Making the most of Microsoft Teams in Bid Development

I have been working in bid for a good few years now, beginning with my first ever PQQ (prequalification questionnaire) and working up from there. It’s not the most attractive of roles. In fact, putting together a PQQ reminds me of the tedium that was helping my mother with the Family Credit application or Housing Benefit form at the age of 12. As I write this, I think I’ve just had a breakthrough moment. I’ll be sure to let my therapist know.

As my career progressed, so did the size and complexity of the bids I was working on. The best bids I worked on were the ones where multiple stakeholders (or specialists as I prefer to call them) would come together and shape a document which would sell our business – the culture, the people, how we understand our clients, why we put them first and ultimately, why they should let us be their cloud services provider and not someone else (for the sake of anonymity, let’s call them “HardDog”.)

As we bring more and more people into the development of any tender response, keeping track of everything also becomes more and more complex. At ANS, we have a full responsibility matrix where each element of the bid is noted, and we can track the progress of each question asked from initial draft right through to the final version which has been completed in Adobe InDesign. When everyone working on the bid buys into this, it works a treat.

So now we can track the progress of the drafting in a concise manner. But then we have the drafts themselves. I don’t know about you, but this has always been a living nightmare of mine:












Contract_Management_Final-ACTUAL FINAL.docx

Contract_Management_No, this is the actual FINAL.docx

I know what you’re thinking. That’s a bit irritating. And you’re right, it is. It’s difficult to track, a final revision may have been made but not emailed to the person who needs it. It clogs your hard drive and leads to unnecessary email bulk, which can result in stress and comfort eating. Before you know it, you’ve put on 3lbs and you can’t get into that two piece you’ve been eyeing up in Primark.

This method of working is just a nightmare.

Then from the heavens, the cloud parted (see what I did there) and a beam of sunshine came flying down in the form of Microsoft Teams. This literally solved the problem of clogged emails, multiple versions with file names that make no sense whatsoever. Now let me say this; Teams is a window to Sharepoint, where everything is saved in the cloud so if someone is absent then it can be easily picked up and continued by someone else. It allows for work the be reviewed organically and encourages collaboration. It couples this with several communication functions including video and audio conferencing and chat capabilities. It is also a universal translator. No, really. It’s actually amazing.

So, when I hear, more often that you’d expect, “I f****** hate Teams” it makes me wonder what it is about teams that everyone dislikes. So, when Liv waves a bottle of Champagne in front of me, I found the perfect opportunity and excuse to investigate.

I do find it somewhat ironic that in an agile industry such as IT, where you’ll never own the latest of anything for more than 5 minutes, that an aversion to change is somewhat prominent when it comes to Microsoft Teams.

Thinking about this, I think some people dislike Teams because it is restricted to always being online…

Often, I hear that some people work on the road, offline and “forget to upload it” (yeah, whatever). Here’s a little tip; if you select “open in SharePoint” on Teams – which will open the file location in a browser – you will have the opportunity to synchronise the file you’re working on, so you have an offline copy. Any changes that you make and save whilst working offline will automatically synchronise as soon as you connect to the internet. Simples.

Some people dislike Teams because they are simply in way too many Teams.

This is something that I can empathise with. I have lost count of the number of Teams that I am in and currently there is little way to organise them other than “favourite” and “more”. Since we have an enviable relationship with Microsoft I implore someone, anyone, to have a word and suggest being able to group and organise our teams. I’ve given this some thought and for Bid Management – the Teams could be simply categorised as:

  • current bids
  • submitted bids
  • mobilisation
  • Ready for Archive

Current Bids are live and will have various people working on them. I need daily access.

Submitted bids are, unsurprisingly, submitted and we are waiting on a result. This is a period where commercial negotiation will be prominent and the number of people who require access will increase.

A “Mobilisation” group will be a Bid which has won and is currently being onboarded.

Finally, “Ready for Archive” will be groups of bids which have been lost and won (once the onboarded is complete). These will sit in this group for a period of up to 12 months before the groups are archived.

So essentially that is a long-winded way to say it will be useful to be able to organise our ever-growing number of Teams and determine the categories.

Still with me? Good.

We have recently changed our audio conferencing platform. Another change. So, let’s embrace the capabilities that MS Teams have in this area. Did you know that you can get live translations during video and audio conferences? So basically, MS Teams has the same capabilities of the Universal Translator from Star Trek. Teams synchronises with Outlook, so you can organise specific project meetings within the application, albeit it’s still a bit rough around the edges.

If you want to get the best audio experience, here’s another tip (this also goes for Skype conferencing) make sure that everyone is either dialing in OR using a laptop. There are often lag/latency issues and more often than not I’ve spoken on a call, and heard it repeated back to me 2 seconds later as the mic from a laptop using the network connection is catching up.

Whilst we are talking about communication, let’s talk about Slack, which I have had installed thanks to a stealth operation. Slack is a great chatting tool and is great with regards to emotes, gifs, and the wealth of entertaining stuff and yes, the UI is soooo much better than Teams, but lacking the integration with Office, I think it’s more of a “nice to have” than something that can be classed as an “essential tool”. Sorry Calvin. And I love the dancing parrots.

That was also a long way of saying that the UI and chat functionality could be massively improved. I don’t even like the font. Urgh.

So, when we’re asking Microsoft to implement a function to allow us to organise the hundreds of Teams we end up being in, we can also ask them to add a lot of customisability.

But the best thing about Teams is that multiple people can easily edit a document at the same time. Literally, you go to “edit in word” and you and your best pal can both work on a document together and make changes in real time. It’s like Google Wave, but it works. Simply find the document and “edit in word” – you can edit in word online, but I wouldn’t advise it, it’s very low and the functionality is reduced. It also doesn’t work for Excel documents. So, there is a long way to go. There have been some issues in the past where a document is opened as “read only” and only a “save as” seems to work, creating a duplicate. To this day I really don’t know why that happens – it’s a rare occurrence so don’t let it put you off!

Microsoft Teams is a little under 2 years old and despite It’s lack of customisability, the core functionality has led to some massive efficiencies when writing a bid. As we move forward I think it can become a strong video conferencing tool – it would be nice for Teams to be able to produce a written transcript which is generates during video and audio conferencing. I think the translation tool is great and could prove to be essential in the future.

I would like to see deeper integration with Outlook. Because I would love to be able to tag an email with that of a group in Teams. (This would be great for archiving too.) I would like to also see within Teams the editing history of a document inside the application, rather than having to go to SharePoint.

When it comes to video and audio conferencing, we should be able to prioritise the bandwidth to audio or a single feed. It’s lovely to see everyone when they are working from home and having a good nose at the room they are working from (yes, we all do it), but if bandwidth is limited then it would be nice to prioritise the screen which is being shared and the audio.

Even though MS Teams has come a long way and yes, it’s F****** Amazing, it’s got a long way to go. The promise of a connected and collaborative world is already a reality; now it’s time to fine tune it – I’ve always said that an online game is only as strong as the number of people playing it, and the same goes for this. If we all accept the change, work through our annoyances and be patient with the ongoing development of MS Teams (including leveraging our relationship) the efficiencies would make a huge difference. It already has in the way we develop a bid.

We just need a dancing parrot.

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