Tender for success - A practical guide to tendering
We released this article in 2020 and think its still relevant today.
Tendering is challenging. It puts significant pressure on your team to make a substantial decision. There are some simple things your organisation can do to improve your tendering process.
This article is written from the perspective of the practical steps your organisation can take to make the process more successful. I offer advice based on 20 years of tendering and the benefits will reduce long term stress and conflict, enable your team to manage the tendering process more efficient and help you to select the right digital partner. The selection of the right partner is your primary objective.
1. Research - Meet the market before you go to market
Tendering is ultimately a marriage. Once you award a contract, your team will be working with the winning organisation for several years. Therefore, having the right partner from the start is critical to your personal and your organisations' success.
To kick-off, do your research. Research what companies are operating in your market. Then, talk to them, find out what they do and how they could help you. This is an irreplaceable step. It educates your team and provides insights into who would be ideal to work with. You’re not promising any work to these companies. All you are doing is giving them advance notice of your intentions and offering them the opportunity to meet and discuss your plans and what they do.
Things you should do:
- Create a list of companies delivering the service you need. Look at their websites and their track record. Shortlist the ones you like.
- Talk to your peers, ask them to make recommendations. Also, take the opportunity to ask them for any advice on how they managed the process.
- Contact the companies and arrange a meeting.
- Provide a brief outline of what you are doing in advance and have two people from your team attend.
- Pre Covid-19, I would have recommended that you meet at their office so that you can get a feel for the organisation and their culture. Online calls are fine and i'd recommend with the camera on, it's always good to see a face.
- Explain what you are planning to do and then ask the company to give you an overview of their services, examples of relevant projects and the budgets required to deliver these projects.
- Take notes and compare these after your meetings.
Remember you may eventually award the contract to a company you have never met. That’s ok, your research will provide you with knowledge of the market and the differences between various companies, their methodologies and services and products they offer.
2. Engage - Follow up and ask questions
Once you have met the companies, don’t be afraid to continue to engage with them when you have any further questions. This is another important step as you are now beginning to understand how these organisations operate and treat their customers. Their answers will also help you to determine if the company is clear and concise or long-winded and vague.
I would recommend that during this process you talk about the budget. You should not avoid this. Even though you may not be able to divulge your budgets or even have a budget assigned, you can still ask how much similar projects or products could cost. This is another important milestone for your preparation. There will be differences in costs and in some cases, big differences, don’t feel awkward asking the companies to explain how they price projects.
Some companies won’t want to fully engage in this process, and this is not necessarily a negative mark against them. However, remember you are looking to find the right partner and all interactions with these companies will help you to determine who is the best fit for you and your team.
3. Pre-Qualify - Shortlist the candidates
Now that your team have done the research and engaged with the market, you can now prepare for the tendering process in a much more structured and educated manner.
Tendering is expensive and takes a significant amount of time for you and every single company that submits a response. Typically, a tender requires several weeks to complete preparing the documentation and a compelling and cost-effective bid. There will also be a substantial amount of time required to assess the tenders on your side. Never underestimate the amount of effort that everyone will have to invest in the process.
I would, therefore, recommend that you begin with a pre-qualification process or request for information (RFI). This will enable you to formally assess what companies have the ability and credentials to tender for your project.
The RFI approach helps you to:
- Understand the interest in the market
- Select the companies that can fulfil your needs
- Uncover any new information to help your tender requirements
This RFI process also requires far less investment and can be completed fairly quickly by interested companies. You can also at this point meet the companies who have applied and allow them to present their credentials. Note you may have met some of these firms before, no problem, this allows everyone to ask questions and clarify anything that needs to be discussed.
Once the RFI is completed, you can now progress to the formal tendering process to only the companies who have met your criteria. This is typically 3-5 companies.
4. Tender - Select your partner
Now that you have invited the 3-5 companies to tender, your chances of finding the right partner are substantially high. Make sure you give the companies enough time to prepare their response. Typically, this will be a minimum of 4-6 weeks. This takes into account that the companies will have questions that will need to be answered and shared with all companies.
Tips for your tender:
- Be specific, clearly outline what is in scope
- Give indications of your expected delivery timelines
- Provide a budget indication (i.e. over a specific period - 3 years)
- If there are technical requirements, share as much information as possible
- Curate your questions - try to avoid asking the same question in different ways
- Scoring - explain how you will score the tender
- Select the team who will evaluate and select a winner - make sure this team can all be available
Once the submissions have arrived, review the tenders individually and as a team. Make sure everyone understands the process and allow the team the ability to debate and reflect.
This is an important long-term decision – don’t rush. Your objective is to find the right partner. Evaluate the strengths and weakness of each bid and document everyone’s scoring. Ask for clarifications from the bidders and then allow them to meet with your team to present their bid. You want to meet some of their team, gain an understanding of their approach, how they priced the project and to see if there is a spark, a connection between your team. Finally, get everyone to score the interview/presentation process and add this to your final scoring. Now you can select a winner. You have completed a comprehensive process and your preparation and research will have prepared your team for this decision.
Good luck, now your project can commence with the greatest chance of success.
Are you considering putting your project through tender and would like an advice – talk to our team today.
Photo Credit - Iulia Melicenco