Less than a decade ago, B2B customers would likely approach potential vendors through one of five channels. I’ll give you a hint: their procurement departments weren’t one of them. The number of channels has doubled today, and procurement departments are increasingly tasked with initiating and negotiating purchases, usually through RFPs.
Around that same time, RFP response time was cut in half, from an average of 12 months to six. Additionally, increased regulations and security requirements make the purchasing and bidding processes far more complex.
Today’s business climate is all about doing a lot more with less, but leaving many of their largest potential deals on the table because a company doesn’t have the time or resources to create winning proposals isn’t a viable option.
The best solution is empowering existing teams with the necessary resources to drive more revenue.
I recently sat down with Responsive’s Chief Product Officer, Chief Information Officer, and cofounder, AJ Sunder, to discuss how Responsive’s new UX — introduced in the company’s latest launch — advances collaborative AI capabilities that will help add human-driven value to response departments without overburdening proposal professionals or SMEs.
Wendy: Good morning, Sunder. Please tell us a little about yourself and the vision behind Responsive.
Sunder: Before founding Responsive with Ganesh Shankar (Responsive CEO) and Sankar Lagudu (Responsive COO), I worked in various roles in software development, including as developer, product manager, software test engineer, database admin, architect and information security analyst. I have spent the better part of my career in telecom, healthcare, aerospace and defense before SaaS.
While working together for a startup, Ganesh, Sankar and I had different experiences with RFPs due to our various roles. We found that the RFP management processes we encountered were often inefficient and time-consuming, leading us to create a better solution.
So when we decided to start our own company, we knew that response management was an area where we could make an immediate impact. We aimed to simplify the RFP process and make it more user-friendly, which led to the development of our patented import process, setting us apart from our competitors.
Initially, I focused on engineering and customer success when we started Responsive (then RFPIO). I currently manage product and engineering.
Wendy: Can you describe some of the reasons you decided to reimagine the UX?
Sunder: We decided to launch a fresh and brand-new interface for our application because we recognized that UI and user experience standards are evolving faster than ever before. Our users are exposed to new and innovative applications every day through their mobile devices and the internet, which leads to rapidly changing expectations. We aimed to keep up with these evolving standards by embracing more recent technologies that provide better performance and greater flexibility.
However, our goal wasn’t to simply rewrite our application. We wanted to reimagine it from every angle, with a particular emphasis on integrating AI. Since the launch of RFPIO, AI has rapidly advanced, and we saw an opportunity to seamlessly incorporate it into the user experience. By doing so, we are able to improve the overall user experience while also making AI a natural part of it.
And finally, the new user interface has allowed us to bring a lot more capabilities, and time-saving features to the platform that would have been more challenging to fit into our classic interface.
Wendy: Can you tell us a bit about your philosophy on improving the user experience?
Sunder: Absolutely. At the heart of our philosophy on improving the user experience is a commitment to investing in both our internal research, expertise and customer feedback.
Internally, we dedicate significant resources to researching and developing new ways to make our application more intuitive, efficient and enjoyable for our users. We also placed great emphasis on soliciting feedback from our customers. This includes conducting user research, gathering feedback through surveys and customer support channels, and regularly engaging with our users. By listening closely to our customers, we were able to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.
Wendy: How much customer or user input went into the new UX?
Sunder: At Responsive, we strongly believe in building solutions in close partnership with our users. We recognize that our customers are experts in their own domains and have unique perspectives and insights that can help us build better solutions. That’s why we regularly gather feedback from our customers through various channels such as surveys, customer support interactions and user research.
For the new UX, we conducted extensive user research to understand our customers’ needs and pain points. We interviewed users, observed them in their natural environments, and analyzed their workflows to identify areas where we could improve the user experience.
While customer input is essential, it’s equally important that our product teams have the expertise and creativity to translate problem statements and pain points into elegant solutions. Our teams work hard to synthesize the feedback we receive, identify patterns and themes, and then design and build solutions that address those needs in intuitive and efficient ways.
Overall, the new UX is the result of a collaborative effort between our customers and our product teams. We’re confident that our customers will appreciate the enhancements we’ve made and that the new UX will help them work more efficiently and effectively
Wendy: Can you tell us more about helping users rapidly evaluate requirements in government RFPs, and other dense, narrative documents?
Sunder: When someone receives a request for proposal (RFP), one of the initial challenges is figuring out whether it’s the right fit for the business, is it worth pursuing, and what it will take to pursue the opportunity. This requires carefully examining the RFP to understand its requirements and key entities. It can be a time-consuming process, so we’ve invested in user experience (UX) and machine learning to help streamline it.
Our machine learning algorithms can quickly analyze dense, narrative documents commonly found in public RFPs and suggest which sections to focus on — what are some of the key requirements, timeline and so on. This way, our users can get a snapshot of what the document is about and make informed decisions about whether to pursue the opportunity.
It’s important to note that this technology is not a substitute for reading the entire document, but it can help users quickly identify the key information and involve the right stakeholders in the decision-making process. By investing in UX and machine learning, we aim to simplify the evaluation process and save our users valuable time and effort.
Wendy: How is the work that your [development] team is doing an important step forward in how proposal and response teams interact with AI technology?
Sunder: We use AI as an assistive technology that supports and enhances the work of proposal and response teams. We recognize AI’s potential to improve efficiency, accuracy and speed, but we are also acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with implementing such technology.
That’s why we have designed our AI systems to work in conjunction with human experts, who are always in the loop to oversee and guide the AI’s decision-making processes. Our approach ensures that our AI technology is transparent and accountable, and that it reflects our core values of ethics and responsibility.
