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Successful RFP Response Process on a Global Scale

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JMA Wireless is the leading global innovator in mobile wireless connectivity solutions that ensure infrastructure reliability, streamline service operations, and maximize wireless performance. Employing powerful, patented innovations their solutions portfolio is proven to lower the cost of operations while ensuring lifetime quality levels in equipment and unrivaled performance in coverage and high-speed mobile data.

JMA Wireless operates in over 20 locations worldwide. They have an international team responding to RFPs in a global market.

Bill Fischer, Senior Technical Writer at JMA Wireless, has over 15 years of experience working in Technology and Communications. Bill has shared with us some of the processes he has developed to manage the challenges that come with doing RFPs on a global scale, including:

●    Gaining alignment across global teams

●    Working across multiple languages

●    Managing geography-specific content

●    Time zone management

Achieving Clarity and Alignment

Figure Out the Deadlines

At JMA Wireless, whenever the Sales team receives an RFX – RFP, RFI, or RFQ – they communicate this to Bill. Then, either Bill or his teammate and fellow Technical Writer, Gayle Callen, starts working on a game plan for the opportunity. From the details provided in the RFP, they determine the deadlines for the different stages of the process – clarification question period, submission cut off, etc.

Kick Off the Project

Once they’ve determined the scope of the project, they load all of the questions into Loopio and auto-populate as many of them as they can with answers found by Loopio’s intelligent workflow, Magic. This helps save everyone’s time when they move onto the next step, which is a kick-off call.

The internal kick-off call is usually between Bill, Gayle, and members of the Sales and Design and Engineering teams. During the call, they go through the project and address any questions that Bill or Gayle might have for the team, as well as confirm prepopulated answers of which they are unsure.

Having this step in the RFP response process helps create alignment, provides clarity on who is responsible for which part of the RFP, and enables the team to establish internal deadlines. Often, when people are not sure who is doing what, everyone just assumes that someone else will step in. And then no one does. The kick-off call also allows the Technical Writers to introduce and frame the RFP as a well-structured project within Loopio, instead of an email trail leading nowhere.

Managing Deadlines

Determine the Scope of the RFP

An important aspect of a successful response process is meeting deadlines. Sometimes RFPs that have complex requirements have unrealistic end dates. That’s why Bill pays close attention to this detail early on in the response process. If he or other team members feel that the scope of the project is much bigger than the allotted time, they might ask the prospective client for an extension. He notes that usually they are not the only ones making this request because other bidders often feel the same about ambitious deadlines.

If the client does not grant an extension, the team can either go into overdrive or scale back the scope of their response. For example, if JMA Wireless receives an RFP for a subway system, they might develop a plan for a few stations and indicate that a more comprehensive design is available if given more time. This allows them to deliver well-thought-out submissions that focus on providing a quality response instead of a larger but less focused design.

Develop a Timeline

When working on an RFP, it’s important to develop a timeline for each project. Because JMA Wireless teams are spread out across the world, Bill and Gayle make sure to adjust the project timelines to accommodate differences in time zones. For example, they might set an internal deadline to receive responses that is one or two days ahead of the actual project deadline.

Since a lot of the answers are highly technical, this also leaves them with some buffer room for any clarification questions they might have for the contributors.

Even though the clients request responses to be in English, the readers on the receiving end of an RFP might not be native English speakers. So, the Technical Writers need to ensure that the language in their submissions is clear and understandable to their client audience.

Working with International Teams

map with people standing on different countries with lines connecting them to each other.
‍Image source: http://bit.ly/2zCmp0w

Most of the RFP responses that JMA Wireless completes are in English. This is one of the areas where Technical Writers can add a lot of value to the process. They do the final revision of raw content provided by the different international teams.

One tip that Bill stresses when working with international teams is the use of bulleted lists. Whenever it makes sense, instead of having his Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) write full responses, he asks them to come up with a list of bullet points that summarizes the information. He can then take that list and turn it into a sentence-form response. This saves his SMEs’ time on writing and Bill’s time on revising their responses.

Managing Content

To help organize and maintain their market-specific content, JMA Wireless leverages Loopio’s Stacks to serve as mini-repositories within the main Loopio Library. For example, they have a Stack for their US operations and a Stack for their EU operations. When the Technical Writers use Magic, they can direct it to a specific Stack to ensure that the answers it pulls are relevant and accurate.

Within each Stack, they have set up review cycles to help their SMEs maintain and update the content.

Initially, when building out their library, they started with the US Stack. The EU team then leveraged that content and customized it for their market, leaving JMA Wireless with two mirrored market-specific Stacks. By having one team start right away and then share their work and experience, the next team was able to get a head start on their Stack.

In Summary

JMA Wireless has operations around the world, which makes their RFP response process global. This means they have to effectively manage their deadlines, their teams, and their content. By establishing several processes and leveraging Loopio, they have been able to successfully tackle their response process.

About Bill Fischer

Bill Fischer

Bill Fischer is a Senior Technical Writer at JMA Wireless with over 15 years of experience in the Telecommunications and Communications industries. In his current role, Bill heads the RFP response process which involves managing global SME teams and content.

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