Quoting / RFP Process

How are you guys quoting and bidding jobs? Do you use a software package that helps to build BOM's and generate proposals? We are using excel but tracking changes can be problematic.

MS-Excel can be a wonderful tool for many things (employee evaluation/ranking IS NOT one of them). Some CAD programs can generate BOM's.

One of the things about MS-Excel is there are TONS of add-ins and extensions for just about any and every purpose (except the one you want to use MS-Excel for, in the way you are accustomed to using MS-Excel for the purpose you use it for). What does that mean? Well, when one chooses an add-in or extension and starts using it, one usually finds out it doesn't work in the "intuitive" sense or way they have been using MS-Excel up to now without any add-ins or extension. Most add-in and extensions were developed by people who wanted to "automate" the way they were using MS-Excel, and promote it for the application but it's not until someone else starts using it that the someone else finds it doesn't work they way they were using MS-Excel.

One can also use Visual Basic to develop their own add-ins and extensions, and macros, to automate the way they use MS-Exel. I believe that's actually the way many of these add-ins/extensions get written, and made available to others. The people who wrote an add-in or extension to help them with quoting and writing RFPs promote the add-in/extension as being useful for writing RFPs and preparing quotes--they way they write proposals and generate quotes. And, those instructions don't come with the add-in/extension (because that's intuitive to them). If you're patient and you choose a good "author" you can probably learn how to make them work for your quote generation and proposal-writing process--or the "author" might make some changes for you, or they might write some documentation to explain how they wrote the add-in/extension to work for them.

Sometimes one can hire a college student or a programmer to write the add-ins/extensions--but sometimes that requires as much of one's time as learning Visual Basic to make MS-Excel work they want it to.

The best thing to do in this case (in my personal opinion) is to do the due diligence you are doing now, asking what others do and what they use. AND, if you really want to make your quote generation and proposal writing process be smooth and sparkling you need to also, in parallel, start analyzing your work flow(s) and looking for ways to streamline and improve each step of the process (workflow) and the "hand-offs" between the steps and the people performing them. Ask them how it can be improved (some will have suggestions; others will not--until later, which can be good or bad).

And if you start evaluating add-ins and extension, or full-blown software packages for quote generation and proposal writing (because it's pretty certain there's at least ONE out there) start looking at how that package fits into your current process or how it can improve you current process. Maybe even keep a notebook (or spreadsheet!) of the things you find important, the things you want to have in a workflow process, etc.

But, you seem to be starting on your journey of discovery of what's available and what other people are using. Good on you! For my part, I used MS-Excel to generate my BOMs which were then entered into SAP (which is where OTHER problems started) and used to generate proposals and jobs when Customers signed contracts. And because all of the work AFTER the spreadsheet generation was done by custom, in-house SAP programming I didn't get really involved in that part of the process, until I got called to the factory floor to answer questions (which happened more often than it should have).

Again, analyzing your needs and your current workflow(s) and processes may help find ways you can do things easier and better with a few MS-Excel macros, or by purchasing some add-in or extension that can be useful (after some evaluation). Knowing what you have and what you want can help you identify what you need--and by that time you're speeding down the on-ramp and merging into traffic, hopefully smoothly.

Best of luck! I hope you get some more concrete responses, as I'm curious what other people are using. (In my current company, we only use MS-Excel, and it can be difficult trying to understand how others built their spreadsheet and why.)
Thanks for the input. We have seen tremendous growth in this segment of our business and I just want to evaluate what else is out there that would minimize repeated steps in a workflow. MS-Excel is not the solution, I am convinced.