As a project manager on the InterAction® team for almost five years, I’ve managed over 25 InterAction product releases—15 of those were in 2019! To help me prepare for even more, I look back and review what part of the release process worked and what didn’t. This helps me plan how I streamline upcoming projects and how to handle an even higher volume of releases as we continue to make InterAction work better for our clients.
When I was conducting my review, I realized that some of the principles of project management were similar to those that could help law firms with business development and their Request for Proposal (RFP) process.
Project management methodologies and practices are everywhere, whether we realize it or not. I’ve used these practices in every job role, in a variety of industries. At its core, project management is managing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet success criteria within a certain timeframe. The primary challenge? Achieving all of the project goals within the given constraints.
It’s easy to see parallels between the legal world and the software world. For law firms, an RFP is part of the business development process, where law firms introduce new ideas to show how they can help their clients and prospects. In the same way, our InterAction product releases are business development as well. We introduce new functionalities that will help and hopefully show their potential customers how much we can help them, too. In both cases, you need a well-organized and precise process to introduce these new ideas and functionalities.
This is where our principles of project management can help you get through your RFP process. I rely heavily on these four steps:
- Identify the RFP team
- Have a kick-off meeting
- Outline the content
- Keep a document library
- Identify Your RFP Team
Having worked in law firms, property management, construction, and IT, I’ve learned it’s important to have the right mix of people working on any new project—no matter what industry you are in. It’s the same when you start crafting an RFP.If you don’t have a project manager who will manage the RFP process, it is imperative to identify one person who will manage and own the process from start to finish. And whoever is assigned should treat the RFP process the same way you would treat a project. For example, make a schedule of all the tasks that need to be completed, assign owners and dates, send out regular updates, and schedule a kick-off meeting.
- Have a Kick-Off Meeting
I believe that it is vital to have a kick-off meeting for a project. This way, everyone who is identified as working on the project is aware and in agreement of the scope, timeline, tasks, and team members. I have found in the past that if projects do not start with that initial meeting and project plan, this leads to a lot of confusion as to who is doing what and when. Without the kick-off meeting to ensure complete agreement and understanding, many times this is where projects can fail before they even begin.
- Outline Your Content
When you prepare a project plan, each step is mapped out and a date is assigned. It’s easy to follow what is supposed to happen and when, in order to reach final delivery. Determining the content of your RFP is similar. As you read through the request, identify and write down each problem or challenge your firm will need to solve. Once completed, you’ll have your outline for the content in your proposal.
- Keep a Document Library
As I mentioned earlier, I managed over 25 releases for InterAction in the past two years. For this to be possible at such a pace, I kept a repository of plans and documents that can be used across several projects whenever I needed them. Often, RFP process companies ask for standard documentation, such as insurance or security paperwork or professional bios. Rather than hunting it all down each time you need it, come up with a filing system or database and allow access to anyone who is assigned to the RFP team. On the InterAction team, we use a shared online portal where we keep a file for each release, as well as a miscellaneous file to store documents that we can reuse from project to project.
Overall, project management processes are prevalent in almost every industry in some form or fashion. But you don’t have to have the title of project manager to take advantage of the project management principles. Just follow the suggestions above, and take your RFP process one step a time. Before you know it, you’ll have completed your RFP and be on your way to helping your firm win new business from the clients you already serve, as well as new clients.