If it's true, as widely believed, that most office users of common applications like Microsoft Word don’t know anything like the full repertoire of what the products can do, such ignorance may be costing companies business by presenting documents with a shoddy, inconsistent appearance.
Scott Passlow, a Sydney-based director of Pragmatech, a proposal automation software company, advocates the use of style sheets to support a consistent look and feel for an organisation, and not allow staff to arbitrarily change fonts and layouts. Such confusion lends an untidy appearance to the document and may affect a supplier's reputation in the eyes of its customers.
The company style should enforce numbering systems for lists, bullet-point styles and table layouts, he says. Automated features which let the product decide how to lay out and number document elements, should be turned off. Users should know when it may be useful to track changes and when such features are turned on.
Tracking left on for the preparation of the final version of the document can reveal perhaps embarrassing traces of previous versions, as some companies have found to their cost.
The content of a document, too, should be guarded against unauthorised changes to standard paragraphs, which may have legal force.
Pragmatech's software is aimed at easing the generation of large documents such as tender bids. Such automation and consistency in style and control of content helps both sides by reducing labour and cost, Passlow says. For the vendor, laborious preparation limits the ability to respond to all pertinent tenders; for the customer it may restrict the number of bids, resulting in a higher price.
He tells the story of a Sydney cricket ground which tendered for replacement of its surrounding picket fence and got one bid, which they knew was "astronomical", but had to accept, since other potential suppliers had found bidding too time-consuming and costly.
Content control, he says, can help the company lawyers in their task of controlling and amending "salespeople's porkies" (misrepresntations and exaggerations that may trap the company in a disadvantageous contractual position) before a final proposal text is sent to the prospect.
Pragmatech software works by linking a document production system to a database of appropriate vendor company information.
The company is represented in New Zealand by former Gartner NZ founder John Hislop.