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Understanding knowledge management

Understanding knowledge management

Aside from your employees, company knowledge is your organization’s most valuable asset. If yours is like most, the amount of […]


Category: Content & Storytelling

Understanding knowledge management

Understanding knowledge management

Aside from your employees, company knowledge is your organization’s most valuable asset. If yours is like most, the amount of knowledge accumulated over the years seems to grow exponentially until systems become bloated with duplicate and outdated information.

Traditionally, knowledge management was haphazard and siloed, with few auditing processes in place. AI-driven technology to the rescue! RFPIO’s Content Library is an AI-powered knowledge management database that helps democratize and organize information, benefiting anyone who needs it.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management is about managing a company’s content repository policies, practices, and pretty much anything that is valuable enough for the company to keep. There are several ways to capture, share, and organize knowledge. Knowledge management is about organization, but it’s also about sharing, along with the process of recording and retaining. 

If you are unsure about the importance of a knowledge management system, read how one of the most technologically advanced organizations in the world dropped the knowledge management ball, with ramifications that still reverberate, half a century later

Did you know that the main reason NASA stopped sending crewed missions to the moon is poor knowledge management? If that sounds implausible to you, we don’t blame you. 

In the late 1960s-early 1970s, the United States invested billions of dollars and tapped into some of the brightest minds on the planet toward creating the Apollo missions. 11 iterations in, and several years later, U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The entire world was rapt.

After that, it seemed we might be on our way to regular, perhaps even civilian, trips to the moon. But suddenly, in 1972, the Apollo missions stopped, and we haven’t sent a crew to the moon in the 50 years since. Why? Well, in large part because they forgot to write things down.

Indeed, this is an oversimplification. Other factors, such as more advanced materials and technology, made replicating the Apollo crafts difficult. And Apollo blueprints aren’t exactly single-paged documents. However, even NASA admits that its knowledge management failure hurt future projects. 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory CKO David Oberhettinger recalls, “No one thought to keep a copy of the drawing and design data for the gargantuan Saturn 5 rocket that brought us to the moon.”

Today, thankfully, NASA takes knowledge management very seriously. They have managed to recreate much of the technology, but the design for the Saturn 5 rocket is gone.

Your company might not be in business to send people to the moon, but as with NASA, moving forward sometimes means looking backward. Not only does company knowledge help you learn from your successes and failures, but it also helps forge a path toward the future. Can effective knowledge management help you avoid Apollo-sized failures?

Obstacles to a knowledge management system

People are often reluctant to share or may take for granted that the knowledge is already public, at least among stakeholders. Some people are more deliberate and have somewhat of an old-school mindset—that if they share too much knowledge, it will make them expendable.

How to encourage company buy-in

Minds don’t change overnight, and neither do work habits. The best approach is gradual. Don’t immediately change everything. Instead, record and organize what you’re doing for processes and how knowledge managers will be able to access information from multiple repositories across the company.

Pitch why it’s essential, such as simplifying the training process. Emphasize that intelligent knowledge management will save their time and keep them from having to pester subject matter experts (SMEs) by eliminating the need to ask for answers to questions the SMEs have already addressed.

What are the three types of knowledge management?

Knowledge management generally encompasses three main types of knowledge: tacit, implicit, and explicit. What are the differences?

Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is as it sounds. It’s the knowledge that comes from years of experience but might not be easy to put into words. Still, the majority of company knowledge is in tacit form. 

Tacit knowledge might include negotiation skills, creative thinking, or knowing the company tone and voice in written correspondence. Because tacit information is by definition difficult to record, it’s best passed on through training, trial and error, and mentorship.

Additionally, tacit knowledge helps position people as industry thought leaders who can communicate with others in the industry on equal footing. 

Implicit knowledge

Have you ever tried to teach basic computer skills to someone who has never used a computer? It can be frustrating to both parties. Implicit knowledge is expertise that comes through training or practice to the point where you no longer have to think about what you’re doing. It can also refer to individual preferential processes. 

For example, how you start your workday—boot up the computer, check emails, check the calendar, etc.—might come from implicit knowledge if it’s a habit. Another example might be how you approach SMEs or make entries into the Content Library.

As with tacit knowledge, implicit knowledge is difficult to record, but it’s not impossible. Implicit knowledge is best passed along through training, which might include 1-to-1s or videos. It’s important to realize that not everyone is elbows deep in your day-to-day tasks, so thoroughness and patience are critical, as they are when you teach someone to use a computer.

Explicit knowledge

When most people think of knowledge management, they think of explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is written or otherwise documented, and easily stored in a knowledge database. 

Examples of explicit knowledge include profit and loss statements, your company’s mission statement, compliance documents, employee handbooks, etc. 

An effective management system should provide combined access to all types of knowledge across all organizational levels, especially since tacit and implicit knowledge can disappear after the knowledge holders leave the organization.

Both tacit and implicit knowledge become explicit when recorded. 

Why is effective knowledge management important?

According to a McKinsey survey, interaction workers spend about ⅕ of their time trying to locate internal information. The same study found that searchable knowledge bases can reduce that time spent by as much as 35%.

An IDC study found that around half of a data professional’s time is lost to improper knowledge management:

  • On average, employees who manage or use data spend 14 hours per week on data they can’t find, protect, or prepare.
  • They spend about 10 hours per week building information that already exists.
  • About 80% of businesses say that accessible, searchable, and accurate information is vital for operational efficiency, policy compliance, risk reduction, regulatory compliance, and increased revenue.

A well-developed, well-maintained knowledge management system has several tangible and not quite as tangible—but still key—benefits, including:

  • Improved efficiency – A well-managed knowledge management system eliminates redundancies, saves time searching for information, and generally empowers employees to do their jobs.
  • Retention of organizational expertise – People within companies have decades of information and historical data in their heads. Retaining the expertise helps prevent repeating mistakes of the past and contextualizes current actions and processes. 
  • Facilitates collaboration – A democratized knowledge management system helps tear down silos by letting people from anywhere in an organization access needed documents or other information for maximum collaboration. 
  • Enables data-driven decisions – A well-maintained knowledge database tracks changes within an organization. It even provides knowledge managers with the tools to see how much a particular part of the repository is used, how much things are utilized and not utilized, where there are knowledge gaps, etc.
  • Reduces the risk of a data breach – A single source of truth should have consistent security processes, such as two-factor authentication. Administrators should also control access. Browser-based access, as is available with RFPIO, lets employees access the knowledge base from anywhere without logging onto the company server.
  • Increases revenue – Accessible company knowledge empowers revenue teams to provide the information customers need and close more deals faster.

See how Crownpeak saw a 6x ROI within months of implementing RFPIO

What should be included in knowledge management systems?

Of course, every company defines critical knowledge differently, but there are some things that every organization should house in a secure, well-maintained company knowledge base. Some information might be closely-guarded, and some might be publicly available. Here are some examples:

  • Company information – Company history, mission, values, public product information vs. what’s on the roadmap for the future. Policies such as diversity, equity, inclusion, etc.
  • Sales enablement material – Product info, processes, sales cycles, relevant data, quotas, busy/slower seasons, customer service information, etc.
  • Internal FAQs – General HR questions, benefits, PTO, policies, product information, customer-facing information, mission values, etc.
  • Customer-facing FAQs – Values, mission, history, products and bundles, diversity, equity, inclusion, philanthropy, case studies, notable customers, etc.
  • Calendars – Major events of importance, quarterly all-hands, meetings from the CEO, events throughout the year, quarterly deadlines, sales cycle, etc. 
  • Marketing documents – Branded and ready-to-go content, brochures, case studies, logos, etc.
  • Product information – Historical and up-to-date versions of the product(s); some include product roadmaps, lists of subject matter experts, product onboarding and training materials, etc. 
  • Security information – Security policies and practices, depth of protection, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), compliance information, etc.

Types of knowledge management systems

There are two main types of knowledge management systems, corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Corporate wiki

A corporate wiki is a lot like Wikipedia. A wiki is truly democratized; anyone in the company can add to it or edit it. Corporate wikis shouldn’t house confidential information. 

Benefits of a corporate wiki

  • Enables increased employee engagement
  • Open source
  • Searchable

Downsides to a corporate wiki

  • Unreliable contributors and information
  • Difficult to audit
  • No defined page roles

Internal knowledge base software

Internal knowledge base software provides a controlled repository for information. It has defined access and page roles, and the content is generally reviewed for quality, accuracy, and timeliness.

Benefits to an internal knowledge base

An effective organizational knowledge management system should feature centralized accessibility, reusability, and efficiency. Intelligent knowledge management systems also include AI-powered automated response generation, real-time access, and auditing features. 

Knowledge management ensures that content is accessible and shareable within an organization and that there’s a clearly defined process for discovering and capturing knowledge. There are formal and informal ways of managing knowledge. Knowledge managers should look at what is being shared and what they need to capture.

