals. We don’t want to bid more, we want to bid better. We need to look after our wellbeing, add even more value to our organizations, and reignite our creativity.

  Don't view the time saved as an opportunity to simply increase workload. Instead, let’s focus                                              on how AI frees us to elevate our work.

Instead of taking our jobs, making us more productive, or helping us work harder, how can AI help us manage stress, avoid burnout, and enjoy our jobs?

1.   Saving time and reinvesting it in what matters

The potential for AI to save time is well documented, with tools helping users be 70% more efficient in the overall RFP process. What’s really important is what we do with that time. Simply asking people to do more work isn’t going to drive productivity or, at least, it won’t drive productive productivity – in fact, it'll likely accelerate burnout. Instead, let’s reinvest the time saved on things that matter to the profession.

   AI can save us time but the real benefit lies in how it empowers us to do our jobs better by   giving us the tools and freedom to hone our skills, stay ahead of industry trends, and do our                                                                              best work.         

                                                                                                                            

For example, we could spend time building deeper and more meaningful client relationships. Or, we could finally invest in the professional development courses, industry conferences, and reading to keep up with the latest trends in bidding and the industries we serve. Perhaps we could even use the time to develop a more strategic bid function with a robust bid / no bid process to analyze potential bids and focus resources on those with the highest win probability. Maybe we could be more proactive in our pre-RFP planning, influencing the client’s requirements and winning business with proactive proposals.

Alternatively, we factor that saved time into our capacity planning. We put an end to late night pizza, and ring fence weekends for recreation, relaxation, family and friends. We make sure we have the skills and resources needed to achieve the organization’s targets and pipeline. 

The result is a more rested, better motivated, and more engaged proposal team.

2.   Ditch the drudge work

It’s an unfortunate reality that much of a proposal professional’s work is, let’s face it, rather dull. There’s a lot of repetitive, low-level admin work, which can make us feel like we’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of drudgery. AI is ideally suited for handling exactly these types of repetitive tasks. That leaves us free to focus on the parts of the job AI can’t do and we actually enjoy.

      Ditching the drudgery and bidding busywork can help us reduce stress, reinvigorate our                                          energy, and regain a sense of accomplishment.

This admin work and the constant pressure to meet deadlines can be a major source of stress. We’ve talked about the benefits of reinvesting the time saved but simply offloading some of the bidding busywork can help us approach our work with a calmer, more collected mindset.

When we're bogged down in administrative tasks, it can be hard to feel we’re doing anything that really matters. It’s essential, yes, and there’s a sense of purpose in that. But is it moving the needle? When we focus on the strategic aspects of proposal development, we and others can see the tangible impact of our work. As a result, we feel a much greater sense of accomplishment in our work and that can only increase our wellbeing.

3.   Streamlining the bid process

While a lot of the focus and hype about AI has been its potential to write proposals or contribute to answering RFPs, there is significant scope for AI to help us with the process and internal machinery of the bid.

       AI can help reduce some of the cognitive load, improve decision making, and support a                                                                    smoother bid process.

Smart Information Retrieval

As well as generating content, AI can help with more intelligent search of our existing databases. Looking for relevant information across all our past proposals, project details, curated content libraries, and client information means the latest answers are always on hand. It not only saves us time but reduces the stress of managing and maintaining a bid repository.

Risk Assessment and Win Probability

We can use AI to analyze historical data, competitor bids (obtained lawfully and ethically), and market trends to predict win probability and identify potential risks. With AI-generated recommendations, we can focus our energy on high-potential bids and address potential risks before they become showstoppers. We could all benefit from working on fewer unwinnable “strategic” bids.

Streamlined Collaboration

As proposal professionals, we’re often the hub of a communication network involving various teams. We need them but it’s usually not their “day job”, even though they need us to win work for their job security. AI-powered platforms can assist with managing the collaboration, ensuring everyone stays on the same page, deadlines are met, and approvals are obtained. It can help reduce the friction in our working lives, leading to a calmer work environment and a smoother bid process.

Automated Workflows and Alerts

In the heat of a bid, we can carry a huge mental load of juggling multiple tasks while retaining responsibility for completing all the critical steps. AI shouldn’t take on those responsibilities – that’s our burden – but it can manage the flow of tasks within the bid process, automatically assigning deadlines and sending reminders. That frees us to see the bigger picture, focus on what’s most important, and manage the exceptions.

