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Deena Amato-McCoy
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Wachovia Discovers Cure for RFP Blues

Application helps banks create front-end business-to-customer documents like requests for information and requests for proposals.

Document management does not only pertain to back office documents and policies; often the application helps banks create front-end business-to-customer documents like requests for information and requests for proposals. Wachovia Bank is moving away from manual processes and looking to document management to improve RFI and RFP quality.

Inundated by RFIs and RFPs from customers seeking asset and cash management, and investment and treasury services, Wachovia often found itself struggling to meet customer deadlines and craft top-notch proposals-due largely to a manual process that required users to find information that was siloed between departments. Once the data was found, it was cut and pasted into a new document file, a process that often incurred errors due to inaccurate and outdated information.

By relying on the antiquated cut-and-paste method, Wachovia was plagued by incomplete or outdated data. At times, authors had to call people in other departments who didn't have instant access to the data.

Consistency was always an issue, said Roberta Head, vice president at $326 billion Wachovia. "It is difficult when you are using repetitive and uncontrolled data, especially when you need it to be consistent. Since there was not a central repository, there were multiple versions of documents, and the answers were inconsistent."

Seeking a way out of this predicament, Wachovia installed The RFP Machine from Pragmatech Software, Amherst, N.H., to automate the RFP process and improve the quality and speed of its marketing documents. By storing sales and marketing content in one central location, The RFP Machine eliminates cutting and pasting from old documents into RFPs.

The heart of the software is a knowledge base that enables Wachovia to search for documents through the use of key words. "The database is populated with information regarding our company's product offering. The software enables users to query the database for answers to their questions," said Head.

Using a language processor, The RFP Machine reads each RFP question, searches the knowledge base for the most appropriate answers, and then inserts those answers (under the user's control) into the document. The result is increased productivity, efficiency, and accuracy when responding to RFPs, RFIs, and other customer-facing documents.

The RFP Machine allows Wachovia to assign key words to content records for easy identification. Any number of synonyms can be associated with these key words, thereby accommodating interchangeable terminology and varying ways of asking an RFP question.

One of the key features of The RFP Machine is its tight integration with Microsoft Word. Users can take advantage of the entire scope of Word's capabilities to create, format, and edit content, as well as incorporate a wide range of graphics, tables, screen shots, and Web links along with text.

Using Word, the bank opens the customer's RFP along with a tool bar connected to The RFP Machine, which allows users to highlight the document's questions or topics and click on a search icon. The software will connect to the database and present the user with specific information, formatted with necessary graphics and margins, in response to the RFP. The user selects the data and it's dropped into the original Microsoft Word proposal.

RFPs are often received in hard copy or on computer disk and must be completed in the format specified by the issuer. In addition, the questions in an RFP are those an organization has probably answered many times before. The RFP Machine's Quick Buildmode enables a centralized answer pool to be built quickly and efficiently using existing RFP questions and answers.

In the three years that Wachovia has been using The RFP Machine, draft time has decreased to between three and four days compared to eight and nine days. "With that extra time, we have better ability to customize our RFPs and make it sales ready," Head said.

"The advantage for us has been our sales staff getting those drafts accurate and enabling us to add the flavor and appearance we want through a consistent presentation," she added. "How we present this to our customer enhances our opportunity to make a sale."

Wachovia is investigating online applications to offer enterprise-wide access to information. First Union, which merged with Wachovia in September, is already using a Web-enabled version of The RFP Machine. "We run our system through the local network right now, but with a Web-enabled application, we can expand access to our database beyond our group and to all sales people within the whole bank," Head said, although she declined to confirm a roll out plan.

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FAST FACTS

INSTITUTION: Wachovia Bank

ASSETS: $326 billion

BUSINESS CHALLENGE: Automate the processing of RFPs and RFIs.

SOLUTION: The RFP Machine

KEY QUOTE: "The advantage for us has been our sales staff getting those drafts accurate and enabling us to add the flavor and appearance we want through a consistent presentation." - Roberta Head, vice president

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