*Update: Whoaaa, this blog post is really old! Check out some more recent posts here.
Ultimately, good document collaboration processes reduce that sickening feeling of panic you get when an important document is due in a few hours, and someone has deleted the wrong version, or used the wrong template, or included the wrong section.
1. Setting up a Document Collaboration Process
Set yourself up for success with an easy-to-use and consistent process. Consider the complexity and the number of contributors when creating the initial process. For more complex documents with many contributors, we recommend setting up stages that align with your workflow. For our proposal process, we set up sections in the intranet that align with the sales funnel (and our CRM). This makes it really easy for many contributors to locate documents and to view the current status (even those who don't have CRM access). It also reduces duplicate efforts because it's easy to find content we've already written from previous proposals.
2. Pages vs. Documents
Is it better to attach a file or create a page? Again, it depends on how many people are contributing.
For many contributors, we recommend creating a page for each document section. This allows multiple writers and editors to work on each section simultaneously. Plus, each page has its own comment area, making it easy to track feedback and ideas. Once each section is in a draft form, it can be easily transferred into a document for final review.
For simple documents that you will use again and again (i.e. Contracts, Standard Reports), you can upload one main template that users can duplicate each time they need to use it. Version history and commenting features will allow you to track changes to the main template over time.
3. Searching for Past Work
"I know I wrote about that before.... but where?!" Fortunately, you are now super organized and keep all your proposals in one section of your intranet. Simply go to the parent page, and choose "section" from the search drop down. This will search within all child pages and documents under that parent page. No more having to rewrite work you can't find.
Challenges with branding consistency across all your documents? Store all your branding logos, fonts, and templates in one easy-to-access place. (Bonus: Add a link to this page into your on-boarding process, so all new employees are consistent from the start.)
5. Notifications and Commenting
Is your approvals process painful? Notifications and commenting really simplify this step. Any user who has previously created, edited, or "favorite-ed" a page will receive an email notification when changes are made to that page or when comments are added. When it's time for approvals, simply leave a comment that the document is ready for approval. Other users can leave comments with their changes and approvals. Since comments are tracked chronologically, everyone is kept in the loop with the status. Documents and comments both work in our mobile version too, meaning an easier process and a faster turnaround time.
6. Creating a Repository
Signed. Sealed. Sent. But wait — how can you leverage all this work for next time you need to write a similar document? Create a centralized repository for the most up-to-date versions of frequently used information. For example, we keep updated boilerplate information, team bios, recent work examples, and recent presentations neatly organized, so it's always easy to find the freshest content for the next proposal.
Happy RFP & proposal writing!
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Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.