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In this Leadership Insights video interview, Amanda Razani speaks with Ganesh Shankar, CEO of Responsive, about key findings from the company’s 2023 Strategic Response Management Maturity Report.


Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani and I’m here today with Ganesh Shankar. He is the CEO of Responsive. How are you doing today?

Ganesh Shankar: Hi, Amanda. Thank you so much for having me today. I’m good and feel really honored to be part of your podcast. Thank you.

Amanda Razani: Thank you for coming on our show. Can you tell us a little bit about Responsive and what services do you provide?

Ganesh Shankar: Yeah. Responsive is a 100% cloud-based strategic response management platform, which means it helps our customers in responding to the strategic queries such as RFPs, RFI, security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires, DEI questionnaire our customers get from their external stakeholders. It could be prospect and customers. So we help our customers to respond to those questionnaires in a most efficient way with our AI-enabled platform.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. And you recently released a 2023 Strategic Response Management survey. What were some of the results of that report?

Ganesh Shankar: Yeah, great. Yes, we did recently launched our Strategic Response Management Maturity Report. The key findings are few. Interestingly, a lot of those responders are using… For many different use cases to be exact, but just about 54% of our responders have said they use the technology for responding to RFPs and RFIs, that is successful proposals and it was for information.
But again, we also are noticing a lot of our customers, a 37% of them, are also using it for questionnaires like DEI questionnaires, security questionnaires. Initially, we would’ve thought a lot of these platforms are used for responding to business inquiries such as RFPs, but it was kind of an eyeopening for us to see how much it is impacting beyond RFPs, getting into the security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires, and DEI questionnaires. That’s one finding that we noted.
And we also noticed people who use SRM, almost 82% of those companies have not properly utilizing the technology or they have not rolled it out properly. Only 18% of the responders have said they’ve used it, but though it is staggering different, but what we realized, Amanda, there’s about 34%…
Actually, the companies are making more revenue than the companies who have not adopted an SRM. The companies who adopted SRM strategies and platform seems to be making 34% more revenue than the companies who are lagging behind. When it comes to winning a business, that is actually a staggering 16% difference from one company who’s fully adopting an SRM platform versus a company who is just getting started. The 16% may sound a small number, but in reality, that’s a huge number in terms of how much revenue it can add to your bottom line, and that was the top line. So it is very important to recognize the importance, which was very eyeopening for us, even for ourselves to see how impactful a company is getting out of technologies like this. So that’s one.
And a lot of times, when companies adopt an SRM strategy, what we are seeing is they spend less time in doing repetitive task, like answering the same question over and over again. SRM platforms help them to be much more efficient and do more value that are high impactful and it is not repetitive in nature, that is not duplicative in nature. Those are some key findings that we found out during the survey that we conducted.

Amanda Razani: Interesting, so a few questions about that. So by adopting this platform, is it automating a lot of these tasks and reducing the time and the amount of manpower that’s needed toward this?

Ganesh Shankar: Absolutely. In a very simplistic manner, basically, you can imagine our customers are selling their product or services all the time, constantly, 365 days in a year. They’re trying to sell their product, they’re selling the product all the time. So it is not like a one-time thing. So they’re selling their product to multiple customers, the customers are there, they are constantly asking the question.
But if you look at it, most often, the response or the responses, the answers our customers give are almost similar but with a slight twist to it. But it is very similar, the majority of that can be repurposed. So that’s why we say our technology help them to repurpose a lot of the content that they already have. Because yesterday, I’ve responded to question that came from a customer A, but customer B is asking the same requirement but worded differently.
It doesn’t mean my answers are different. I gave a different answer to customer A, I’m now giving customer B a different answer because it’s my same product, it’s the same service that I offer, I’m not changing my answer. But these platforms can understand the different nuances, that question that is being asked, and with the help of AI. And it can prompt those respondents, like our customers, with the most possible answer because they’ve responded to similar, or if not, the same question in the past, but this was their answer.
So it minimizes the amount of time they have to search or cover for that information because if it is yesterday and today, it’s okay. What if that was given a month before, three months before? The other customers asking almost exactly the same requirement, it minimizes that amount of work. Not only that, but the platform like SRM can also democratize the enterprise knowledge so that, yes, you are responding to the inquiry from client A when the sales process, but client D who’s already a customer, who’s asking a very similar requirement, it is post-sales process. You have to support the customer so you can leverage some of the content that is created during the sale process into support process. Again, democratizing the content for multiple use cases can be made possible with a proper use of an SRM platform like Responsible.

