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Proposal collaboration or proposal co-authoring – what's the difference?

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Silje Stensland



3 min

On the face of it, there’s not that big a difference between the terms ‘collaboration’ and ‘co-authoring’.

If we dig a little deeper, though, we’ll spot a small but crucial difference. A difference that, in a proposal creation context, separates the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

Okay, let’s jump in!


One step past paper and pencil

In the proposal writing game, the margin of victory tends to be narrow. Proposal teams are competent and hard working, but often, they are left to the mercy (and inherent limitations) of suboptimal document collaboration tools.

This is where that small but crucial difference between collaboration and co-authoring kicks in and creates a competitive advantage.

But first, the plain vanilla definitions.

Collaboration is defined as ‘to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something’.

Co-authoring is defined as ‘be a joint author of (a book, paper, or report)’.

Both activities can be done with a piece of paper and a pencil: You write a paragraph, pass the paper and pencil to me, I write a paragraph, and voilà, we’re collaborating and co-authoring.

Obviously, this example is a bit facetious and doesn’t work well outside of elementary school, let alone in the business world. So let’s take it one step further.

You write a paragraph in Word, email the file to me, I write a paragraph in Word, and ta-da, we’re collaborating and co-authoring.

Now some of you might say, “Well, we use SharePoint.” Fair point, replace ‘email the file’ with ‘check out the file’, and we’re still just one step past paper and pencil.

Why is this form of collaboration and co-authoring, which is one step past paper and pencil, still acceptable to so many businesses today?

Co-authoring – the Wild West of writing?

Almost every document a company creates will involve co-authoring in some way or another. It may not be a 50/50 split, but if you write a document and send it to IT to have your technical jargon double checked, you are co-authoring.

On the other hand, try creating a readable document when you have 20 people working on a 500-page document. We doubt you will have the same warm, fuzzy feeling you do while watching this Google Docs commercial.

Co-authoring is not supposed to be the wild west of writing. Content, sections and writers all have to be tracked and actions accurately logged to ensure a winning end result.

Read more: Collaboration is more than just sharing your proposal document


Collaboration vs true collaboration

At Xait, we prefer to use the term true collaboration instead of just collaboration. First of all, collaboration does not automatically mean that your process is improved, or that you need less time to get a task done.

True collaboration both improves your process and reduces the time it takes to complete a task, a document or a project – i.e. working in real time with your team anywhere in the world while having complete visibility and control over what changes are being made.

You also need the ability to assign tasks to team members and create workflows. Plus, you may want to implement security measures to ensure only the right team members have access to certain content.

This is the kind of collaboration needed to effectively and efficiently collaborate with your team members.

Read more: What is the difference between Collaboration and Co-Authoring?


In essence, the difference between proposal collaboration and proposal co-authoring boils down to this:

Without collaboration there would be very few proposals, or any other business documents, for that matter.

Without co-authoring – in the true sense of the word – there would be very few winning proposals.

From an approver’s point of view, seamless co-authoring is what separates the proposals that land you on the short list from the ‘also-rans’.


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Author picture

Silje Stensland

Silje is the Chief Marketing Officer of Xait. She holds a Bachelor in Marketing Communication and an Executive Master in Business Administration. She is an analytical, efficient and results-focused marketing and communications professional and her career spans over 15 years within real estate, oil & gas and IT. When Silje is not busy growing the Xait brand, you can find her at her family cabin in picturesque Sirdal, Norway, hiking, trekking and cross-country skiing.

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