APMP CEO Predicts Software/AI is the ‘Next Big Wave’ in the Proposal Industry
Russell Smith | May 20, 2019
An Interview of Rick Harris, APMP CEO
Question 1: What are the greatest challenges facing the industry?
Answer: On the Federal side I see three challenges:
1. First are the government shutdowns that wreak havoc on the industry. They are not good for business. They are not good for our industry and they must stop.
2. Second is the endless back and forth across government agencies that cause slowdowns in the flow of RFPs and makes it impossible for us to work at a reliable pace needed for business. We think people are working on processes and are trying to solve this through talking, but there is no evidence a fix is anywhere close. For a long time, we took it for granted that government agencies would play nice with one another no matter which administration was in power. This deterioration has been going on for a long time and has only escalated with the current administration. It makes us all long for the day that you could not tell who supported whom in our agencies and the focus was on business and keeping our business lines healthy and running.
3. Third is a near and dear topic. I think the advent of of software and AI to help both generate and score proposals is going to be industry changing. Software innovation does not need to be scary, but it does need to be managed. The bid and proposal industry has not seen that many changes through the years. We all know the classic request and response cycle 100% driven by human ingenuity. In the future, I think software will play a role in how you submit and how it is scored. The software and AI that makes this possible will be disrupters. A number of software development companies are developing programs that will directly address the B&P process.
Based on what I hear, a sophisticated AI product is at last 5 years away from on open market. We should be mindful about AI and how it works its way into our industry.
Question 2: What would you do to get ahead?
Answer: I would become aware of the SW products and find the one that works for you and in terms of processes. There is no doubt government will one day require all electronic proposals and one day will ask for graphics and videos rather than written volumes. I would read everything I can on AI and what it can do and where it is going. Begin to take part in the SW and AI developments. Don’t just let it happen to you.
Question 3: How do RFP releases over the next two quarters look?
Answer: The amount of RFP releases feels good now. I am just talking anecdotally and can’t quantify it; but our members report they are working at a brisk pace again The good economy is helping, and people expect fast releases to continue in the summer. All of this is good news after the government shutdown in 2018.
Question 4: What do you have to add that I didn’t ask?
Answer: Five years from now we will see a shift in the skills needed. You are going to require technical experts on your team — not just a team of writers. Experts will be needed to ensure that key words and phrases appear appropriately placed and frequently enough to score high with a grader like a super smart Google SEO algorithm. You may need a technical expert who understands the government grading interface well enough to produce a proposal with a look and feel that will be judged superior on the government platform.