- CUSTOMER SUCCESS
Blackboard® and Qvidian Deliver Learning
Blackboard, Inc. holds an 80 percent share of the market for enterprise solutions that enable online teaching and learning, and that facilitate campus commerce and security. Gerald Thompson, the company’s operations manager, attributes this enviable position, and Blackboard’s ability to sustain it, to a highly effective sales team, and to their proposal automation tool--Qvidian Proposal Automation. “This tool,” he says, “empowers us to respond to more than 250 requests for proposals each year, in a marketplace that expects to see results in an average of two weeks. What makes this feat so impressive is that proposals are individualized, very complex, and range in length from 120 to 450 pages.”
Blackboard Inc. is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard’s solutions allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate, and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security, and communicate more effectively with their communities. From 1997, when Blackboard was launched, until 2002, the company prepared proposals manually, with a growing staff of writers who relied on massive Word documents, and a great deal of leg work. But as the company grew, opportunities increased to penetrate new niches and industries—if more proposals could be generated faster to support a dynamic sales effort with consistently branded messaging. Also, with the increased complexity of their offerings, the company saw an increased need to generate proposals that could differentiate their solutions in an evolving marketplace.
Blackboard Transact provides a case in point. This solution offers university students a one card, cashless way of making purchases at select vendors and vending machines both on and off campus. In addition, this same card may also be used for secured access to designated facilities, such as dormitories, laboratories, or study halls. Proposals for this solution must, therefore, address the entire retail and security infrastructure of the campus and its surroundings, detailing not only the capabilities of the solution, but the many points of intersection it has with existing systems, retail outlets, and outside university partners.
“There just was no way our writers could keep up with the demand for such highly complex and detailed proposals—especially as card access and online learning technologies became more well-known and accepted,” Thompson says. “In essence, back in 2002, we reached a tipping point; we either automated proposal development activities, or we knew we would not succeed.”
Blackboard began with three licenses in 2002 when 60 proposals were generated annually and has continually increased its reliance on Qvidian to a current 29 licenses. Distributed across four writers and miscellaneous managers, these licenses enable Blackboard to create more than 250 proposals each year, and maintain two separate content libraries. “We have separate content libraries for products pertaining to e-learning and for those pertaining to transactions,” Thompson says. “These product types differ dramatically, so keeping libraries separate simplifies management and maintenance of content.” This segmentation is clearly effective. “Thanks to Qvidian, our proposal development costs have decreased significantly, but, even more important, our win-rates are among the best in the business,” Thompson says. We hear that the industry standard win-rate is around 25 percent, but with Qvidian, we achieve 30-50 percent win-rates depending on the product.”
Thanks to Qvidian, Blackboard is able to create proposals that address every prospect’s specific requirements, with all background, Scope of Work, Return on Investment, and partnership information. “A writer alone may be able to turn around one or two of these proposals in a two-week window. Qvidian enables us to complete that many and more in a single day,” Thompson says. ”Equally important, Qvidian ensures that all proposals meet corporate branding, quality, and comprehensiveness specifications. With anywhere from $100,000 to $9 million riding on each proposal, we could afford no less.” Also appealing to Blackboard is the fact that their Qvidian solution enables them to achieve win-rates as high as 50 percent, so the actual cost of the solution is trivial in comparison to the revenue it drives. “The solution works. The company is great. We have stellar win rates. There’s really not much more to say,” Thompson concluded.