Making Tendering Easy

As a procurement specialist, I have been working on both sides of the tendering playing field.  I have done many tenders myself where I requested companies to tender.  These days as a procurement advisor, I work with business to respond to tenders. It is an interesting experience working with clients to respond to tenders. I have to admit that at times I find it quite frustrating. I know more can be done to simplify tender writing and make tendering easy.

How would one go ahead to make tendering easy? Here are my 9 tips from the other side of the fence to simplify tender writing:

  • Planning and preparation makes a difference
  • Take time to present a well detailed, logical scope of work or tender specification
  • Think of tendering as an outcome
  • Include details about your business drivers
  • The simple things matter
  • Allow room for innovation and don’t get stuck in form and process
  • Logical tender lay out
  • Regular updates
  • Feedback post tendering with opportunity for lessons learned.

1.Planning to make tendering easy

As with everything in life, planning makes a huge difference.

I am realistic enough to know that at times:

  • business requires quick action and
  • stakeholders do not engage procurement early on.

However, in my experience procurement excels when we get out and proactively engage with our stakeholders on upcoming requirements.

This way procurement can proactively plan the right sourcing strategy and have time to simplify tender writing requirements.

2. Make tendering easy with a detailed, logical and well presented scope

Often this is an area where everyone seems to be passing the buck way too often.  In my opinion scoping requires team effort. The area requiring the goods or services provides technical input, safety add their bit, accounts payable may even have its say.

In the end, commercial responsibility lies with procurement.

Procurement’s role require us to be gatekeepers to make sure that:

  • the scope is clear,
  • the tender sets clear expectations, defines roles and responsibilities,
  • sets out what is in/out and
  • details how to measure success.

The tender writing must be clear enough so that suppliers can tender on what is provided.

3. Make tendering easy as an outcome

In the community services and not-for-profit areas there is much discussion on the impact of the changes around outcomes based procurement.  In essence, this should not be a new concept as all procurement has a form of outcome attached to it.

Outcome is based on what the outcome is you would like to see from the tender, why you want to achieve this outcome and how you measure success against the outcome.  It is really starting with the end in mind.

4. Making tendering easy through including business drivers as part of the tender writing

It is important to understand the key business drivers to any tender.

Are you focused on lower pricing on the shorter term?

Or are you trying to build sustainable innovative solutions that take somewhat longer but build partnerships?

Do you treat your suppliers as partners rather than commercial hostages?

In the resources industry in Western Australia, business focus primarily on cost savings.  Business accepts innovation  only as long as it will help to reduce cost today.  But on the long term, this is not sustainable.

On the other hand, again in the not-for-profit sector, there is a change from funding to contracting but with the emphasis on partnerships.

Whatever the drivers are for your organisation – it is important to share this with suppliers in order to make sure that suppliers know if they are the right fit for your organisation.

5. The simple things make tender writing simpler

For me, tender writing becomes simpler when you understand:

  • what you will evaluate before you issue the tender;
  • your pricing model and what will affect your budget;
  • what will impact on pricing;
  • who your “perfect” supplier is, what its business is and looks like;
  • clearly who carries the risk;
  • how to choose terms and conditions that are fit for purpose and reflect the size of the contract as well the risk position; and
  • the importance of site visits.

The best tender writers simplify tender writing so that business can focus on quality tenders instead of paperwork and tick boxes.

Remember, someone completes your tender. Therefore the aim should be to write the best tender possible.  Your tender has to be easy to work with.

Too often, we think it is a take it or leave it scenario and clients should be grateful for the opportunity to tender.  But it is important to remember that the way you present a tender reflects your business, your values and sells your company as a client.

6. Be clear to make space for what you ask

When you ask for innovation, be innovative.  Often, I see tenders asking for innovation but leave no spot to even inform you more about what innovation means.  Or the evaluation criteria lacks scoring for innovation.

Same with value for money.

Value for money is not all about the lowest price.

If your driver is price, do not ask for value for money solutions – ask for the lowest price.  Then organisations know what you want.

Are you only following rules and tendering but already have picked a solution?

It is important to realise how much time and effort it takes to complete the tender.

If you need to confirm pricing, do a price check but don’t waste precious time.  Time is money after all.

7. Make tendering easy with a logical user-friendly tender writing

One of my pet irritations when helping clients submit tenders, is that the scope sits on p 27 of 66 page document.  The rules of a tender are important BUT you really first need to be able to work out if the scope of the tender fits in with your organisation. Having to sift through stacks of pages to get to the actual scope is really painful.

I used to have my scope as a separate document.  Easy to get to and easy to work out what is required.

8. Regular updates lights up the blackhole

There certainly is a perception that tenders once submitted, it goes into this blackhole.  Communicate regularly on tender evaluation progress.

It is great to see milestone dates but the suggestion would be to link this to a time table rather than dates. Too often you will find tenders being awarded only after the project was meant to be completed.

Having a proposed time line rather than milestone by calendar entry would be better.

9. Provide feedback in the form of lessons learned – tenders made really, really easy

Most companies realise that, unless a panel contract, there is only one winner.

However feedback from a lessons learned perspective, is really good and helpful.

Feedback provide companies recognition for the time to do a proper evaluation. It gives them an idea as to what they did really well and where the opportunity for improvement is.

I recommend to my clients to always ask for feedback, successful tenderer or not.

However, I must say that most companies receive poor feedback. This is an area where more respect should be shown to suppliers for the time and effort they took in submitting their tender response…[Read More]

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