How to develop a knowledge management strategy

Tools do not in themselves motivate people to share knowledge; however, a knowledge management strategy can support a cultural shift around sharing knowledge. Here are some steps for implementing a knowledge management strategy:

Identify organizational objectives

A knowledge management strategy should contribute to overall organizational goals, including organization objectives, culture, infrastructure, processes, etc. 

You can also break down your knowledge management practices, such as discovery, capture, organization sharing, etc.

Audit your current knowledge processes

Evaluating your current knowledge management system is necessary for benchmarking knowledge management capabilities. 

Questions you might ask to gain key insights into processes include: 

  • How effectively is knowledge currently accessed?
  • Where is knowledge presently stored?
  • Where do informational silos exist?
  • What gaps would exist if subject matter experts left and took their expertise with them?
  • What are common search terms?

Some information, such as company history, may be static, while other company knowledge needs regular updating. Setting regular—preferably automated—review cycles for existing data is essential. 

Capture and organize knowledge

As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. The same is true for knowledge management. Organizing knowledge as it goes into the database provides better searchability and optimized audit cycles. The best tactics for systematically codifying knowledge include:

  • Adding tags
  • Using templates for consistent formatting
  • Setting up custom fields and collections
  • Using filters for moderation
  • Restricting sensitive content visibility

Implement an accessible knowledge base

People often resist change, even if that change dramatically improves their work processes. The same is true with a knowledge management system. Rather than shock the company ecosystem, take it slowly. Tactics for rolling out a knowledge management system include: 

  • Establishing clear and transparent buy-in from departments – Include department heads in onboarding processes
  • Introducing the system to one department at a time for gradual expansion
  • Prioritizing departments in greatest need – For many companies, those in most need include revenue teams
  • Scheduling training for all users

Conduct regular audits

Advanced knowledge management systems are robust and intuitive, but when there are 1,000s of somewhat different answers to a single question, you might find yourself combing through them all. 

But a knowledge base is supposed to save you time, right? It will, but like a garden, it needs regular pruning—we suggest monthly. Here are some of the content auditing best practices:

  • Conduct a duplicate report and delete or warehouse duplicate content.
  • RFPIO’s Content Library allows auditors to pull insights reports to see how often content is used. Archive any content that hasn’t been used in the last year.
  • Archive content that hasn’t been used at all.

Measure improvement

There are many intangible benefits to knowledge base software, such as better collaboration, fewer mistakes, higher quality proposal responses, less frustration on the part of SMEs, better engagement, etc. But executives generally want to see more. They want numbers. 

Scheduling regular Content Library health reports can assist in demonstrating ROI to stakeholders.

Fortunately, RFPIO’s internal knowledge base software capabilities allow for easy, quantifiable measurements of post-implementation success through a wide range of reporting features, including:

  • Content Library Insights Report – Track trends, win/loss analysis, etc. Content Library reporting is almost limitless.
  • Content Library Timeline – Are you meeting customers’ timelines or your deliverables?
  • Content Library Search Terms Report – What are frequently used search terms?
  • Projects – Which projects are currently being worked on and which are on hold?
  • User activity – Which employees benefit from which content, and what content do they use?

RFPIO’s reporting features are fully customizable if the pre-built reporting features don’t cover all of your company’s needs. 

Breaking down silos: How RFPIO can help

Farm country, as you’ve probably witnessed, is dotted with grain silos. Silos are effective at storing grain because they’re insular—there’s little chance of contamination or leakage. That’s great for grain but not so much for companies.

Unfortunately, many companies, intentionally or not, work in solos. Departments are isolated, and any knowledge they create stays with them. RFPIO addresses the barriers that keep people from effectively sharing knowledge, including:

  • Not enough time – You have too much going on to provide information to people who you don’t even know. With RFPIO’s Content Library, they can find it themselves.
  • Cumbersome processes – RFPIO’s Content Library lets you customize and streamline your operations.
  • Outdated relevancy – The Content Library helps you conduct periodic audits to keep content fresh and accurate.
  • Lack of trustworthy source – User permissions help ensure content reliability.
  • Inaccessibility – The RFPIO Content Library is open to any stakeholder in the company. RFPIO® LookUp provides access from any browser.
  • Lack of collaboration – Desiloing helps encourage collaboration.

Dynamic Content Library

Your company might send people to the moon, but your accumulated company knowledge is vital for your future. Knowledge hygiene, or ensuring your knowledge base is accurate, de-duplicated, and current, helps ensure that employees aren’t running around like proverbial headless chickens as they try to locate the tools to do their jobs. 

Easy Collaboration

Most company knowledge is hard to define as company knowledge since it exists inside people’s heads. RFPIO’s collaborative software facilitates sharing implicit and tacit information with tools to tap into experts’ minds. 

  • In-app mentions – Tag collaborative partners with a simple @mention, right inside the RFPIO app. 
  • Messaging app integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with all the most popular messaging apps, such as Google Hangouts, Jira, Microsoft Teams, and Slack.
  • Task assignment capabilities – Assign tasks and track project status in real-time with advanced project management tools.
  • Eliminates the differences between formats – Whether your information is on a spreadsheet, a document, or a PDF file, RFPIO supports full searching and collaborative capabilities.

Integrations

We get that tech stacks sometimes grow out of control, and users having to check multiple apps throughout the day is a hassle. RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the applications you already use. 

Discover how sales teams can benefit from a streamlined and effective modern tech stack

Additionally, RFPIO® LookUp allows for quick access to the most up-to-date information from any web-based software, such as Salesforce, Slack, Google Docs, etc. If you have a web browser, you can access RFPIO’s Content Library.

Manage smarter knowledge with internal knowledge base software

If your knowledge management system contains out-of-date or inaccurate information, is siloed inside departments or inaccessible applications, or if you don’t have a knowledge management system at all, schedule a free demo.

 

Company wiki: How to decide if it’s right for your business

Company wiki: How to decide if it’s right for your business

A prospect sends over a question and you know you’ve answered it before. You already took time getting the answer just right. Now you either have to dig through old emails and notes, or try to recreate that answer. Either way, you’re wasting time duplicating work.

That’s frustrating from an individual perspective, but consider how many other employees have gone through this exact same process—some for that same question. In a recent analysis, Asana found that employees spend over four hours a week on this kind of duplicate work.

One way to get some of that time back is a company wiki.

What is a Company Wiki?

A company wiki, sometimes called a corporate wiki or business wiki, is a type of software that serves as a central repository of company knowledge. It works much like Wikipedia, the most widely known wiki example, in that anyone in the company can contribute. Employees can add articles as new information arises and questions come up, and can edit the information already there to improve accuracy.

54% of professionals said they spend more time searching for documents and files they need than responding to emails and messages. Wakefield Research

4 Benefits of a Corporate Wiki

1. It saves time.

Every minute an employee spends on a work task is one the company’s paying them for, so efficiency matters. In a survey by Wakefield Research, 54% of professionals said they spend more time searching for documents and files they need than responding to emails and messages. A wiki gives employees a faster way to find the information they need, giving them back time for work that’s more valuable.

2. It makes knowledge creation democratic.

Anyone at the company can add information to the wiki, or update an article to improve accuracy. A wiki isn’t a top-down approach. Information about products, processes, and common customer questions can come directly from the people whose jobs are most connected to that knowledge.

3. It enables knowledge sharing.

Someone in your company has written the best possible response to a common question. That response shouldn’t get lost once they press “send” on an email. A wiki allows you to capture every valuable piece of knowledge someone in the company produces so that others can take advantage of it.

4. It supports employee onboarding.

Finding the right candidates is always a challenge, but harder in 2022 than usual. When you find the right hire, you don’t want to lose them. Yet many companies fail to start the relationship right, with 58% of respondents in a Nintex survey saying they’ve encountered broken onboarding processes. 55% specifically mentioned issues accessing the tools and documents required to do their jobs. A well organized wiki collects the main training materials they need in one place so they can start doing their jobs faster.

How Can Companies Use a Company Wiki?

A company wiki can benefit employees across departments. For the customer support team, it provides a central repository of the best responses to common customer questions and issues. For the sales team, it can be a good place to store up-to-date sales enablement materials that make it easier to close deals. And as already mentioned, it’s a great place to keep the information that new hires need to get up to speed during the training process.

Go Beyond a Company Wiki: Get an Internal Knowledge Base

While a company wiki can offer a lot of benefits, it’s not necessarily the best tool for the job. You can get everything a company wiki offers and then some by investing in an internal knowledge base.

A good internal knowledge base offers:

  • Knowledge management features – Recording knowledge is just one part of the equation, you also need it to be easy for the right people to find when they need it. An internal knowledge base has features to aid in organization and findability, such as tags, collections, custom fields, and advanced search functionality.
  • Official department-specific content – There’s a downside to the democratic nature of wikis. When anyone can edit a page, you could end up with information that’s inaccurate or outdated. With an internal knowledge base you can make sure that all information is pre-approved by the right experts, and also organize it by department so employees can find the right information for their needs.
  • Top-level security features – A knowledge base software that promises high-level security features is one you can use for sensitive content like proprietary knowledge and legal information. And if it offers user permissions, you can make sure employees only have access to the information they need, keeping internal data more secure.
  • Collaboration features – A knowledge base with collaboration features allows you to communicate in the same tool where the information lives. Employees can tag each other and add comments.
  • Broad compatibility – An internal knowledge base that works seamlessly with all your other main tools will be much more useful (and more used). You can easily pull in content you’ve already created, and ensure employees can access knowledge from the tools they already spend their time in, like Slack, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Office.

