Tendering soon? Don’t lose the wood for the trees.

Earlier this year, a client engaged us on a long-term project to help them position for, plan and prepare a tender submission for what will arguably be one of the largest facilities-management-related tenders Australia has seen in the last decade.

Confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the client or the upcoming tender, but it was very reassuring to know that our client recognised the importance of starting early – in this case many months before the tender documentation was expected to be published.

Our client is a large, multi-faceted organisation and already has on-staff tendering support which operates using established processes. So an early start allowed us to establish the most efficient co-working approach with our client. An early start also provides ample time to identify existing material which can be customised for re-use within the eventual submission document.    

Given the request for tender (RFT) documentation has not yet been released, we are capitalising on the interim period by working alongside our client to sort existing information into categories that align with common RFT document structures. Things like expertise, capability, capacity, previous experience, and past performance.

As an experienced and sophisticated bidder in its own right, our client recognised the sense in this approach. But for many of our clients who do not have the same level of tendering experience, this seemingly simple task can quickly become tricky. What’s the difference between expertise and capability? Isn’t experience the same as past performance? The more you think about it, the harder it can be to differentiate between the individual elements of a tender response (the trees), and even harder still to weave these individual elements together to form a united whole (the wood).

Here’s how we tackle it at BidWrite.

The trees

Good purchasers know what they are seeking in a tender submission and their terminology reflects that. So, to develop a truly client-centric submission, it pays to understand exactly what the key terms mean. On that basis, here’s a list of five very commonly used terms, followed by a helpful definition and a facilities management related example.

  1. EXPERTISE – your knowledge and skills
    Example: We are experts in the provision of facility maintenance in the corrective services sector.’
  1. CAPABILITY – what you can do with your Expertise and other resources
    Example: ‘We perform routine and reactive maintenance, grounds and gardens maintenance, and provide soft services at medium and high-level security correctional centres.
  1. CAPACITY – how much you can do with your Capability
    Example: Our systems and staffing levels enable us to maintain over 180 separate buildings, upkeep 300 hectares of grounds/gardens, and complete approximately 55,000 individual FM tasks annually.
  1. PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE – what you have previously achieved with your Capability
    Example: Continuous three x three-year FM contract with Company X at the XYZ Correctional Centre.
  1. PAST PERFORMANCE – an objective measure of how well you have delivered your Capability
    Example: Under contract to Company X, we have met or exceeded 97.6% of our KPIs during the last twelve months.

The wood

Having defined these common tendering terms, it’s easy to stop there. But in tendering, the opportunities to take your submission from good to great can be obscured by all the detail.

Many tendering organisations are often so focussed on what they are going to include in the various sections of their tender submissions, that they miss the vital step of considering how they are going to convey this information as a cohesive whole.   

In the definitions above, you’ll note the connections between them. One informs another. By hard-wiring these thematic connections in your submission, you are also demonstrating to purchasers that you’ve thought carefully about how the various aspects of your submission dovetail into each other and importantly, what this means for them.

Think of it like an orchestra. Each player, and then each section, has a specific part to play in delivering the whole. But they can’t carry the whole performance in isolation. They are the trees, not the wood. It’s the conductor’s job to create the wood by weaving the individual elements into a single, unified performance.

So who’s creating your wood?

In our profession the conductor who oversees the delivery, alignment and connection between the individual elements of a tender response is called a Bid Manager. One of their many responsibilities  is ensuring that Capability sections reflect claimed Expertise, that Capacity is a realistic projection of applied Capability, and that Past Performance is a clear and objective measurement of how well Capability has been delivered across previous projects.

Your organisation or bidding project may not be large enough to warrant a Bid Manager, but the principle remains. You can quickly move past the ‘what’ through good forward planning and early action. This frees time to focus on how to deliver the whole. It may seem counterintuitive, but by focussing on the linkages between individual sections of a tender, you’ll develop an early warning system for gaps within individual sections. And you’ll strengthen the cohesiveness and ultimately the persuasiveness of your submission as a whole.

While such an approach is second nature to bidding professionals, for less experienced bidders it can take a while to master.

But believe us, the results are worth it. 

This article was originally written by BidWrite for publication on the Total Facilities website.


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