Amanda Razani: So let’s get into that. You said from your findings, there were still some companies and leaders that either haven’t implemented this type of technology yet or aren’t fully utilizing it to the best of what it can offer. So from your experience, what advice do you have to companies as far as the implementation process and what is step one? And then also how do you advise that they better and more properly use this technology?

Ganesh Shankar: Yeah, great question, Amanda. First of all, we need to understand what are the benefit of a platform like this? The SRM platform tend to have the most compliant responses that an enterprise can have. When I say compliant, it is most up to date, it is given by the correct subject matter experts. It is most current, it’s recently updated.
So when somebody is leveraging the content and distributing to the outside world, they’re making sure they’re communicating the most latest and greatest information, but that is also compliant, because I don’t want anybody who’s communicating to my prospect or investors to put content that they think is right content, but in reality, it could be different. So it creates a lot of liability for the company if you miscommunicate something. So the fundamental is everybody should be speaking the same language. Everybody should be consistently communicating the same message.
For that, the recommendation, what we have seen, especially for companies who are very well adopted in the SRM platform, is the buy-in from top level executors. Again, it is flowing from the top saying, “Okay, we need to adopt a consistent messaging across the board. We have to say the same thing across the board. We can’t be inconsistently throwing some message here and there, or it has to be consistent.” Understanding the consistency, understanding the risk of creating liability from top to bottom is essential, number one. And meaning some at a very high level, somebody at a C-level, where we have seen in successful implementation. C-level executors have a very huge buy-in into implementing a system like this, even before going to a process like this. That’s number one, having a C-level or executive level buy-in is number one.
And I would say the other one is helping employees to uplevel their skills, to adopt. And again, truly, when you look about strategic responses, it is not a one person job, it is not one man job. It truly requires a village to finish and submit an RFP or questionnaire. So you need skills to bring all the teams together to enhance the content. So upleveling the skillset, again, that’s why we offer university certifications to help them to navigate this through. And companies need to support employees to get through those certifications and invest on their professional development, especially on managing the content, on managing the project, on managing compliance. So you need to invest, that’s second.
I would also say the third one, of course, you need to have a platform, not necessarily Responsive, but an SRM platform, for the most part, can alleviate some of the challenges that comes along with the manual process. So you need to invest an SRM platform like Responsive to automate. Most of these things can be automated. For example, if a product manager releases a feature into the product, which used to be not in the product, it was a roadmap item last month.
If we had responded to an RFP last month, we would’ve said it as a roadmap item. But this month, it is no longer a roadmap item, it is in the product. This is a product or a feature that it is supported. So it has to be more [inaudible 00:11:34], so you have to collaborate. That workflow can be easily managed so that it allows the so-called subject matter experts to govern the data, so that the frontline teams are rest assured to share the most compliant information.
So these are three high-level things I would say, Amanda. One is having a C-level executive buy-in, and the second one is upleveling or investing in professional development for people who are managing this process, and third one is having a system in place would help companies who are adopting to become a leader in this process.

Amanda Razani: Okay, thank you for sharing that. So with the more quickly adopted use of AI, it rapidly becoming the biggest thing right now and being implemented into many different sectors, what are the key issues that you’re hearing or the concerns from leaders in the enterprise?

