Author Archives

emilypirie

Top five considerations when bid writing

post-its-1875512_1920

If you are a public sector supplier and you’ve found a tender that you want to go for – great news!

Often some areas of a bid response get overlooked in the buzz of bidding for new business. Millstream Training and Consultancy offer bespoke Consultancy to companies looking for tailored support for their tendering exercises. This can be anything from writing a bid response for you, to reviewing a bid response you’ve already written

One of our consultants, Nicola Bramwell (BSc, MCIPS, MSc, PRINCE2), has written her top five ‘must do’s to follow in your next bid response:

  1. Agree a response structure and consistent approach

This can include an overview, technical information, resources, and timeframe, so that the entire team uses a consistent style when preparing a response.

  1. Take advantage of the opportunity to ask clarification questions

Most tenders will provide bidders with a timeframe to which they are able to ask questions relating to the tender e.g. the clauses included in the terms and conditions. It is vital that bidders take advantage of this opportunity to clarify issues which are vague or unclear.

  1. Ensure that all team members adhere to response limitations

It’s common for tenders to include a word / pagination limit for each question so that all bidders are treated equally during the evaluation. If you don’t adhere to these, useful information can be discounted the tender could be deemed non-compliant.

  1. Do not provide non-requested attachments / supporting material

As above, tenders will also specify any additional documents that need to be submitted. No bidder is able to submit documents outside of those specified, if they do, a bidder runs the risk of being disqualified.

  1. Allow sufficient time for responses to be peer reviewed and / or proof read

When writing bids, it is easy for mistakes to be made, such as failing to respond to a certain point within a question or including typing errors or out-of-date information within a response. Get the entire bid to be peer reviewed and / or proof read by another colleague prior to its submission.

To help put these tips into practice, contact us today to find out how we can help you with your next tendering exercise.

tc-logo

When a local tragedy highlights national public procurement concerns

wind-rose-1209398_1920

In light of the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy that shocked the nation, questions are being raised over local procurement policies across the country. Cost effectiveness and value for money are often the paramount objectives as local authorities continue to face budget cuts. It is paramount however that quality, and more importantly safety, is not jeopardised. Finding the right balance between cost saving and procuring services and products that are fit for purpose is key, but ultimately the welfare and well-being of the end user should be the priority.

Any buyer knows that cost doesn’t necessarily represent value or indeed quality but regardless, detailed specifications are there to be met and for a very important reason. What and who determines the specification, and exactly what this entails, is an important question and something buyers throughout the supply chain must be conscious of.

British safety regulations across many industries tend to be based on principle rather than set rules[1] which can create significant challenges to maintaining consistency and standards. Setting higher standards and adhering to best practice, rather than going with the cheapest bid which meets the specification, is something public procurement officers and regulators must consider.

This reinvigorates the debate over who should set these specifications and regulations. Should they be written by ‘experts’ from the relevant department of the contracting authority, or by that authority’s procurement officers? Or should this role be out-sourced to a third party within that particular industry and sector?

For example and in the case of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there are no regulations stating fire-retardant cladding material should be used on the exterior of tower blocks and schools[2]. However, it has become clear that industry body, Fire Protection Association (FPA), has been lobbying for this to be a statutory requirement within local authorities and businesses.

Within just one area of local government procurement, say for instance housing and more specifically high rise residential buildings, the vast number of tenders and therefore specifications to be met, add to the complexity. Issues around accountability and quality rise as the procurement complexity grows. Combined with a need to cut costs, this becomes a significant challenge to overcome and get right. But get right all parties must.

In coming months as the impending public enquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy continues, more questions on how to improve the public procurement system will undoubtedly follow. Regardless of its outcome, more focus will be placed on the decisions that buyers make, transparency, and who is most qualified to set specifications.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but nonetheless, there are some important lessons our sector can take away from this tragedy. Steps must be taken to ensure buying decisions are not considered a risk factor in the future.

I am keen to find out how you, as Buyers, feel about the responsibilities you encounter on a day to day basis and how you deal with this pressure. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

[1] https://uk.reuters.com/article/britain-fire-cladding-idUKL8N1JD3YI

[1]https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/16/manufacturer-of-cladding-on-grenfell-tower-identified-as-omnis-exteriors

 

 

 

 

 

SME week – 6 SME resources we love

office-625893_1920The business world is ever changing. To keep on top of the latest trends, it’s important for SMEs to have a resource bank of insider tips and knowledge. We have compiled a list of our top five business resource websites so you have a go-to list of sources to help inform your business practices.

  1. Bdaily Business Blog

Bdaily was founded in 2009 and provides timely news, advice and opinion content useful for SMEs. What’s good about Bdaily is that you can target news stories for specific regions in England: North East, North West, Yorkshire and London as well as national and international coverage.

