Artificial Intelligence (AI) was first discussed in 1950 by Alan Turing, who explored the mathematical possibility of AI. With the launch of ChatGPT in 2022, AI immediately became a hot topic for the business world because it was readily available to everyone. AI soon entered the Bid industry with companies promoting software that use AI to help write proposals. AI has many abilities that can be useful to Capture and Proposal Managers, but it also has limitations. This article explores AI and Automation and how they can be useful to Capture and Proposal Managers.
What is AI and Automation?
AI and Automation are related concepts, but they are different. Many times, AI and Automation work together, and it is difficult to perceive where one ends and the other takes over.
AI involves creating systems to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, learning, and decision-making capabilities. It involves creating algorithms and models to enable machines to learn from data, make decisions, and perform tasks autonomously. AI systems aim to mimic human cognitive functions such as reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, and understanding natural language and they can adapt and improve their performance over time. Examples of AI include:
- Virtual Assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana.
- Streaming and shopping services like Netflix and Amazon analyze user preferences and behavior.
- Website and App chatbots provide customer support in real time.
- Email Filtering categorizes and filters email.
- Social media platforms show content based on individual interests and behaviors.
- Image and Video Recognition categorize people, objects, and places in photos and videos.
- Autonomous Vehicles rely on AI algorithms to navigate, interpret surroundings, and make driving decisions based on real-time data.
- Language Processing Tools like Grammarly help users improve their writing by suggesting corrections for grammar, spelling, and style.
Automation refers to using technology to perform tasks or processes without human intervention. It involves creating systems that can execute specific actions based on predefined rules or instructions. Automation is often used to streamline repetitive and routine tasks, increasing efficiency and reducing the potential for errors. While automation can be rule-based and deterministic (following a set of fixed instructions), it can also be enhanced with AI to make it more adaptive, intelligent and capable of responding to changing circumstances or data patterns. Here are a few examples of automation:
- Smart thermostats, automated home lighting systems, programmable coffee makers, automated sprinkler systems, vacuum robots, and smart appliances are a part of most homes.
- Software and services can automatically back up computers or phones at specified intervals, protecting important files.
- Automatic bill payments and transfers manage finances without manual intervention.
- Email Filters and Folders automatically sort incoming emails based on predefined rules.
- Task Management apps can send reminders and notifications for upcoming tasks or deadlines.
How AI and Automation Can Benefit Capture and Proposal Managers
Capture and Proposal Managers already use AI to help with tasks via email, reminders, and chatbots. They use Automation in Grammar and Spellcheck; Excel macros and formulas; Word formatting; SharePoint workflows; and shredding RFPs based on automated rules and keywords.
However, using AI and Automation to develop bids is new and may not equally apply to all bids. There is a wide spectrum of bids, from standardized format or questionnaire proposals to customized proposals developed for a specific customer. Some bids are better suited to AI, and others to Automation.
Bid responses with a standard proposal format, such as a set of standard questions, cover sheet, and pricing, can be good candidates for AI.
The other end of the bid spectrum consists of a fully customized proposal that has a long lead time during which data is gathered and analyzed about the contract, customer, competitors, and a bidder’s history, past performance, and capabilities. In these bids, the knowledge base of professional Capture and Proposal Managers is critical to understand the customer and develop customized solutions for specific needs. It would be impossible for AI to build this customized proposal without being trained on the collective knowledge base that the entire team – Capture and Proposal Managers, Subject Matter Experts, subcontractors, and writers – brings to the bid.
Fully customized proposals will always require more human hands-on development but can benefit from automation to reduce manual tasks. AI can be useful to summarize content to create an introduction or executive summary from lengthy content, shorten a 4-page resume into two pages, or validate compliance.
Pros and Cons of AI and Automation
Assess what areas of the bid process could benefit from AI and Automation and consider the pros and cons of each. Here are a few reasons to use AI and Automation:
- AI and Automation can automate repetitive tasks, allowing the bid team to focus on developing solutions and strategies rather than manual tasks. AI systems process vast amounts of data with precision and accuracy, reducing the risk of error.
- AI and Automation do not tire, and tasks can be performed after hours.
- Over time, AI and Automation can reduce the need for human resources, so resources can be applied to other bids.
- AI excels at analyzing large datasets quickly, enabling capture managers to gain valuable insights and make data-driven bid decisions.
- Automation can parse documents or other compliance-type tasks, allowing the bid team more time to focus on developing and refining strategies, win themes, and hands-on tasks that help their bid score more points.
When evaluating AI and Automation tools, users should also consider these things:
- AI must be trained with accurate information and continuously updated with new data.
- Data outputs must be validated by someone who knows the subject matter well.
- Collecting and analyzing large amounts of proprietary data raises concerns and risks of data breaches or misuse.
- As AI becomes more sophisticated, it can be used maliciously, creating security risks.
- AI excels at repetitive tasks but lacks human creativity and innovation.
- Developing and implementing AI systems can be expensive, especially for small businesses.
- Ethical issues surrounding the creation of data, copyright laws, plagiarism potential, and inaccurate data.
AI can assist bid professionals with developing outlines, checking data for consistency, assessing readability and turning data charts into narrative or vice versa. AI and Automation are both powerful tools that will continue to expand in the Capture and Bid industry. As with any tool, each company must balance the advantages of AI and Automation with the potential risks and challenges and thoughtfully consider their best path forward.
About the Author
Donna T. Hamby, CPP APMP, is the Product Manager for OneTeam, a business development platform. She worked in government contracting as a proposal writer and manager for 23 years and has served on the board for the MidSouth Chapter in various roles. Connect with Donna via LinkedIn or email.