4.   Brainstorming and generating creative ideas

We often work alone, as the sole qualified bid expert on a team. With whom can we brainstorm ideas, challenge our own assumptions, and seek intelligent feedback? Other team members often don’t understand or appreciate the deep understanding we have for the subtleties of a persuasive proposal and that can cause conflict.

 Imagine a virtual bid buddy, available 24/7 to bounce ideas, argue pros and cons, and critique                                                                               our work.

When we’re stuck in a rut, AI can offer a different perspective and help us find a way out. Using its knowledge of past proposals and industry trends, it might suggest an innovative approach we haven’t considered. Or it could just help us clarify our own thinking: just like talking a problem over with a friend, it’s the conversation that leads us to revelation. 

Perhaps we have plenty of our own ideas but we need a partner to challenge our assumptions. We all have blind spots, especially when it comes to reviewing our own writing. AI can analyze our proposal drafts, highlighting potential weaknesses or areas that could be strengthened. It has the added advantage of being non-judgmental and it’s not offended if we ignore the advice.

A virtual sounding board may help overcome the isolation that often comes with being the sole bid expert and improve our confidence in our work before we share with others.

5.   Driving data-based bid decisions

Anecdotally, one of the biggest frustrations for bid people is working diligently on preparing and making recommendations for bid / no bid decisions, only to have the process and criteria overridden by a “strategic” decision. You know the ones: they qualify out on every measure but they’re irresistibly high value or sales are addicted to the numbers game. “You’ve got to be in it to win it!” They are soul destroying.

 By providing a platform for objective decision support, AI can significantly improve credibility .                             and confidence, leading to reduced frustration and stress.

Using AI to analyze historical data, industry trends, and competitor information, we benefit from objective data-driven insights to support our recommendations. While it can’t overcome a bad, bid everything culture, it can present hard data on which to challenge gut feeling and over-optimistic decision makers.

Where the decision to bid or not is not quite so clear cut, AI can make a prediction on the likelihood of success. This win probability analysis helps create a clear picture of the potential return on investment for each bid, potentially against other opportunities competing for the same resources. Then, when we commit resources to a bid, we need to understand the potential risks associated so we can proactively address any concerns and implement mitigation strategies.

By combining data-driven arguments alongside our professional judgment, we can work with leadership to arrive at the best decision for the organization, accounting for win probability, risks, and resource capacity. For the proposal team, it can build our credibility, help us optimize our capacity planning, and protect us from arbitrary decision making.

6.   Preparing for productive reviews

Reviews can be a major source of stress for bid professionals. As the point person for the project, it’s hard not to feel judged. We shouldn’t – it’s a team game after all – but we feel a special responsibility and it’s inevitable we’ll take criticism personally. Then there’s always the fear of a Review Assassin, who trashes everything but has no constructive advice.

  Prepare for reviews by pre-reviewing with AI to weed out all the easiest feedback and focus                          reviewers on genuine value add recommendations for the proposal.

We hold reviews because it’s difficult to be objective when reading our own work. We’re naturally biased, we have blind spots, and we’re blind to our blind spots. The way to protect our ego during reviews is to prepare thoroughly, preferably by asking an impartial outside observer to conduct a pre-review of our proposal for grammar and style, compliance, and clarity.

An AI pre-review will eliminate typos, grammatical errors, and stylistic inconsistencies, which means the review team won’t get distracted and start proof-reading instead of improving. It can also identify missing information, meaning we can go into a review with a gap analysis to demand more support from contributors. Our AI partner can also anticipate potential feedback, helping to boost our confidence and reduce anxiety

7.   Winning more and winning more easily

Nothing refreshes and energizes us as much as winning. It is, after all, the ultimate purpose of all our proposal efforts. Winning is deeply satisfying from a personal point of view but it also secures revenue for our organization and that keeps everyone in a job.

  Winning proposals don't just benefit our organizations; they have a profound impact on our    wellbeing with a sense of accomplishment, increased personal confidence, and a boost to                                                                            team morale.

In this article we’ve looked at how AI can save us time through efficiency, eliminating drudge work, and smoothing the bid process. It can help us be more creative by suggesting ideas and challenging ours. It can bring objectivity to our decision making and our proposal reviews. All of these things contribute to reduced stress and better job satisfaction for the proposal team but they also help us develop better, more innovative, more insightful proposals.

We win when we’re winning and we win again when we’ve won.

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