RFPIO promises all these features to aid in knowledge management, and goes a couple steps further. It uses AI technology to make finding information the moment it’s needed even faster, and makes your proposal team’s lives easier by automating much of the proposal process. Additionally, you can give all frontline responders access to your company’s best knowledge in RFPIO’s Content Library with RFPIO LookUp. Using RFPIO LookUp, they can securely search your Content Library without having to toggle out of their browser or CRM.

All of that adds up to more knowledgeable employees, countless hours saved, and a higher win rate on sales and proposals. To learn more about how to gain those benefits, set up a demo today.

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

I recently hosted a webinar called Building a Solid Content Foundation about how to set up a content review workflow. Since then, it has occurred to me that there can be no content review without content governance.

This short article will provide some brief background on content governance, why it’s important, and how proposal automation and knowledge management software can help.

What is content governance?

Content governance is the framework and processes you use to create, store, and maintain your content. But before we dive too deep, let’s start with a bad joke and a Top Gun analogy…

What do you call it when an entire population is satisfied with its gubernatorial leadership? Content governance. Ha! I know, it’s terrible.

How is content governance different from content management and content strategy? I could just tell you, but that would be boring. You can find all sorts of places on the Internet that can give you the glossary version. We’re going into the Danger Zone.

We’ve been in a Top Gun mood around here. Anticipation around the release of Top Gun: Maverick is ramping up faster than that titular character’s need for speed. In a Top Gun analogy, content governance would actually be the U.S. Navy. Content strategy is “Top Gun,” or the Navy Fighter Weapons School (I hear it’s frowned upon to use Top Gun terminology while at the school). Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Content governance = U.S. Navy. This is the universe in which all organizational content exists, from its creation, storage, and access, to its moderation, and, ultimately, to its archival. All content is subject to the laws of the content governance universe.
  • Content strategy = Top Gun. There has to be a framework in place to create world-class content. Everything from rules of engagement to battle tactics to overcoming pushback must be taken into consideration when determining what to create when and for which targeted audience.
  • Content creators = Pilots. In case you’re wondering who the best is…well, it doesn’t really matter. Like the real Navy Fighter Weapons School, there is no room for ego. Within the parameters established under content governance in your content strategy and style guide (see below), content creators are free to do what’s necessary to connect with their audience.
  • Content management system (CMS) = Aircraft carrier and crew. It’s a team effort, and effective content cannot exist in a vacuum. Any successful content endeavor needs technology and subject matter expertise in its earpiece. You can think of the CMS as the execution phase of content governance, where theory is put into practice when buyer-facing content is created, reviewed, stored, and accessed
  • Style guide = F/A-18C/D Hornet (aka, the jet). Content governance only works when creators have guidelines to follow. They need a cockpit from where they can work their magic, otherwise they end up in a flat spin out to sea with content that is off-brand, off-message, and possibly off-putting to the buyer.

Why do you need content governance?

While content governance is often associated with marketing content, it’s time to think bigger, like sales content bigger. According to the April 26, 2021, Forrester blog, From Monolithic to Modular: Kicking Your Sales Content Engine into High Gear, “Because marketers produce more monolithic than modular content, 70% of sales reps spend between one and 14 hours every week customizing content for their buyers.”

Sales reps understand that their competitive advantage comes from personalizing content to customize a solution around buyers’ specific pain points. Releasing these content creators into the wild without any content governance is a recipe for disaster, in accuracy and efficiency.

4 benefits of content governance

I’m still adding to the list. Seriously, content governance is a huge benefit to all of my clients. Here are the top four:

  1. Better content: It’s always created with accurate information and undergoes peer review (none of us are adept at proofing our own work).
  2. Efficient workflows: When everyone knows their roles and content governance is being driven by technology, then the content runs through its lifecycle with less friction.
  3. Greater productivity: Automation, accurate content building blocks, and the democratization of content creation makes it easier for creators and reviewers to move faster.
  4. Improved outcomes: Breaking down monolithic content into buyer-focused customized content improves the overall buying and customer experiences.

How to create a content governance workflow

As is the case with most new process implementations, the pain is frontloaded. Trust me, the long-term payoff for proposal managers, sales representatives, content editors, subject matter experts, and all content creators is well worth it.

Conduct a content audit
You need to rein in out-of-bounds content first. Get your house in order by ditching redundant, outdated, trivial (deal- or client-specific), and off-brand content.

Identify content gaps
Now that the content bin has been cleaned out, you should have full visibility into what you need. Break it down by buyer need, not product need. According to the December 16, 2020, Forrester blog, Happy B2B “Contentukkah”: Spinning the Editorial Dreidel, “We encourage content creators to join forces and push back on the company’s tendency to sing the praises of its portfolio when it should be waxing poetic about its audiences’ challenges.”

Create a style guide
Specify the writing and graphic standards for content. You can go high level and just cover fonts and color palettes, or you can get down to a level of detail where you provide standards for individual content types (e.g., videos, presentations, data sheets, blog articles, etc.). Also, consider creating templates to make it easier to create that content that always has to be personalized according to your style guide.

Implement a CMS
Unless you want to go the manual route of spreadsheets and checklists, you’ll need a CMS for automation, auditing, and reporting.

How can proposal automation and knowledge management help with content governance?

Creating content on the fly—which is the preferred method for sales representatives creating content—can be challenging in a content governance environment rife with bottleneck risk. Manual processes are the biggest culprit, but an ill-fitting CMS can be just as dangerous.

Proposal automation and knowledge management software such as RFPIO presents a huge advantage to sales teams and other content creators because it breaks content down to its lowest common denominator: questions and answers. These are the building blocks of all content. When these accurate, curated questions and answers are accessible from anywhere, then content can be created from anywhere.

Beyond the advantage of creating content within your content governance model, proposal automation and knowledge management helps in three primary areas:

  1. Let the system drive your workflow. Assign content owners, establish content moderation teams, and set up content review cycles from an intuitive dashboard.
  2. Govern from a single, closed-loop system. Ditch the spreadsheets, checklists, and risk of human error. Once the workflow is established, you have an audit trail for every entry in your Content Library. You can also keep all collaboration in the system so that even emails to external collaborators can be monitored within a project.
  3. Robust reporting out of the box. Being able to monitor the health and hygiene of your Content Library is essential to adhering to content governance. Monthly and quarterly reporting to leadership gives them a window into the value of content governance, its efficiencies, and its ability to guide content creators to better sales outcomes.

Ultimately, content governance gets you that single source of truth. RFPIO makes sure you can provide the right content (sales, marketing, corporate, financial, solutions, etc.) to the entire organization.

If you’re interested in having RFPIO as your wingman, schedule a demo today!

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Wikipedia is the primary resource hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett cite in their podcast, Smartless, when interviewing a veritable who’s who in entertainment, sports, and journalism. It’s a must-listen podcast, IMHO, but not because the hosts actually rely on Wikipedia as their source. The use of Wikipedia is an inside joke because one or more of them usually knows their “surprise” guest quite well. As a result, the interviews are funny, insightful, and loaded with personal anecdotes and nostalgia.

What would happen to Smartless if Jason Bateman decided to forego podcasting for more directing opportunities? Could Sean and Will fall back on a wiki or internal knowledge base where Jason had the opportunity to upload his insight into interviews with Erin Gray, Ricky Schroeder, or Alfonso Ribeiro? (Try a reference that’s timelier than “Silver Spoons,” RD.) How about interviews with Laura Linney, Jason Sudeikis, or Rachel McAdams? Comparatively, they’d fall flat without Bateman’s personal knowledge and relationship with those guests.

In the real world, where we all do business with people who haven’t starred in a movie, sitcom, or Netflix series in the past 40 years, falling flat due to ineffective knowledge sharing means not meeting customer expectations, not having answers to prospect questions fast enough, or giving wrong or outdated answers in proposals. It’s costly and embarrassing. It’s also avoidable.

Businesses looking for knowledge sharing tools often end up deciding between two options: corporate wikis or internal knowledge base software. While they may seem similar, they’re actually quite different. In this blog, we’ll break down the differences between company wikis and internal knowledge base software to determine which is the best for your business.

What is a corporate wiki?

A corporate wiki is developed using an open source model. This means that anyone can submit edits or gain access. Although touted for being “collaborative,” they are not always reliable because anyone can make changes and include inaccurate information. Democracy works in politics and when making decisions with your fellow lifeboat occupants. Crowdsourcing worked for Tom Sawyer and tells you if police are ahead on Waze. Neither are good fits for business content.

