General Procurement

Be in it to win it, Millstream advises companies looking for public sector work

For many organisations, particularly SMEs, public sector tendering opportunities are an important way of securing new business, with hundreds of local contracts published every week in every sector from cleaning and office supplies to security and major construction projects.

Nearly all local authorities, NHS trusts and government departments now handle procurement electronically to save money and time and ensure compliance with the latest contracts regulations.

It is therefore vital for businesses to ensure they have their finger on the pulse and do not miss out on any potential opportunities in their own local area, throughout the UK or mainland Europe, says Tim Williams, managing director of electronic tendering specialist Millstream, which runs the Tenders Direct and myTenders websites.

“The days of the printed version of the Official Journal of European Union are long gone and there is no effective way to keep track of all the opportunities without using an online system, particularly in today’s fast-paced world of business.

“Procurement processes will all be conducted entirely online in the near future and the Government’s target is for procurement to be completely electronic by 2016, so it’s vital that companies make sure they don’t miss anything.

“We aim to make it as easy as possible for purchasers in the public sector to advertise their tenders and to help small and medium sized companies to identify new business opportunities and crucially, to give them the best chance of winning that business.”

Tenders Direct was established by Tim in 1992, to make it easy for subscribers to find information on public contracts. It provides bespoke and manually categorised daily alerts for customers on public sector tenders, including low value tenders which offer lucrative opportunities for smaller, local companies.

More than 4,000 companies, from sole traders to multinationals, use Tenders Direct and almost 29million new business opportunity alerts have been sent out over the past 20 years.

Unlike most other tender alert services on the market, Millstream does not use the European Commission’s CPV procurement codes as they are notoriously ineffective for identifying business opportunities.

Instead it has evolved its own system, which very closely reflects the range of products and services purchased by the public sector.

Millstream’s staff read and individually categorise every contract notice, to guarantee that users receive all the relevant opportunities without the distraction of irrelevant information.

Tenders Direct also has a dedicated research department which is responsible for finding the local contracts which aren’t published in the Official Journal, and generally have a value of up to £100,000.

“The smaller local contracts are of particular interest to smaller companies as these are business opportunities that they have a realistic chance of winning. The entry requirements and level of competition are much lower for these local contracts and if at all possible councils prefer to award contracts to small local suppliers,” said Tim.

“Our target is to ensure that if a tender is published anywhere, we will have that information available for our subscribers, so that they don’t have to worry about missing any opportunities or losing out on business to their competitors.”

The majority of the tenders come from Central Government, local councils, the NHS and Ministry of Defence as well as across education, transport and the emergency services. Utility companies which provide electricity, water or gas are also searching for good suppliers.

“More than 1,500 UK public sector organisations use the myTenders website to publish all their tender notices and we have tenders for contracts of all sizes and in every sector, including large NHS and building contracts,” said Tim.

So as not to waste time or resources and to maximise the chances of winning a bid, Millstream has a training and consultancy team which provides public sector procurement training to both suppliers and purchasers. Training is provided either by way of scheduled training courses or through tailored in-house courses.

Tenders Direct users can also opt to receive Contract Award Notices which give details of the companies which are winning contracts. Businesses can use this information as a market monitoring tool and also to identify possible sub-contracting opportunities.

Tim added: “There are literally thousands of tenders out there and we urge businesses which are seeking opportunities to make sure they receive the right information, as soon as it becomes available, to give them the very best possible chance of securing that important contract.”

As well as Tenders Direct, my Tenders and training programmes, Millstream also runs the national procurement websites for Norway and Scotland. For more information, call 01224 636999 or visit

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