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There are many solutions for a great tender submission
One of the great mysteries of the "open" competitive tendering process is that each of us has experienced defeat. What mystifies us is that there must have been a mistake – we had the best solution. Of course we did. So did the other three unsuccessful tenderers as did, we hope, the successful one!
So, consider this hypothetical tender, which simply asks for a proposal to "make the following equation true by only adding one line to it":
I X = V I
Simple enough. Prepare your team to consider what is being asked. Review all the documentation to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. And prepare your tender. You do this, and your tender response is simply:
I X != V I
Compliant. One line added to the equal sign to make the equation true and correct. Clearly the winning tender – or is it?
As with all projects and activities, there may be many approaches that could be implemented to lead to the same minimum requirements. And this is good and vitally important if we genuinely seek solutions that create long-term sustainable benefits. Still, we can do more than just meeting ‘minimum requirements’ to ensure compliance.
We all have a responsibility to ensure that we challenge the thinking that is presented in the design, the tender documentation, donor policy etc, not just to prepare a response that ‘meets’ stated requirements. If we did not do this, then the tendering process would simply come down to a price comparison, which does not necessarily translate to the best solution to the problem.
So who is the "we" to take all this responsibility? Is it us as individuals? Is it the managing contractors? Agencies? Clearly, it is all of us in whatever role we are adopting as it relates to a tender or activity in question.
The tendering process should remain directly connected to the activity’s implementation and its results. So during the preparation of the submission some key questions need always be asked:
•Why are we doing this
•Who are we targeting
•Where will any impac be realised
•How will we know
•How would we measure it
And there are probably many more, all of which have something in common – starting with the end in mind.
This responsibility to ask key questions does not rest solely with those preparing the tender response. Clearly it forms part of any methodology to design an activity, and it really should also be part of the tender assessment process if there is a genuine commitment to finding the best approach to any activity. I once received some ‘feedback’, and I am sure I am not alone here, that "but it wasn’t asked for in the tender". This is unacceptable and indicates a lack of consideration to the question "why are they proposing this?" It may still have been judged to be not the desired approach, however merely dismissing alternative approaches because [possibly] it wasn’t thought of in the design phase, is not being true to the cause.
So, working on an assumption that the design and preparation is sound and complete, responding to this hypothetical tender with the "does not equal" sign as your ‘approach’ will certainly ensure that the needs of the ‘project’ are met. But, what if you spent some time thinking about other options, you might have considered submitting this ‘tender’ response:
I X 6 = V I
Where in the ‘tender’ did it ask for a straight line? So here is another solution to the same problem that may in fact be superior to the earlier response. Our role then is to evaluate the merits of the options, and then our tender response needs to fully demonstrate why the option we finally propose will be the best solution for the activity.
We are seldom likely to be a sole tenderer, so a critical success factor is considering what the competition is doing. So by going through the above process for our hypothetical tender, we now have two options to consider. Now we are presented not only with the consideration of which option is best for the activity, but also, what might our competition be considering? This means you are in a position to consider their team, their approach and their strengths and weaknesses. And by doing this, not only can you frame your response by demonstrating why your methods, team etc are most appropriate you can demonstrate this from a comparative standpoint.
Attention to detail.
It is critical for all of us in preparing proposals and tenders to maintain a commitment to having attention to detail. Nowhere in our hypothetical tender were we told that the solution could only be reached using mathematical symbols, and maybe you have more solutions still.
S I X = V I
Mel Dunn is Managing Director of Global Business and Development Solutions, which works with individuals and organisations that are committed to business success and the success of others. We work globally and locally and focus on providing sustainable solutions for our clients.
We offer a range of services including:
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