A key checkpoint in any company’s journey is the point at which a supplier’s contract terminates and a new tender process can be initiated. It can be an exciting time, perusing through the proposals forwarded by suppliers offering a diverse and innovative array of services, but it’s also a time that demands a high degree of professionalism, care, and guile.
In this piece, we’re going to look at some of the ways you can enhance your management of the tendering process, drive effectiveness from start to completion, and establish new or renewed relationships which benefit all parties.
As the tendering journey can be a long and complex one, establishing a clear process at least provides signposts and checkpoints that all stakeholders can recognise and work towards.
It is surprisingly common to find companies initiating a tender process and essentially improvising their way through to completion. This all too easily leads to miscommunications, disorganisation, and – ultimately – an unsatisfactory outcome.
Although a tender process should be organic, there needs to be a structure which is constant, accessible, and familiar to all bidders and employees involved in its execution. As an example, a tender process might follow a structure such as the following 11-step route:
A classic mistake that tender managers make when beginning a new tender process, is jumping straight into assessing proposals without first undertaking a period of reflection and evaluation of previous tenders.
The first stage of any tendering process should involve a selection of stakeholders getting together and discussing and defining precisely what is required from a new supplier. This should involve conversations about what has worked well with previous suppliers, and what has not. It should also involve conversations about how well previous tendering processes worked and whether anything can be done differently.
Taking the time to revise erstwhile tenders means managers are able to;
- Improve on the results of previous tenders.
- Remind suppliers of services that have been previously offered, giving them ideas for requirements for ‘added value’ when they re-tender for the same or similar contracts.
- Give suppliers ideas of methodological or technological changes suggested by previous bidders, which may be of more relevance now.
- Help suppliers write the new tender specifications, and so lead to a smart contract.
Once you’ve got to a stage where you know exactly what you want from a supplier and how you want the tender process to look, you’ll need to start planning activities for bidders to complete. Multiple factors need to be considered when building these activities, including ensuring they are;
Accessible: Naturally, you will want activities the bidders to undertake to be sufficiently rigorous so that the best and most compatible suppliers can be found. However, care should be taken that these tasks don’t become overly complex and drawn-out so that they become inaccessible to smaller businesses.
Relevant: Providing you took the time to map out exactly what you want from a supplier, creating activities relevant to your end goal shouldn’t be an issue. It is though, a common error made by bid managers to build activities that lead to suppliers’ showcasing their capabilities generally, and not in ways that are specific to your requirements. Always keep in mind that you want a supplier to add value to your operations. If you know how a supplier could achieve this, ensure that activities allow them to demonstrate precisely the ways they are able to add the value you’re looking for.
Efficient: This ties in with making activities accessible. Again, you want your activities to be rigorous but not to the point bidders become overwhelmed by the workload, nor yourself by assessing them. Look to make activities as streamlined as possible. Using online forms can help as reports can be generated accurately and without error speeding up the whole process.
Fair: This is a factor that needs to be managed for reasons other than securing the best supplier. EU procurement regulations allow for suppliers to challenge the buyer when they believe they have been treated unfairly during the tendering process. Even if unsuccessful, such a challenge can be time-consuming as it stalls the contract’s progress.
Prevent challenges before they arise by double checking your tender documents:
- At the SSQ (Standard Selection Questionnaire) stage, ensure you have not erroneously excluded any bidders
- At the tendering stage, double-check;
- all important information is fully shared with all bidders
- look out for anything that could be seen as biased marking
- ensure you do not alter the award criteria or weightings after receiving bids
There are few organisations that downplay the importance of getting the tendering process right. However, recognising the importance of this process doesn’t necessarily translate into executing best practice.
Driving effectiveness within this critical business function requires an approach that is methodical, structured, open to revision and clearly understood by all stakeholders. Cutting corners may save you time and nominal expense, but the problems this can unleash further down the line make this a gamble no business should contemplate making.