As far as knowledge sharing is concerned, corporate wikis follow the rules of the jungle. While they certainly encourage greater employee involvement, power users tend to elbow out the specialists. They also get out of control fast. It’s an environment where content seeds are planted and then vines grow depending on what’s most popular or controversial. Without any strategy or rules in place, old vines don’t get pruned, some seedlings get overshadowed, and Barry from engineering starts every edit with, “Whoever wrote this is an idiot. The correct answer is…” Not the sort of collaborative vibe you were hoping for.

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base exists in a self-contained solution designed to streamline access, creation, and review of your business content. Unlike corporate wikis, internal knowledge bases have verified writers, so that all team members using the knowledge base can feel confident that the answers they are finding are accurate. Whereas wikis are open to any user creating or editing content, internal knowledge bases are read-only. If the corporate wiki is the jungle, then the internal knowledge base is a curated nursery.

Structure and strategy are the two biggest differentiators between corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases. Within an overarching content strategy developed for the internal knowledge base, writers create and edit content based on a schedule, which is informed by data-driven insight. Tags, collections, and custom fields define its information hierarchy, making it more user-friendly and efficient to search.

Depending on how you set up your internal knowledge base, you can also gather data to derive intelligence on how it’s being used, what it’s missing, and what it doesn’t need. For example, through RFPIO, users can output an Content Library Insights Report to see which content gets used most often as well as which search terms receive very few or zero results. In the latter example, content managers can build content production plans around zero-result search terms so users will be able to find answers they need during their next search.

Creating an internal knowledge base is a 6-step process:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge: Import your most recent sales proposals, DDQs, security questionnaires, and RFPs.
  2. Grow as you go: Add new content as products come and go, markets change, audience triggers evolve, and new departments come on board based on your initial tag, collection, and custom field structure.
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date: Curate content to keep it fresh (corporate content every 90 days, product content every 6-12 months, and evergreen content that doesn’t change much every 12-24 months).
  4. Provide open access: Make sure everyone who needs to use the content has access to the content. Don’t get restrained by user licenses.
  5. Train your team: Even if the tool is intuitive and easy to use, set up time to train new users or else risk them never even trying it.
  6. Conduct regular audits: Don’t let the internal knowledge base turn into the wiki jungle. Keep it clean.

Learn more about these six steps here.

Why is knowledge sharing so important?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list. And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Time equals money, and IDC estimates that an enterprise of 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $5.7 million annually searching for information that is never found.

One more bit of bad news (I’ll end on a high note. Promise.): Knowledge workers are quitting. They are not immune to “The Great Resignation” of the pandemic. According to the New Yorker, “Many well-compensated but burnt-out knowledge workers have long felt that their internal ledger books were out of balance: they worked long hours, they made good money, they had lots of stuff, they were exhausted, and, above all, they saw no easy options for changing their circumstances.” Well, the pandemic gave them the opportunity they were looking for to simplify their life. With knowledge workers departing, organizations need to up the ante on knowledge sharing to make sure they’re expertise doesn’t go out the door with them.

Speaking of doors, knowledge sharing is also a boon for onboarding new employees coming in the door. Giving them the freedom to access company knowledge at will and in context gets them up to speed faster while making custom face-to-face training more efficient and effective (i.e., trainees can find answers to common questions in the wiki or knowledge base on their own time). A majority of HR professionals cite improved onboarding as beneficial to overall employee engagement.

As promised, a high note: Knowledge sharing encourages and rewards greater employee involvement, especially when the sharing mechanism is easy, intuitive, and trustworthy. Organizations with highly engaged employees earn about 150% more than their less engaged counterparts. So they have that going for them, which is good.

What’s better: a corporate wiki or an internal knowledge base?

Guessing I probably showed my hand too early with that wisecrack about Barry from engineering. You got it: The internal knowledge base takes the checkered flag when it comes to organizational knowledge sharing.

Its structure and the processes that support it make it a more trustworthy single source of truth, which reduces knowledge hoarding and shadow development of content that may exist in individual hard drives. And just because content is created and edited by designated writers doesn’t mean that all expertise hasn’t been tapped. Systems such as RFPIO enable content owners to automate collaboration with subject matter experts so that knowledge is captured accurately and efficiently, while maintaining consistency in message, voice, and tone throughout.

Besides, it also offers much more functionality compared to a corporate wiki. Instead of opening a new browser window or tab and navigating to the Intranet wiki, users can search content from almost anywhere. RFPIO® LookUp is a portal into the Content Library, which can be searched from Chrome like you’re searching the Internet. According to Hope Henderson at Alera Group, “We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Content Library will be the first place they’ll go.”

“We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Content Library will be the first place they’ll go.”
-Hope Henderson, Marketing Coordinator at Alera Group

RFPIO also integrates with CRM, communication, cloud, and other applications so users don’t have to toggle back and forth to find content. Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft, said, “RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

With fewer writers and more controls, you might think content ends up sounding too institutional, with too few opportunities to personalize it. On the contrary. With a finely tuned internal knowledge base, prospect- and client-facing workers can find accurate content faster and easier so they’ll have more time to spend on personalizing the interaction.

Plan for unknown knowledge

In your pursuit of the ultimate knowledge repository, remember one thing: It’s going to have to change. In five years, you may need the knowledge you have now or you may not. You’ll definitely need some of the new knowledge you’re going to gain on the way.

Both corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases are updateable, but five years hence do you want to be hacking through a jungle to see what you can update? Or would you rather have the new knowledge curated and grafted onto the existing content for you so that all you have to do is harvest the fruit?

To learn more about using RFPIO to build your internal knowledge base, schedule a demo today.

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

“Of course banana trees are trees, that’s why there’s ‘tree’ in the name.”

That’s how a heated debate with my family started a few weeks ago. Or, rather, that’s how a heated debate would have started if Google had not ended it immediately. (In case you’re curious, banana trees are actually herbaceous plants).

At risk of outing myself as a millennial, I feel like life before search engines was basically the wild, wild west. Before we carried around the answers to basically everything in our pockets, we’d either be content with not knowing, settle on an incorrect answer, or consult books or experts. (Madeleine’s father-in-law grows banana trees, he might be a good person to ask…)

In the future, I think this is what knowledge workers will think about the time before internal knowledge bases: How did everyone function before we consolidated all company knowledge into a single, easily accessible location?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list.

And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset, and being able to access it quickly and easily is essential to enhancing productivity and achieving goals. To make that a reality, you need to create and maintain an internal knowledge base, also known as a company knowledge base. Here’s a guide to make that happen.

What should be included in a company knowledge base?

You can fill your company knowledge base with whatever your heart desires. However, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure are easily available:

  1. Company Information: Office addresses, employee handbooks, onboarding documentation
  2. Sales Enablement Material: Case studies, training materials, pitch decks
    Legal Documents: MNDAs, contracts, policies, regulatory documents, release forms
  3. Marketing Documents: Brand guidelines, company boilerplates, logo sets, color palettes
  4. Product Information: Datasheets, release notes, technical documentation
  5. Security Information: Certificates (e.g. SOC II, ISO-27001), audit reports, answers to security questionnaires (e.g. SIG, CAIQ)
  6. Answers to Commonly Asked Questions: What this means depends on your organization. It could be common questions from prospects, onboarding questions, questions about benefits… this will continuously evolve as you build out your knowledge base.

Think about an internal knowledge base as the place to store the answers to everything. Any question that people would usually go-to subject matter experts for answers to should be readily available—and easily searchable—in your internal knowledge base.

That way, instead of your employees pinging HR for health care policy information or asking marketing for links to case studies, they can find what they need in your internal knowledge base.

Some companies prefer to use a company wiki. A company wiki is different from an internal knowledge management solution, but it can work for some companies.

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base is a library of knowledge created by an organization for strict employee usage to easily (and securely) access confidential knowledge. The goal of a company knowledge base is to make everyone’s job easier by making company knowledge available on-demand.

A company knowledge base can hold answers to basically anything. This includes information about products, services, compliance, company history, and more. It can also contain the most up-to-date documents from all departments, including things like sales contracts, product roadmap, HR policies, and brand guidelines.

How to use an internal knowledge base

Here are some examples of how you can use an internal knowledge base:

  • Answer customer questions

According to Hubspot research, salespeople spend 21% of their day writing emails. Many of those emails include following up to prospects with resources, or answering questions about the product or solution. With an internal knowledge base available from their email, salespeople can find answers to customer questions more efficiently—and get back to selling.

  • Respond to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs, etc.

Consolidating company knowledge streamlines responses to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs—especially when you consolidate knowledge in an AI-enabled RFP automation solution. We’ve found that organizations cut time responding to RFPs by 40% (on average) after implementing RFP automation technology like RFPIO.

  • Improve onboarding

New employees often ask the same questions. Rather than relying on tenured employees to answer that question time and time again, you can store that answer in your internal knowledge base and make it available on-demand to new employees.

