The job that always gets put to the bottom of the list – until the boss asks “where’s that report?”
The job that on the face of it, should take 20 mins, but actually takes an hour and a half.
Is it the monthly report with 12 months of rolling data, where you have to copy table or chart data one space left and then collate the data for the new month?
Is it working with tables, pasting in new data and finding that it’s messed up your borders / fonts / cell colours / banding (* delete as appropriate)? Where you have to spend the next quarter of an hour sorting it out, only for it to go wrong again with the next update.
What are the documentation or reporting jobs that take up loads of your time – time that could be spent doing something much more productive, interesting and useful?Read More
The key to consistent, high quality documentation across your team or business is through the use of Word templates and styles. However, the good intentions of just creating them and putting them out there for people to use isn’t enough – you need to get your team to embrace using them – and they need to be protected!
Styles can be edited, the wrong styles can be used, attributes such as bold, font colour and size can be applied ad hoc throughout your documents, and before you know it you are back to square one. There are various mechanisms available to try and protect styles within Word – some are a bit convoluted – the best and most comprehensive is through the use of macros and VBA. Threatening the health and wellbeing of anybody who messes with your styles can also be effective.
However, there is still a lurking danger – the inadvertent corruption of your documents through cut and paste. Even if your entire team is using your templates in an exemplary way (I know!), it is possible for rogue styles and potentially worse issues to be pulled into your documents and corrupting them. So ALWAYS cut and paste as unformatted text, particularly if the provenance of the document you are cutting from is unknown. It may take a little bit longer to apply your approved styles to the content you’re bringing in, but it is well worth the effort and can save plenty of pain and heartache later on. We have started including a ‘Paste Unformatted’ button on our customised Word ribbons for exactly this reason.
There is a potential exception to the rule though – that of content re-use systems. If you are using a content re-use mechanism, such as SmartDocs, one of the benefits you want is the ability to be able to pull in approved content and not have to do anything to it. Again – it comes down to provenance – you need to make sure that all documentation and content is formatted correctly, using your styles and templates before being put into the content management system. That way, as long as you use the same naming convention for your styles in any future templates, you can pull pre-formatted content from your content management system that will automatically take on the appearance of your target document and be formatted correctly.
Bid formatting is not just a bit of admin that can be left to chance. Underestimating it can jeopardise the success of a bid, not just because of the poor presentation of the submission, but also meeting the delivery deadline in the first place.
Following a couple of simple rules and using a professional formatting team will guarantee the quality of a submission and not add more pressure to the already stressful final delivery phase of a bid.
Rule 1 – Don’t change the template
The formatting team should be involved at an early stage, creating and testing the bid template. Once agreed by the bid management team – this should not change. The writing and editing teams can then be trained how to use the template correctly and effectively, ensuring that when the formatting team get involved again in the later stages of the bid process, the documents are in much better shape.
The unnecessary overhead and frustration created by changing the bid template every couple of weeks during the writing phase of a bid can and should be avoided.
Rule 2 – Use the right resources for the right job
Often, the highly specialised consultants tasked with writing bid content are not overly familiar or comfortable with using MS Word – they use it because they have to. Some of those I have come across, I’m sure would hand write the submission if it were possible! But, they are there to provide their unique insights and experience, not to make the documents look great and compliant with corporate style – that’s our job.
The last thing you want is the consultant that is costing upward of £100 an hour, spending half an hour trying to get their table to look right, when a formatter could sort it out in minutes for a fraction of the cost. You need your writers focusing on the content – that is what you are paying them for.
Actually, in my experience it is really easy working with writers that have little Word experience – they are grateful for any tips that you give them and are amazed at how their content looks once it has been formatted. More problematic are the writers that are pretty proficient with Word – they have their own ways of working and an opinion! Of course, by adhering to Rule 1 – once the management team has decided on the template – nobody is allowed to have an opinion!Read More