  1. Gov.uk

If you’re looking for a range of advice for your small business or startup, or even if you’re just in the planning phase, gov.uk has a range of resources: advice on writing a business plan, financial planning and support, and links to the various schemes the government runs.

  1. Smallbusiness.co.uk

With a dedicated Q&A section maintained by small business experts, smallbussiness.co.uk is the hub for start-ups and SMEs looking for insider knowledge. The site covers the most important topics and advice for SMEs covering finance, business management and technology.

  1. Federation of Small Businesses

Established 40 years ago, the FSB provide a wide range of business services to their members. What makes them stand out is their legal edge: online you can access fact-sheets, legal documents and read their blog to get into the nitty gritty of regulations.

  1. Startup Britain

A ‘national campaign by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’: Startup Britain offers inspiration, resources and guidance to help people start and grow their own business. Startup Britain have local support centres and run events which you can find via their interactive map online.

  1. Tenders Direct – Things to help you

For guidance specific to public sector tendering, our ‘Things to help you’ section on Tenders Direct has guides, infographics and handy procurement links to help suppliers with their procurement exercises.

TD logo

SME week – The top 5 procurement acronyms

Do you know your AINs from your PINs? You sure CAN.

Tendering in the public sector can involve many acronyms that suppliers will need to get their heads around. We’ve taken the top five acronyms used in the world of procurement and made them into a handy infographic.

For more terminology explained, download our ‘Tendering Terminology’ guide to help you understand the jargon and help take the pressure off your bid response.

 

Tendering Terminology (1)

 

SME week – How to approach your first tender

calculator-385506_1920

With many years of experience winning client’s work, we know how to manage a bid exercise for the best return for your business. When you receive a notification of a tender that is of interest, what are the next steps?
1. Download all documentation and store it in a designated folder on your computer. If you only have a hard copy of the tender document, make copies and keep the original safe.

NB Do not mark or write on the original as it will be needed for the final submission.

2. Circulate the tender documentation to the people who will be working on the bid should you choose to do so. Let anyone involved in procurement in the organisation know about the interest in bidding for the work. Allow your team to give feedback about the business opportunity: highlighting concerns and ideas early on will make the process much easier.

3. Read the tender documents thoroughly to assess whether a tender is right for your business. It is not always possible to know from the short tender notification description or summary if the tender is right for you. Think about your turnover, experience, years trading, accreditations and affiliations e.g. ISO 9001.

4. To help you make the decision to go bid or not bid, work with the relevant departments to help you identify the benefits and barriers to your company fulfilling the contract.

If you need any help finding opportunities, Tenders Direct does all the legwork for you by searching over 500 sources for public sector business opportunities. Sign up for a free demo to find out how Tenders Direct can benefit your business.

TD logo

 

SME week – Are you ready to tender?

Br0026-02

If you are new to tendering, it can be difficult to anticipate what a buyer is looking for in terms of capabilities from a supplier. You don’t want to miss out on a contract opportunity if you are itching to bid, so where do you need to be to be classed as ‘ready’?

At Tenders Direct, we work with companies every day who are looking to tender for public sector work, and sometimes it can be difficult to find out from an authority what they are looking for in a winning bid response.

To prepare for tendering exercises, we have compiled a checklist from our years of experience in public sector tendering: the Tender Readiness Checklist. Some top tips are having technical information about your products or services to hand, and having an idea of industry pricing standards before you start to bid. Our guide shows you what you need to complete, and areas where you may benefit from developing on your current capabilities in order to tender more successfully.

Tenders Direct also has range of other guides and infographics housed in our ‘Things to help you’ section on our website. Here you can find many tendering resources that will improve your understanding, and chances of being ready to break into the public sector successfully.

TD logo

Calling all SMEs – 4 reasons to work in the public sector

pound-414418_1920

All this week, Tenders Direct is running an ‘SME week’ to raise awareness for smaller suppliers about the advantages of working in the public sector.

Tenders Direct shared 35,436 UK and Irish low value tender opportunities in 2016, so what are the benefits for SMEs to working in the public sector?

The value in the public sector

The UK public sector has opportunities for all sizes of suppliers: low value tenders can total up to £106,047 and high value tenders can be anything from the latter and into the millions.

See below four reasons why SMEs should consider work in the public sector:

  1. Public spend: In the fiscal year ending in 2017, total UK public spending is expected to be £784.1 billion* meaning there are many business opportunities to take advantage of.
  2. Prompt payment: according to new data from the CCS, public sector buyers aim to pay all invoices within 30 days, with the majority paid within five.
  3. UK Government targets: The government aims to award 25% of public procurement contracts to SMEs.**
  4. Value for money – government buyers have to be transparent with the taxpayer money and have to show how they have delivered this. SMEs won’t be compromised by a larger company if they have a better value proposition than them.