  • Stay on-brand

Store marketing-approved content in your internal knowledge base, including things like branded slide decks, letterhead, and templates, as well as brand guidelines and boilerplates.

  • Get technical help

Use your internal knowledge base as a go-to spot for up-to-date IT information. Use your internal knowledge base to streamline common problems and communications.

  • Answer support tickets

Store answers to support tickets in your internal knowledge base. That way your support team can learn from each other’s experiences. Whenever a tricky support question comes up, your team has a rich database to find the answer.

  • Empower everyone to create their best content

When your company’s best answers are only a few clicks away, you can create better content. This includes things like blogs, slide decks, sales proposals, and more.

What are the benefits of using internal knowledge base software?

Internal knowledge base software can be a game-changer for organizations. This includes for sales, support, marketing, and especially proposal teams.

Here are some of the many (many) benefits of using internal knowledge base:

  • Improve customer experience. The faster your sales reps can get answers, the faster your customers can get answers, and the happier everyone is.
  • Streamline onboarding. When new employees have easy access to an on-demand library of answers, it relieves the burden on senior team members—and gives them the information they need to get up and running.
  • Enhance security on private information. Since sensitive company information is stored on an encrypted platform.
  • Respond to complex questionnaires faster. When answers are all stored in one place, responding to repeat questions is a breeze (especially if your knowledge base is AI-enabled).
  • So much more. It’s nearly impossible to quantify the value you get from an access-anywhere answer database.

How to create an internal knowledge base in 6 steps

If you need real-time knowledge sharing, a knowledge base is what your business needs. Knowledge bases can easily share information in real-time with verified employees.

There are plenty of best practices to take into consideration when building a company knowledge library. Here are the steps to consider when creating an internal knowledge base:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge
  2. Grow as you go
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date
  4. Open the floodgates
  5. Train your team
  6. Conduct regular audits

Consolidate existing knowledge

I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you: A quick way to consolidate company knowledge starts with your sales proposals, DDQs, and security questionnaires.

When you write a sales proposal — be it a proactive proposal, SOW, or response to a request for proposal, bid, or tender — or respond to other complex questionnaires (e.g. security questionnaires, DDQs) you’re compiling relevant, accurate, up-to-date information about your company, products, services, security standards, and compliance status.

If your organization responds to RFPs, writes sales proposals, and/or fills out security questionnaires and DDQs, you already have the foundation upon which you can build your internal knowledge base.

Many teams choose to consolidate knowledge using a shareable spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheets) or platforms like Sharepoint. While this is a perfectly respectable first step for smaller teams, it can be very labor-intensive, difficult to scale, and can easily get out of control.

For a more long-term and scalable solution, you might consider using an AI-enabled RFP automation solution (e.g. RFPIO). With RFPIO, you can import old responses (e.g. to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, DDQs, etc) into the platform, and RFPIO’s patented import functionality will break your lengthy questionnaires into question-answer pairs.

Step 2: Grow as you go

After you’ve consolidated content from your sales proposals and security questionnaires, start consolidating question-and-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) from other departments. If you’re using a spreadsheet, create a tab for each department. Within the tab, designate a column for “questions” and a column for “answers”. If a question needs multiple answers, you can create an additional column.

If you use an RFP automation platform, growing as you go is much more straightforward. Tags, collections, and custom fields keep your internal knowledge base organized. And the more questionnaires you respond to, the richer your Content Library grows.

You can also easily build your internal knowledge base beyond proposals and questionnaires by adding question-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) not associated with any proposal.

As a Content Marketing Manager, I use RFPIO as a hub for sales enablement documents, including case studies, data sheets, one-pagers, blogs, and email templates. Because of RFPIO’s advanced search functionality, the sales team can easily find the information they need with a simple keyword search.

Step 3: Stay accurate and up-to-date

The key to an internal knowledge base is that it’s been approved and pre-vetted by the right people.

Before you add any new Q&A pair to your internal knowledge base, make sure it’s been reviewed and approved. If you’re using RFPIO, you can set up content moderation, so any new Q&A pair needs to go through an internal knowledge base “gatekeeper” before it can be added to the library.

The second part is staying accurate and up-to-date. If you’re using a non-automated solution like Google Sheets or Sharepoint, you can use your calendar or email scheduling tool to remind yourself to review and verify information.

With RFPIO, you can set custom review cycles on each Q&A pair. For example, if you set the review cycle for 6 months, the content owner will be sent an email reminder every 6 months, asking them to review the answer and verify it’s still up-to-date.

How often you should conduct reviews depends on the type of content. As a standard rule of thumb:

  • Corporate content should be reviewed once every 90 days
  • Product content should be reviewed every 6-12 months
  • Evergreen content should be reviewed every 12-24 monthshow often should you conduct a review cycle

Step 4: Open the floodgates

Once you’ve created your internal knowledge base, it’s time to give your team access.

If you’re using an AI-enabled internal knowledge base solution like RFPIO, you have a lot more control over user permissions, so you can feel confident your people only have access to the content with need.

And you can also make sure that knowledge is accessible from where people are already working. With RFPIO® LookUp, you can access your company knowledge from:

  • Slack,
  • Google Chrome,
  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Microsoft Outlook,
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), and
  • Chromium Edge

Step 5: Train your team

People hate change. This axiom never rings truer when you’re trying to get people to adopt a new system that will make their lives easier.

Even if you’re simply sharing a link to a cloud-based spreadsheet or storage system, you still need to train your team on how to use it.

Here are a few best practices to get your team up and running with your internal knowledge base:

  • Schedule training. More training than you think necessary. Once to show people how to use the system. And then again after 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months.
  • Share information. Create how-to guides for using the platform and share them with your team. And then share them again. And again.
  • Learn from your peers. Luckily, you’re not the first person to ever implement an internal knowledge base. Learn from how other high-performing teams about how they set up their internal knowledge base:
    • Read how the Microsoft team uses Microsoft Teams to make company knowledge widely available
    • Read or Watch how Illuminate Education made their internal knowledge base available from Slack
    • See how Genpact made company knowledge available from Microsoft PowerPoint

Step 6: Conduct Regular Audits

A healthy knowledge base needs regular updates.

For content audit best practices, head over to our blog: Clean up your RFP Content Library in 3 steps.

Get started building your internal knowledge base

Internal knowledge bases are perfect for companies looking to easily locate resources efficiently and securely. Learn more about how RFPIO® LookUp can help you create an internal knowledge base.

Or, if you’re ready to see LookUp in action, schedule a customized demo.

How to clean up your RFP Content Library with a 3-step content audit

How to clean up your RFP Content Library with a 3-step content audit

It’s time to show your RFP content who’s boss. And, yes, a healthy content library does more than just keep you sane. It also streamlines your RFP response process. Note that I say “RFP”, but I really mean any kind of complex questionnaire… RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs, VSAs, you name it.

If you’re already working with RFP automation software like RFPIO, a healthy Content Library means answering 70-80% of your RFP with one click (hello, Auto Respond!).

Even if you haven’t upgraded to RFP automation software yet, refreshing your content library means you can bring relevant content to your fingertips and respond to a vast majority of RFP questions at the drop of a hat.

The good news is that an RFP content audit isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. Read on to learn how to conduct your content audit in just three steps.

RFP content audit step 1: Complete an ROT analysis

ROT stands for “Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial”. A smooth-running live RFP Content Library only contains the most recent, relevant, and accurate information. That means your job is moving redundant, outdated, and trivial content into an archived folder.

Redundant Content: Duplicate and/or similar content. If you’re using RFPIO, run a duplicate report on questions and answers, and click on “View Similar Content” to find comparable responses.

Outdated Content: Expired or sunset content. Isolate any content not used in the last year (let’s call that “expired content”) using the Advanced Search function in RFPIO. Then, identify content from products, services, and solutions that are no longer relevant (we can call that “sunset content”) using tags and/or product names.

Trivial Content: Deal- or client-specific content. Identity trivial content by searching for specific client names.A step-by-step guide to completing a content audit in RFPIO

RFP Content Audit Step 2: Move content out of your active RFP Content Library

Once you do your analysis, you’ll want to move that content out of your active RFP Content Library.

You have two options:

Option 1: Delete it (scary)

Only delete content that you’re sure you’ll never, ever need again. There’s no turning back from deleted content.

Option 2: Warehouse it (less scary, and my preferred method)

Isolate your content and store it in an RFPIO Archived collection. If you’re not using RFPIO, make sure warehoused content is stored in its own location so it doesn’t get confused with your live content.

You can still access warehoused content. You’re still able to bring it into a live project, update it, and push it back into the active RFP Content Library. If you ever find out you need a piece of content that you’ve archived, you don’t have to start with a blank page.

RFP Content Audit Step 3: Set up owners and review cycles

All content in your RFP Content Library should have an assigned owner. The content owner should be the Subject Matter Expert (SME) who is responsible for the accuracy of the answer.

You should also add a moderator, who is responsible for giving the final “white glove” review. The moderator should apply editorial standards to each answer that comes through, ensuring everything that is pushed to the live RFP Content Library is polished.