In terms of how our work is an important step forward, I would say that it lies in the balance we strike between the benefits of AI and the importance of human oversight. By using AI to assist proposal and response teams, we are able to automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable resources for higher-level, strategic work. At the same time, our human experts ensure that the AI’s recommendations align with our clients’ needs and expectations, and that we remain mindful of the ethical and legal considerations surrounding the use of AI in proposal and response processes.
Wendy: Can you elaborate on how you see Responsive users collaborating with AI?
Sunder: Certainly. At Responsive, our goal is to make AI an invisible assistant for our users, seamlessly integrated into their workflow and providing valuable insights and suggestions without being intrusive or disruptive.
In practice, this means using AI to automate time-consuming tasks like document analysis and response drafting, freeing up more time for users to focus on higher-level tasks like strategy and collaboration.
For example, when a user receives an RFP, they can quickly upload it to our system where AI algorithms analyze the document and extract key information such as requirements, deadlines and contacts. This information is then organized and presented to the user in a clear and structured format, allowing them to easily review and assign tasks to team members.
When it comes to response drafting, our AI-powered suggestion engine provides real-time recommendations for content based on the user’s inputs and past performance. This can include everything from specific answers to common questions to more general suggestions for tone and formatting.
Throughout this process, we place a strong emphasis on maintaining the human in the loop, enabling users to review and approve all AI-generated content before it is finalized. This ensures that users retain control over the final output and can make any necessary adjustments to ensure it accurately reflects their organization’s voice and messaging.
Overall, we see AI as a powerful tool for improving collaboration and efficiency in the proposal and response process, and we’re committed to making sure it remains a helpful assistant rather than an intrusive technology to contend with.
Wendy: There’s already been a ton of buzz about AI Assistant. Why is there so much interest in Responsive’s approach to content-generation technology?
Sunder: At the heart of responding to RFPs, security questionnaires, and proposals is the task of writing quality content that effectively communicates our customers’ unique value propositions. This is an area where GPT excels, and we’re thrilled to be incorporating this cutting-edge technology into our platform to help streamline the content-generation process.
With GPT, we’re able to offer our users an AI-powered writing assistant that can help them draft compelling and persuasive responses to even the most complex questions. This technology allows our users to tap into the power of natural language processing and machine learning to generate high-quality content more efficiently and effectively than ever before.
Overall, the interest in Responsive’s approach to content-generation technology is driven by our focus on making the content-generation process more efficient, while also maintaining a high level of quality and accuracy. We’re excited to continue exploring the possibilities of AI-powered content generation and to help our customers achieve greater success in their response management efforts.
Our customers recognize the potential of this relatively new technology. And this is reflected in the volume of inquiries and the interest we have seen so far. But I should note that this interest ranges from curiosity to outright enthusiasm to embrace it.
Wendy: How does AI Assistant differ from ChatGPT?
Sunder: AI Assistant is a proprietary AI application developed by Responsive specifically for the purpose of assisting with RFPs, security questionnaires, and proposal content generation. ChatGPT is a general-purpose chatbot built by OpenAI that can be used for a wide range of applications. While both use the same underlying large language models, our AI Assistant is specifically designed to understand the nuances of the content we work with and provide more relevant and accurate suggestions.
Additionally, our AI Assistant is integrated into our Responsive platform, allowing for a seamless and secure collaboration between the user and the AI assistant. The information and data used by our AI Assistant is kept private and confidential, ensuring that sensitive information is not shared or compromised.
Wendy: Will AI Assistant and other generative AI help encourage SME and executive buy-in, and if so, how?
Sunder: Yes, I believe that AI Assistant and other generative AI technologies will help encourage SME and executive buy-in. By leveraging GPT technology to assist with content generation, we can significantly reduce the time and effort required to create high-quality responses to RFPs, security questionnaires and other content-driven requests.
The potential impact on productivity and efficiency is significant, and we are optimistic that our customers will embrace this technology when they see the real value it can provide.
Furthermore, the ability to generate content quickly and accurately with the help of GPT technology can also help our customers win more business. By creating high-quality responses faster and more efficiently, our users can improve their chances of winning bids and securing new contracts.
Of course, we understand that there may be some concerns around the use of AI in content generation. That’s why we are committed to ensuring that the technology is used responsibly and that it always works in conjunction with human expertise and oversight. Ultimately, we believe that the benefits of this technology will far outweigh any potential drawbacks, and we are excited to continue exploring new ways to help our users streamline their workflows and achieve their business goals.
Wendy: There’s so much positive momentum surrounding the company and its response management platform — why do you think that is?
Sunder: At the heart of it, Responsive’s response management platform fills a critical need in the B2B space. In today’s fast-paced business world, request response has become the backbone of most business interactions. From RFPs to security questionnaires, businesses are constantly receiving requests for information, and the ability to respond efficiently and effectively can make or break deals.
Our platform allows businesses to streamline and optimize their response process, freeing up valuable time and resources for more strategic pursuits. We’ve seen firsthand how our technology can have a huge positive impact on businesses, both in terms of winning more deals and improving overall productivity.
But it’s not just about technology. We’ve worked closely with our customers to understand their pain points and challenges when it comes to request response. By truly listening to their needs and translating those problem statements into elegant solutions, we’ve been able to create a platform that truly meets the needs of our users.
Overall, the positive momentum surrounding Responsive is a testament to the power of strategic response management and the value that our platform brings to businesses across industries.
Wendy: Thank you, Sunder. That was fascinating!
Sunder: My pleasure.
If you’d like to learn more about Responsive’s new user experience and AI Assistant, let us know.