Ganesh Shankar: So, of course, there’s a lot of buzz around AI in the last 12 months or so. The more and more we talk, even that came through this Maturity Report, our customers are leveraging AI more than ever before. However, they don’t see this as a replacement for a human being. This is definitely helping them augment, and it’s also helping them… It’s what we call as an auto-response right now, helping the system to respond to a question.
I personally like to call it an assisted response system, it can assist you in responding to the question that you’re getting. So the leaders that we are seeing are saying they are definitely leveraging these AI technology in most part, but they’re relying on the human eyes to navigate that through making sure the content is right. Because a lot of times, these are content that doesn’t exist anywhere. It is in the minds of people and humans need to bring that information. Yeah, no matter how much AI you implement, you can’t get into human’s brain. I don’t think there’s any technology today out there to understand what is there in your human brain. So that is still the case.
However, on the positive side, what we are noticing, especially on the AI, is it is giving a lot more structure to the content they’re putting together. It is like, okay, now customers don’t need to think a lot about trivial like grammars, full stop, periods, “Am I taking neutral tone or am I taking a passive tone?” So that has been taken care by these AI technologies. For example, I have this piece of content in my mind, I’m drafting it, but I need to elaborate it. I need a much bigger content, but this is the crux of it, but I need to elaborate.
So that’s where the AI can assist them to elaborate, to make it… “I have this blob of content, but I want to press it down to 250 words. Instead of me counting each word, can I seek the assistance of AI to condense it and give me the content that I’m looking for, less than 250 words?” That is how we are seeing it, and it is very well perceived by our customers in leveraging. And that, we already operate at Responsive.

Amanda Razani: Okay. And so your company recently had a leadership summit, correct?

Ganesh Shankar: Correct. So we call it Responsive Summit. It is a combination of our customers, people who wanted to understand what SRM is all about, and the industry experts. So we brought in more than 2,000 registrants around the globe to participate in this event. And I think our attendance was… We can get you some stats, but our attendance was off the charts and they stayed a long time in understanding all these capabilities that are offered through an SRM platform.

Amanda Razani: Excellent. What were some of the key points that were discussed during the summit?

Ganesh Shankar: Of course, a lot of emphasis on leveraging the AI, so that was one key element we talked about. And the second element that we talked about is SRM. People immediately think about the user respond. It is mostly what we are calling it as reactive in nature. Basically, respond immediately what you’re thinking or you’re responding to a request that you received, being more reactive in reach.
But we are also saying that the fact that you’re able to curate lot more strategic content, what we are seeing in the market, or at least in the client base we have, is they’re trying to be more proactive in nature. How can we leverage the content and being more proactive? What I mean by proactive is instead of waiting for a questionnaire to hit your inbox, how can I voluntarily, beforehand, proactively go and say, “Hey, these are the things that we are seeing in the market. Dear customer, please review this. If you need more information, please let us know so we can fill that in?”
You don’t need to send us a questionnaire. We have worked with hundreds of customers and these are the typical questions that they preemptively ask, that is called as profile center. You can preemptively prepare a profile and share it with your prospect or customer so that it minimizes the deals cycle and the engagement cycle, and lets you to make a quick uninformed decision instead of waiting for a questionnaire to hit your inbox and start responding to that. And then there’s a follow-up rather than no inquiry came in, rather you proactively giving them what they think is needed. So those are key element that we launch.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. So if there was one piece of advice that you can leave our audience with today, what do you want business leaders to go away remembering?

Ganesh Shankar: Yeah. More and more SRM platforms are becoming mission-critical. Leveraging this platform can alleviate a lot of compliance issue because you will be speaking the same language and the most consistent language across the board. So I would highly encourage business leaders to consider implementing, adopting, and investing time on SRM platforms so that they can leverage across the board, and the entire company can speak the same language, and minimizing the risk for the business.

Amanda Razani: All right, wonderful, Ganesh. Thank you so much for coming on our show and sharing your insights today.

Ganesh Shankar: Thanks, Amanda. It was great having a conversation with you. Thanks for having us on your show.