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A Perfect Tender (Part One)

Wednesday January 28th, 2015

It’s got to be perfect
It’s got to be worth it
Too many people take second best
(Perfect – Fairground Attraction)

Can you really produce the perfect tender? The simple truth is no, but you can get very close to it.

The trick is to understand precisely what the requirement is and whether the outcome can be realistically achieved. Whether you’re a buyer or a supplier, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you get as near as possible to the perfect outcome.Eddie Regan

From the buyer’s side, it starts with the need; so buyers, prepare to face some hard questions.

·    When did you last have a decent outline spec from your client?
·    When did you last challenge the spec and demand clarity of the outcome they desired?
·    When did you last draft a business case and ensure stakeholders and end-users were asked their views?
·    When did you last undertake early market engagement, to identify the possible variable and innovative outcomes you could achieve?
·    When did you last draft your specification before you sent your advert to the OJEU?
·    When did you ever do all of the above in a procurement exercise?

Just to be clear, I’m not out to criticise buyers – suppliers will get a harsh reality check in the second instalment of this blog.

The truth, however, is that the pressure of the role often means that buyers struggle to undertake any of the above steps in their tenders. I’ve complained before about the lack of Contract Management practices in procurement, and this is a perfect example of the issue.

Many of you will be familiar with the internal client rushing into your office, looking for you to get a contract placed in the next four weeks, because they’ve finally remembered that the contract they awarded three years previously has a month to run. That, in a nutshell, is poor contract management.

When these things occur (and it’s all too regularly) the list above goes out the window. Reality shows that implementing elements of the points listed allows contracting authorities to better identify their requirements and thereby draft a better specification, more in line with the client’s genuine requirement and taking active consideration of what the market can deliver.

Stakeholders often want outcomes that don’t fit with the needs of the end-user, but the lack of dialogue, to identify the true requirement, often leads to unworkable contracts, which in turn can lead to either the contractor being asked to do things that aren’t in the contract, or the internal client doing maverick procurement, off-contract, to fulfil their need.

Both of these issues raise massive risk for the authority, as they are clearly areas of Material Contract Variation, which the Remedies regime identifies as illegal direct award.

Early market engagement can help overcome some of these issues, as dialogue with the supply market can help to identify any problems that may exist in the outline requirement as well as highlight new practices, innovative solutions or more efficient methodologies to deliver the outcome you desire.

Contracting authorities and buyers need to ask more questions, both of the client and the supply market. This in turn will help to deliver a better specification for the market to respond to, ultimately leading to a better outcome for the client.

As I wrote earlier, the truth is that the perfect tender doesn’t exist, but you can get a whole lot closer by taking the time to think about the outcome before you start the process.


Words: Eddie Regan  (Senior PASS Consultant) (@Eddie_Regan)


Gov Opps’ training partner, PASS (Procurement Advice & Support Service) runs relevant procurement training events for the public and private sector, including Drafting a Compliant PQQ, Writing a Tender SpecificationPre-Qualifying for Tenders and Preparing Perfect Tenders.  To view the brand new schedule of events, click HERE.

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