How often should you conduct a review cycle?

Well… that depends on the content.

For corporate content, I recommend conducting a review cycle every 90 days. Corporate content refers to any content relating to the company as a whole, like number of employees, revenue, mission statements, etc.

For product content, conduct a review cycle every 6-12 months, or anytime a product release occurs. Product content refers to anything related to specific product features or functionalities that change over time.

As far as evergreen content… you might be surprised to learn it isn’t quite as evergreen as you would imagine. Evergreen content is the core content you use to complete most of your RFPs, and you should still review it once every 12-24 months.How often should you conduct a review cycle? It depends on the content.

A healthy RFP Content Library creates benefits across your entire organization

As you’d expect, a healthy RFP Content Library enables your proposal team to quickly complete RFP responses—answer 70-80% of a proposal with a quick click using “Auto Respond”.

When you can automatically respond to those commonly-seen questions, that means that your team has more time to focus on tailoring each response to your customers’ specific needs.

A healthy RFP Content Library also makes life easier for your SMEs—as I explained in a previous blog, the number one rule of working with SMEs is respecting their time.

When you keep your Content Library impeccably clean, your SMEs don’t need to verify content outside of scheduled review cycles. They’ll have more time to focus on their other job functions, and you’ll have an Content Library full of the most accurate, up-to-date content. Everybody wins

You may think that auditing your RFP content is just a luxury of enterprise companies. I’m here to tell you that anyone and everyone can (and should) regularly audit their content, regardless of whether your team has one person, or 100.

If you’re working with a one- or two-person team, follow the steps above to keep your content fresh. Make sure your SMEs understand which content they’re responsible for, and get in the habit of updating content at the appropriate time.

If you’re a larger team, hire a dedicated content manager whose sole focus is keeping your RFP Content Library healthy.

Show your RFP content (and your RFP response process) who’s in charge

You have the tools to complete a successful RFP content audit. It’s time to put your newfound skills to the test!

If you get stuck along the way, check out my webinar below. I’ve demonstrated my step-by-step process for conducting a content audit in RFPIO.

For those of you not using RFPIO to automate your RFP response process, but want to learn more, schedule a demo! Someone on our team would be more than happy to show you the ins and outs of the platform, and see if RFPIO makes sense for your process.

3 strategies for a consistent and on-brand content library

3 strategies for a consistent and on-brand content library

What do marketing and proposal teams have in common? They both want to demonstrate their company’s strengths in a way that is compelling and impactful. Despite this, proposal and marketing teams tend to manage their respective content in silos, with little collaboration between the two.

When you break content along team lines, messaging becomes inconsistent—or worse, inaccurate. That’s why the proposal team needs a champion who can bridge marketing and proposal teams to keep people aligned and content up-to-date. Who is that person at your organization? Maybe it’s you.

The good news is that aligning proposal and marketing teams isn’t as complicated as you might think. And I’ve already outlined a few simple strategies to get you started.

Replace walls with bridges

When teams become too focused on their tasks and deadlines, they inadvertently build walls around themselves. The higher these walls grow, the more difficult it is to stay aligned. As the self-appointed bridge between your organization’s marketing and proposal teams, it’s your responsibility to tear those walls down.

Kick off the collaboration by gathering the right brains in the same room, and setting up recurring cross-team meetings. Make sure everyone, on both sides, is clear about their responsibilities.

Next, make cross-team communication as easy as possible by setting up a designated channel in your communication platform of choice—be in Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts—where team members can go when they’re stuck or have a question.

Once you’ve established regular contact between marketing and proposal teams, they’ll be able to stay aligned on content guidelines and be ready for any changes coming down the line.

Your challenge is maintaining communication between the two sides. Keep collaboration simple. Ensure regular meetings keep happening. The more often the two sides are in contact, the easier it will be to communicate important deadlines, updates, or changes in content strategy.

Set regular review cycles

I like to think of brands as people. When you’re interacting with someone, it goes without saying that we expect them to sound and look the same throughout the conversation.

When customers are interacting with your brand, they expect a similarly uniform experience. Your company should look and sound the same, whenever your prospects are interacting with you, be it on your website, advertisements—or, yes, even proposals.

Proposals inconsistent with the rest of your organization’s content leaves customers with a tangled idea of what your company represents. And when you’re trying to demonstrate your value proposition, the last thing you want is to confuse your customers.

Luckily, we can fix this problem in just three words: Regular review cycles.

Beyond establishing an extended content plan, there is absolutely nothing more important to the long-term success of your content library than setting review cycles, content audits, and careful moderation practices.

Unsurprisingly, both of these elements also play a critical role in bridging the gap between marketing and the proposal management team.

Establishing a healthy review cadence allows your content experts to take a look at volatile or brand-centric content regularly, and creates the space to make any necessary edits before you submit your proposal.

Working Tip: If you’ve already set up review cycles in RFPIO, consider creating a separate cycle for marketing content, and add users from your team who will be plugged into the organization’s brand copy guidelines and priorities.

Stay aligned on content strategy

The cherry on top of excellent content is bringing everyone on the same page. Making sure both proposal and marketing teams are tuned-in to the overarching content strategy reduces miscommunication, misunderstandings, and inconsistencies.

Is there a rebrand on the horizon? Do taglines or other key pieces of brand copy change on a rolling basis? Are new products going to be released that will require additional content?

Understand your organization’s long-term content plan and be aware of any forthcoming copy and branding updates, so you can align proposal content with any changes coming down the pike.

Keeping a pulse on changes will ensure proposals are always aligned with your company’s mission and voice.

“Great things in business are never done by one person”. I’ll have to agree with Steve Jobs on this one. When proposal and marketing teams collaborate on content, messaging is consistent across channels. Proposals are more compelling. And everyone wins.


If you want to learn how RFPIO can help you keep your content organized, up-to-date, and on-brand, schedule a demo today.

3 tips for organizing your RFP content library: tagging, custom fields, and collections

3 tips for organizing your RFP content library: tagging, custom fields, and collections

Yay! You just added RFPIO and it’s time to start completing RFPs and security questionnaires (if you’re already an experienced user, stick with us; there’s something for everyone here). Pop the champagne cork! Cue the band. Repeatedly refresh email because congratulatory back-pats are sure to arrive soon from upper management, SMEs (subject matter experts), sales, security, and anyone else who participated in past RFPs.

Now what?

It’s time to build out your Content Library. Your Content Library consists of documents, question and answer (Q&A) pairs and templates that represent the backbone of your RFPIO instance. But tread lightly before proceeding. In a recent RFPIO survey, 50% of proposal managers said keeping response content up-to-date and accurate is their biggest challenge, but only 31% of responders audit their RFP content library as often as once a quarter.

So how can you set yourself up for success to build and maintain content in RFPIO? It starts with tagging, custom fields, and collections, which will also expedite access to relevant information for internal and external users alike.

Here’s how.

But first: You don’t have to go it alone

Start by defining your RFP team. Who is going to be the Champion of RFPIO? Typically, this falls on an executive sponsor or the proposal manager.

Are you the content champion? This is the decision-maker, someone who will own the process of building and maintaining content. If it’s not you, then make sure someone gets designated. No matter how organized you are, this is mandatory.

After you identify the content champion, bring in your content stakeholders. These are all the participants you’ve been working with on past RFPs. It’s likely that these encompass internal and external users. They may be SMEs in different locations, departments, and roles. Identifying their roles and responsibilities will determine how you set up workflows in RFPIO.

Once your team has been identified, it’s time to discuss workflows and organization methods. Remember that you’re only one person, so it’s important to not forget about the rest of the team that will help you achieve RFPIO success. Create and document a plan to communicate content workflows. Make sure all contributors can easily find what they need to complete their assigned tasks. Have the whole team of stakeholders sign-on.

OK, now this is how: Tagging

Segment your content with tags. Tags are simple, general categories to help group your content together and are the first step to take when organizing your content. Every document should have at least one tag. Examples include “onboarding,” “implementation,” and “contracts.”

At this point, you may be wondering how to get started. It’s a common hurdle, especially for companies that have never used tags or any other structured content organization strategies. Within RFPs and security questionnaires that you’ve received, there are sections about company information and other content that you may have just been copy and pasting from document to document. Harvest your initial tagging schema from these generic sections that appear in most of the RFPs you have already submitted.

RFPIO Best Practice: All content needs to have at least one tag. That includes all documents and all question and answer (Q&A) pairs. We recommend no more than three, though, so as to avoid search conflicts within the system.

Is that field “custom”? Sweet!

Every company is unique, which means every company’s content has unique characteristics. For categories that are organizationally unique and allow for flexibility and adaptability in search, our clients leverage Custom Fields. Custom Fields may apply to a product, service, geographic region, or whatever best fits your business. But they do have to make sense. It’s easy to bog the process down with too many custom fields.

