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Industry Research: How RFP Responders Are Adjusting to 2020

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According to industry research, many proposal managers have experienced a recent dip in Request for Proposal (RFP) work and productivity.

This is why we conducted a second Industry Pulse Check Survey in mid-May. Covered as part of a Community Roundtable discussion, teams shared their insights and swapped strategies for coping with new challenges.

Here are the top insights we discovered on RFP process, volume changes, remote work, and overall industry outlook.

44% of Teams Are Experiencing A Decrease In RFP Volume

Almost half of response teams surveyed (44%) report a decrease in the volume of RFPs received. This number is on the rise (up from 33%) compared to research from April.

RFP statistics from May also show that only 14% of teams feel unsure about how their workload is being affected—a striking decrease from the 35% reported in April. In a nutshell: May has brought more certainty to how the pandemic affects team workload.

When asked how their workload may change in the coming months, more than a quarter (27%) of respondents expect it will remain the same.

Unfortunately, 10% of RFP project teams estimate they’ll continue to see a further decrease. Another 19% expect the drop will level off soon.

Comparatively, 22% of teams expect a continued increase in work (up from the 15% of teams which thought this in April). This may be because some industries and solutions that focus on digital work or remote security are facing bigger demands for their services right now (as we discovered in our Community Roundtable discussions.)  

Handling Challenges: How RFP Response Teams Are Coping With Work & Morale

Like many other teams right now, common challenges facing the proposal industry are company morale, collaboration across distributed teams, and maintaining momentum.

Majority Are Adjusting Well to Remote Work

In April we learned that most RFP teams (60%) were working from home for the first time. This makes it even more impressive that most respondents report adjusting well to remote work.

One third (33%) are coping ‘Extremely Well’ and just more than another third (37%) are coping ‘Fairly Well.’

Despite the move to working remotely, teams may be missing out on some of the other benefits of being in office.

Largest Struggle Continues To Be Morale for 27% of RFP Management Teams

When asked what challenges they’re currently facing, more than a quarter (27%) of proposal managers state that team morale and focus continue to be one of their biggest struggles.

This is fairly consistent with what we heard in April (26%), which shows us that RFP team morale has not improved over the past month.

However, concerns around maintaining project momentum have dropped slightly from 21% of respondents in April to 16% most recently. Teams have likely adjusted to using digital tools to better manage their response process—including how they hit deadlines through properly engaging subject matter experts.

It’s important to note that those who responded as ‘Other’ grew slightly from 6% to 10%. This group identified additional challenges include printing and shipping of proposals as well as ink signatures.

Internal changes were also identified as a challenge—including furloughs—which we’ll cover in this next section.

Job Security & RFP Management Resources Remain Steady

On a positive note, the majority of RFP response teams (77%) have not seen a change in resources over the past month (similar to the numbers we saw in April of 78%).

Out of the 14% that have experienced a loss in resources, more than half of them saw cuts to overall headcount (27% lost services and 9% lost access to tools).

This reflects another sentiment that we heard during the Community Roundtable, which is that some teams are being asked to do more work with fewer people.

Despite the ongoing downturn in RFP volume, only 7% of respondents listed job security as one of their top concerns.

The majority of survey-takers (53%) feel ‘Somewhat Secure’ about their job security, and 30% feel ‘Very Secure’ in their current role. In comparison to the trends we saw in April, these responses are quite similar (51% identified feeling ‘Somewhat Secure’ at that time).

Future Outlook: Proposal Managers Still Most Concerned About Hitting Targets

Across 14 industries surveyed, response teams seem to be divided on predictions for workload changes—yet aligned on concerns about hitting targets.

Proposal Teams Continue To Be Most Concerned About Market Uncertainty

Similar to insights uncovered in April, RFP managers (39%) are predominantly concerned about market and industry uncertainty (which most people can understandably relate to).

There’s also been an uptick in those concerned about increasing work volumes (growing from 8% to 17% in the past month). This could be explained by the fact that some respondents shared their team is struggling with work-life balance (not surprising, considering most are remote for the first time).

Another pattern of concern is around hitting revenue targets: 34% of respondents believe they will miss upcoming quarterly targets, while 25% think they’re at risk of missing targets for the remainder of the year.

These numbers have grown slightly from those in April, as 31% of respondents believed that they may struggle to hit targets for a few quarters, while 23% thought they may struggle with targets for the remainder of the year.

On a brighter note, there has been a dip in concern around losing budget or resources. 19% of respondents are currently worried about losing resources, compared to the 24% we saw in April.

RFP Project Teams Predict Normalcy Will Return in 6 Months

Despite target concerns, the response community seems to have continued confidence that business levels will return to normal within two quarters: 38% estimate six months.  

Only 11% of response teams believe that business will return to normal within the next couple of months (down from 26% in April). Teams feel that the economic impacts of this pandemic will be longer lasting than initially predicted.

How Can RFP Response Teams Stay Productive Over The Upcoming Quarters?

How can response teams continue to stay productive and adapt with all the changes to RFP strategies due to remote work?  

Here are a few suggestions to remain productive (and add business value) if you face a downturn at work:

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Watch the full Community Roundtable to get more insights on how RFP teams are adjusting strategies right now.

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