Friday 14 November 2014

An Intelligent Approach to Tendering

Regular readers of this blog will have picked up that I am not a huge fan of the tendering process, as so frequently run.

My experience has been that I have frequently won lots that I was relatively inexperienced to provide, whilst losing lots where I had serious credentials and experience.  The process is often marked by questions that demonstrate little or no insight into the work that is being put out to tender, and the evaluation criteria are frequently ill-defined, and sometimes completely bonkers. All in all, the word lottery springs to mind.

However, I am currently working on an ITT for Newcastle University that has been put together intelligently. The initial PQQ was sensible, and the questions in the ITT are really good.  For example, they want to see people who are tendering actually run a workshop. Given that the tender is for people to run workshops, that strikes me as quite relevant. Yet it is the first time I have come across a tendering process that asks for this. I realise there is always a slight risk that this becomes a beauty parade (in which case I don't fancy my chances) which is why orchestras get instrumentalists to audition from behind a screen. But I far prefer to be evaluated for my relevant skill than for my bid-writing technique.

The other questions are likewise intelligent: asking for examples in practice of the things that the University needs to know in order to make a good decision: such as adapting a workshop due to unforeseen circumstances; developing effective client relationships in order to design and deliver a good programme, and so on.

It sounds obvious, as I write it down, but this tender document stands head and shoulders above any other I have seen: huge kudos to whoever it is at Newcastle (I have heard Julie Bullimore's name in this connection) who has put this together - and much gratitude, too!

Let's hope that this is the start of a trend, and that others take such a sensible approach. The great thing about a good process is that you feel you are being evaluated for the right things: if I don't get through, I can only assume that other providers are offering a better product and price combination - and learn from that. Whereas in the past, I have not had the confidence in the process for that to be the only sensible conclusion.

Now, if they could just invent a more creative way to think about pricing, that would allow for the kind of negotiation that used to work so well, and often in the client organisation's favour (free follow-up sessions, discounts for bulk bookings etc) I would really think the process was worth the time and effort organisations put into it. At present the only variable on price is an invitation to offer discounts for prompt payment. That is something I refuse to do on ethical grounds: I believe that organisations have a moral obligation to pay suppliers promptly. But that's the subject for another rant, perhaps, at a future date...

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