RFPIO Client Example: Here’s an example of how custom fields helped a client exponentially improve search of their more than 15,000 Q&A pairs. First, we started with the generic tag of “support,” which whittled 15,000 options down to 800 or so. Already an improvement. But then we tagged all applicable Q&A pairs with a client product name. That drilled down results from 800 to 115. Within two clicks—about 30 seconds—we were able to identify a small subset of applicable content.

Restrict content with collections

Within RFPIO, collections allow you to restrict sensitive content visibility. You create siloed walls around sensitive content based on content that should be restricted to specific users. Good examples of Collections are legal/security data or even geographic data. For example, sales may not need access to legal or high-level proprietary information that legal or security teams need to access. Or a North American team may not need access to some content that is necessary for a European team to access for GDPR compliance.

Why waste users’ time sorting through content they can’t even use? With collections, search is much more efficient.

But what about maintaining content?

Great question. First, always feel free to work with your RFPIO customer success managers to set up demos of specific features. Second, check out the webinar I presented on building and maintaining content in RFPIO for more (below), including live Q&A with participants on:

  • Optimizing Q&A editing
  • Setting up custom fields and collections
  • Conducting bulk updates on multiple pieces of content
  • Using filters for moderation
  • Setting up multiple responses for a single question—one for US-based teams and another for those based in the UK, for example.

If you’re just getting started, then you have a lot to look forward to. 82% of proposal managers said RFPIO helps them manage response content all in one place.

Interested in automating your RFP processes with RFPIO? Schedule a demo to learn more.

Why you need the ultimate library for your RFP responses

Why you need the ultimate library for your RFP responses

People from unique business units respond to RFPs, and only a select few have “RFP management” listed in their job descriptions. Because various content contributors must band together to create quality responses, this content must be centralized and accessible.

In reality, response content is scattered across spreadsheets, Google Drive folders, or perhaps a content management system. The result of a disjointed RFP response process is apparent in these survey responses about top challenges:

  • 43% of SMEs are spending too much time on RFP responses.
  • 50% of proposal managers can’t keep content up-to-date and accurate.
  • 43% of marketers are wearing too many hats and don’t have time for RFPs.
  • 68% of salespeople struggle with focusing on sales-related activities.

So, what is the secret to more efficient RFP content management? You need the ultimate Content Library for your RFP responses.

It’s time to address your RFP content production cycle

With the high number of RFPs you’re responding to, you know you don’t want to start from scratch with each response. It will only be more time lost when you don’t have any to spare.

Perhaps your response management team has already recognized the importance of having an Content Library, but the best they could come up with is a workaround. Keeping up with a spreadsheet database is practically a job on its own and searchability isn’t the best. And, how can you begin to keep graphics or supporting attachments organized?

38% of content marketers said the production of content was by far their biggest challenge. Even if you are not a marketer, you are undeniably a content creator if you respond to RFPs. The same content creation challenges ring true in the response process.

Your RFP content production cycle should include an easy way to:

  • Find content.
  • Create content.
  • Customize content.
  • Review content.
  • Format content.
  • Audit content.

RFP software is a dedicated solution that provides a robust, collaborative Content Library to meet all of your RFP response needs. Best of all? It’s easy to use.

What to expect from the ultimate RFP Content Library

We’ll admit…the word “ultimate” gets thrown around a lot in the business world. But, when you modernize your RFP response process with RFP software, you truly have the ultimate RFP Content Library at your disposal.

Because you are working within a dedicated solution for responders—rather than a system of workarounds—you’ll enjoy many benefits that positively impact your RFP content lifecycle.

Store marketing-approved content in one place

Most marketing departments are in charge of approving content for RFP responses. Your Content Library serves as a centralized location for marketing approved content to keep the RFP process moving forward smoothly. When approved content is sitting in an email or Excel, it can easily slip through the cracks and delay progress.

Stitch quality content together quickly

An RFP software Content Library gives you an option to browse various responses for a similar question in historical RFPs. Quickly stitch together high-quality responses to customize your response for a better chance of closing the deal. It’s never one-size-fits-all for RFP responses, so it’s important to have that level of control over your content.

Organize your Content Library to easily find content

The key to an organized Content Library is using tags—something you would be hard-pressed to pull off in a spreadsheet. Tags might include: security, architecture, pricing, customer references, terms and conditions. Narrowing down your response content hunt with effective tagging makes searching highly targeted and efficient for your team.

Automate response content and customize

How great would it be if an answer was already generated for you in your Content Library? Going the extra mile, a recommendation engine takes searching out of the equation entirely—a lot like the auto-suggest features you’re familiar with in other search platforms or email solutions. And you’re never stuck with the recommended answer, because you have the power to customize it.

Optimize responses with content audits

Your Content Library is a living breathing resource, and there are times when it needs a cleanup or refresh. Having a workflow option where the system periodically sends out a friendly content audit reminder to content owners will help everyone stay on top of RFP responses, so they are always relevant and optimized.

89% love having a centralized Content Library

Whenever we ask responders about their favorite RFPIO feature, the Content Library is consistently the top choice. 89% of responders love having a centralized Content Library, because they have unmatched abilities when it comes to storing, organizing, and accessing responses—especially when compared to a previous manual process.

As the Manager of Sales Solution Architects at LexisNexis, Jeff Skott achieved content management mastery and reduced his response time by 25-30%. Watch the video to learn how Jeff gained these superpowers after transforming his Content Library.

How an effective content management system keeps your remote team productive

How an effective content management system keeps your remote team productive

This is the second post in our series #StayConnected, introducing tips, tricks, tools, and features that help teams complete proposals quickly and efficiently, even when they’re not sharing a physical space. Read the first blog here: Keep Your Proposal Team Focused With These 5 Project Management Features.

Your proposal is due tomorrow morning—and here you are scouring through excel sheets to find the answer you know is in there somewhere.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. A McKinsey report found that employees spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

That’s why successful proposal managers focus on establishing an effective content management system—the less time you spend searching for content, the more time you have to craft compelling messages.

According to the 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey, 82% of proposal managers said the most important way they’ve improved their RFP response process is by managing response content all in one place—and 89% said that the Content Library was their favorite feature.

We’ve gathered everything we know about how proposal managers use content management systems to successfully complete proposal projects with a fully remote team. Read on for insider advice and best practices for keeping your remote team productive and connected.

Empower your team to access content from collaboration tools they’re already using

To make the most out of your content management system, give as many people access to it as possible (RFPIO’s unlimited user licensing model makes this easy).

Giving your entire company access to your Content Library not only opens a vast, searchable knowledge base to employees and external partners—but also makes it easy to bring in subject matter experts to answer technical questions about your products and services.

Take this one step further by integrating your knowledge library with collaboration tools your team is already using, including Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts. Rather than logging into a separate application to search through your content library, empower your entire team to access a rich database with a few clicks of a button, from wherever in the world they are.

Enhance your content management system with intelligent search

After you’ve uploaded all your response content into your system, you may end up with several thousand question-and-answer pairs. Instead of asking your response team to comb through this massive amount of content using endless iterations of CTRL + F, expedite the process with intelligent search.

Similar to a Google Search, when you use intelligent search to locate an answer in your response library, the most relevant answers will appear first. Relevance is calculated based on a number of factors, including star rating, number of times used, and date updated.

Additionally—unlike a standard CTRL + F search in a document or spreadsheet—the results will include variations of your search term. For example, a search for “correspond” will return Q&A pairs containing “correspondence” and “corresponding”, as well.

When your team isn’t spending time hunting for answers, they’re able to focus on crafting compelling messages—and help your organization win more deals.

Automate content auditing to keep your knowledgebase accurate and up-to-date

Maintaining an accurate library ensures the best version of your content is ready before the proposal arrives, empowering your remote team to quickly respond to RFPs under deadlines.

The best way to make sure your content stays accurate and up-to-date is through regular content audits.

The most productive proposal managers do this at least once a year, and usually every 3-6 months. Of course, each organization is unique—if you experience frequent changes with pricing or product specifications, you may need to audit your content bi-monthly, monthly, or even weekly.

These teams often lean on proposal automation software to automatically trigger these regular review cycles, sending out reminders to their organization’s specialists—including product management, sales, finance, legal, and IT teams—to double-check content they’re responsible for.

“Content management is the most important part of our RFP response process. We have processes and review cycles in place to make sure our content is always up-to-date. That way we can efficiently respond to RFPs when we have a deadline.”

Lauren Daitz

Sr. Manager, Proposal Department, HALO Recogntion

In a recent article, McKinsey reported that employees who spend less time traveling or commuting and have a better work-life balance are likely to be happier, more motivated, and ready to mobilize in extreme situations.

At RFPIO, we’re helping proposal teams adapt to a fully from-home work environment, by looking at remote work as an opportunity to be taken advantage of, rather than as a challenge to be overcome.

Click here to learn more about how RFPIO can help you optimize the opportunity of working with a fully remote team—and help your team stay connected and productive.

3 RFP content management tips to help you dominate

3 RFP content management tips to help you dominate

What exactly does good content management look like in the RFP world? It’s a trifecta of resources, data, and process.

Good RFP content management means preparing the best version of your content alongside your internal process to accelerate success. RFP responses are groomed in such a way that the content is compelling and fresh. Content is organized, so your team responds quickly and accurately.

By properly maintaining RFP content, you can:

  • Build confidence in your response process.
  • Gain the advantage when you’re under a tight deadline.
  • Save time and get back to what you do best.

The ultimate result of good RFP content management? Winning new business. The trick is to continually improve internal processes. That starts with investigating the RFP content management efforts you have in place today.

1. Define your RFP team

A successful RFP content management strategy begins with allocating the right resources—and defining roles and responsibilities so everyone is crystal clear about their commitment.

Process

Misalignment is common within organizations. Responders tend to ramp up too quickly with a shiny solution like RFP software, diving right into the next project without a dedicated process.

Discuss the overarching RFP content strategy with your team. If you’re using an RFP management solution, several factors need to be taken into consideration. A tool, even an intelligent one, is only effective if the response team is maximizing its capabilities with a grounded RFP response process.

People

The common thread with good RFP content management involves ownership and accessibility. Identify owners early on in the process and divvy up responsibilities among a set of core admins.

An internal contact will be the first line of defense with questions, while another admin will handle moderation workflow to ensure content in the Content Library is being cleaned, amended, and deduplicated. A common mistake for teams is assigning too many moderators—don’t overmanage, just manage the content well.

Your SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) are also owners of specific sections of an RFP response. With RFP software, an admin can assign content to the correct SMEs so they can avoid viewing parts of the proposal that don’t concern them. Managing content is a happier time for everyone if they have this level of accessibility.

RFP Response Process Steps

2. Organize your RFP content

Organizing your RFP responses and projects make collaboration better across teams and departments.

Many companies want to make sure that every Q&A pair is present, but you can end up with several thousand responses. Even with search functionality in RFP software, quality inevitably decreases when you have too many Q&A pairs living in the Content Library—and accessibility is affected as well. So it’s important to strike the right balance between quality and quantity.

Project naming

Within your proposal management solution, a standardized naming convention for projects is very helpful for busy teams. A good way to go is “date_issuer_product name.” Whatever you decide, make sure it works well for your organization and that admins are consistent with the naming structure.

Tagging

Tags make searching easier for your team to access the right information. Like project naming, tagging content is also personal to each company. Tagging responses by industry is a favorite for sales teams, since they can find specific content for the targeted industry they are working with.

Rating

Last but not least, star rating is a great feature within RFP software that helps you manage your content effectively. This is your way to manually influence the recommendation engine within the Content Library. Once you have culled your responses down to a more reasonable set of 200 Q&A pairs, rating allows you to further refine your Content Library until you have the top 20 responses.

3. Future-proof your content

To future-proof your content, you need to keep content up-to-date and continually share knowledge within the organization. It’s time to dig into two of the most overlooked parts of an RFP response process—content audits and succession planning.

Content audits

Keep your content fresh and clean by performing regular content audits. Every organization is unique, but we recommend quarterly reviews of your Content Library. If you experience frequent changes with pricing or product specifications, then you’ll audit your content bi-monthly, monthly, or even weekly.

For those with RFP software, enable Content Library moderation and customize alerts to your preferred content audit cadence. You’ll receive a friendly email reminder when it’s time to clean house.

If you don’t have RFP software—and your Content Library exists in a spreadsheet—you can still be diligent about content audits as long as you refer back to Tip #1. Make sure you have resources allocated to manage your content.

Succession planning

Succession planning is often overlooked by companies, but this is a big one. Do you know who is next in line to manage your RFP responses?

Find out now rather than later, in case your RFP content “gatekeeper” suddenly moves on. It happens, and you want to be in a position to keep your RFP process moving forward so you don’t miss out on opportunities.

Another process to standardize is training. Although RFP response software is intuitive and doesn’t require special training, there’s still something to be said about having everyone on the same page with content audits and tagging practices, etc. Comprehensive training safeguards your RFP response process as your organization evolves, and team members come and go.

82% of our customers said managing response content all in one place is the primary way RFPIO helps them achieve success. It’s your turn to dominate with RFPIO.

Tried-and-true RFP content management tips for finserv marketers

Tried-and-true RFP content management tips for finserv marketers

As a marketer at a financial services organization, you solve unique challenges every day. You make shrinking budgets work to attract and retain clients. You create a heavy stream of content to build consumer trust. You work within the tight constraints of compliance and regulations. And, you swim against the current in a mature industry that is slow to adopt automated technologies.

Responding to RFPs is one of the many ancillary functions of your marketing role. Yet another multiple hat situation, the RFP response process is where you serve as the facilitator, editor, creator, and decision-maker.

Just like any other content you produce, RFP response involves content management. For your content to be impactful, you need to organize, review, and improve constantly. Below, a proposal manager at a financial institution offers several RFP content management best practices to help you succeed.

43% of marketers said controlling RFP content quality was their top challenge in a recent RFPIO survey. How is your organization overcoming that challenge today?

RFP content quality will always be a challenge, especially in the banking technology environment where things change every day. The first thing we did to overcome that challenge was to change software vendors and start using RFPIO. This solution has taken the middleman out of a lot of what we do to make our RFP response process more manageable.

Having unlimited users makes it much easier for us to bring in subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the bank to answer technical questions about our products and services—without worrying about additional licenses. Through automated email reminders, I’m able to keep track of stale content and the SME responsible for updating content.

Tell us about your experience with maintaining RFP content in the financial services world.

Our product management team is responsible for updating any questions relevant to their particular products. Team availability is a primary challenge with updating RFP content. However, it’s not enough to just have a product expert—you need to have people who know how to write well and review content.

The financial services industry is a moving target. Technology changes so rapidly and sometimes laws and regulations don’t keep up the pace. Your RFP contributors must have legal expertise or compliance and regulatory expertise to make sure you’re not talking out of turn in any of those areas.

How do you use tagging in RFPIO’s Content Library to organize your RFP content?

Tagging within RFPIO’s Content Library works so much better than organizing questions and answers with folders. We had a folder system with our old RFP software—when I needed to find a question a year later, I never knew where it went.

With banking proposals, the bulk of the questions and answers will fall under a certain product or product set. So you tag your RFP content in the Content Library with the name of the product, in addition to its larger product group.

Tagging makes it easier to delegate questions to subject matter experts as well. When an ACH question comes in, I search for the ACH tag and assign these responses to the ACH product manager so she can review the content for accuracy.

Overall, tagging allows you to connect the dots with all of your RFP content. You find RFP responses quicker and keep your content up-to-date. It’s the difference between Outlook and Gmail when you’re organizing thousands of emails.

RFP response management teams tend to have different internal styles with tagging. Describe yours.

Generally, the tags you choose for your RFP content are pretty obvious. There will always be a few outliers, but the majority of the responses clearly fall in a particular product bucket or problem bucket. Even then, usually there will be a product that’s an answer to that problem, like fraud prevention or ACH positive pay.

When I first imported all of our existing RFP response content into RFPIO’s Content Library, I did the majority of the tagging. Now that our product managers update their content within the tool, I give them access to change those tags or add content as they see fit. Occasionally, I review the RFP content library to clean up any tags that look wonky.

In the same survey, managing company branding and positioning with RFP content was another challenge for 14% of RFP responders. What are some ways your team is maintaining brand consistency with RFPs?

Our RFP response team does a very good job getting eyes on everything that goes out the door, making sure the correct font size and logos are there. RFPIO has robust formatting tools that help you automatically export your documents into a consistently branded deliverable. This exporting feature has made the formatting step much faster for our team.

Can you tell us about your current RFP content audit process?

Our RFP content audit process is a precedent that has been set for a while that we’re continuing to improve with RFPIO.

At a minimum, content should be looked at once a year. Certain content requires a quarterly answer, or a service changes out of the blue. In RFPIO, you set your preferred audit cycle, put expiration dates on the content, then trigger automated emails to alert the content manager.

There are different RFP content auditing techniques. Your subject matter experts audit the content to make sure it is factually correct. Your RFP writers audit the language and change the way a response is worded when necessary. Your compliance and legal teams also need to audit and approve the content.

We have roughly 1,400 Q&A pairs—that’s a lot of content for one or two people on each team to handle. Right now we’re taking a risk-based approach and having our compliance team members do spot checks on higher risk areas. I recommend picking your battles and focusing on specific initiatives as you audit your RFP content.

What was RFP content management like before you used RFPIO?

RFP content management was a nightmare before RFPIO. Because of the license restrictions we had with our previous RFP software, I ended up being the choke point. All of the RFP content writers and SMEs provided content that had to filter through me, because I was the one uploading everything into the tool.

Having the freedom to allow all of our RFP contributors to work within the platform—without allocating more budget for licenses—is a huge improvement. This collaborative focus puts the value on what is valuable to our managers, which is getting good proposals out the door.


Enjoy freedom in a collaborative platform where you produce quality responses and manage RFP content effectively. Give RFPIO a spin.

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