Where are the opportunities?

Tenders Direct can help you be more successful in the public sector by allowing you to spend less time looking, and more time bidding for work by delivering tender notifications right into your mailbox.

Bring home more contract wins

With a team of ex-bid writers and reviewers, Millstream Training and Consultancy have supplier training which can help accelerate your bid response from good to great. Our introductory and advanced courses are continually updated to reflect any changes in procurement legislation, not to mention trends which buyers are looking out for. Visit our website to find out more about the training we offer.

With UK government targets, prompt payment, low value tender opportunities and tendering training for SMEs to take advantage of, SMEs are welcome in the public sector: there is a lucrative source of business opportunities waiting for smaller suppliers over on Tenders Direct.

* ukpublicspending.co.uk

** National Audit Office 2016

TD logo

Passive Housing by 2020

building-419204_1920Passive Housing or ‘Passivhaus’ is a building standard that is energy efficient, comfortable, affordable and ecological at the same time.

For buyers and suppliers in the construction industry, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive was revised in May 2010 and called for all EU member states to require all new builds to be ‘nearly zero energy’ by the 31st December 2020.

What is passive housing?

Passive House characteristics:

  • Passive Houses allow for heating and cooling related energy savings
  • Structurally composed of: timber frames, being stone or concrete framed
  • Low primary energy use in kWh/m2 per year
  • Saving on water consumption
  • Having a ventilation system consistently supplies fresh air
  • Appropriate windows with good insulation

How can you get involved?

So with this legislation on the horizon for 2020, what has Tenders Direct shared for supplier opportunities?

South Dublin County Council are tendering for the Design and delivery of a sustainable integrated mixed tenure housing development in Kilcarbery, Dublin in line with the Kilcarbery Grange Preliminary Masterplan. This development has a capacity for 892 passive housing units.

This Prior Information Notice (PIN) for Housing Management Services lets us know The London Borough of Lambeth is preparing a tender for a scheme of 70 affordable homes. The contract notice will be advertised in the coming months for housing which will abide by the passive house legislation.

In Cardiff, the construction of four adaptive houses and seven bungalows is being tendered for. The properties, under the name of the ‘Holm View New Build’ scheme, will be built in line with the passive housing regulation.

Where are the opportunities?

If you are a construction supplier looking for new business, the ‘Passive House’ is the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world. With 30,000 buildings with this sanction to date, Tenders Direct will be sharing further tender notices as passive housing continues to grow.

TD logo

Accepting Electronic Submissions – what does it mean for buyers?

ecommerce-2140603_1920

From the 18th of April 2017, all Central Purchasing Bodies (CPB) will only be permitted to accept electronic submissions to procurement exercises. By September 2018 this requirement will be extended to all public contracting authorities. Whichever type of buying organisation you are, you’ll need to be aware of what this means.

What is a CPB?

This is defined as a contracting authority that acquires goods or services intended for one or more contracting authorities (“buyers”). Examples of CPBs include The Crown Commercial Service, The Scottish Government and APUC (Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges) as they procure on behalf of multiple contracting authorities.

What counts as an electronic submission?

Regulation 22 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 tell us what we need to know. The main thing to clarify is this – e-mails do not count as electronic submission. Electronic submissions must use a tool where the exact time and date of submission is provided. In addition to this, only authorised persons can access the data and therefore no one has access to the data transmitted prior to the deadline.  Electronic submissions must also include a tool to clearly detect infringement or any attempt of infringement of the access prohibitions.

There are a number of benefits to electronic submissions for both the buyer and the supplier:

  • Everything is automatically time-stamped and fully auditable
  • Reduced costs
  • Reduced impact on the environment
  • Quicker and more streamlined process on both sides of the procurement

So what does this mean for buyers?

Moving on to an e-procurement portal would benefit all buyers as it allows them to run procurement processes in compliance with the EU Directive and UK Regulations on Public Procurement by:

  • Attaching documents to their tenders
  • Allow the submission of tender documents
  • Allow one-to-one interaction with the suppliers

Want to find out more?

If you are a contracting authority, myTenders PRO is the ‘go to’ e-procurement portal for publishing contract notices. Our portal can facilitate electronic submissions to make sure you are compliant with these new regulations, and those that will come into place for all buyers in the future.

Call us on 0844 561 0670 or visit our website to find out more.

myTenders logo

Public Procurement Thresholds 2017 – update

update-1672363_1920

Just before the beginning of last year I wrote this blog introducing the new financial thresholds for mandatory publication of opportunities in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Since then we’ve received quite a number of queries on the subject. Although the current thresholds haven’t changed I thought I’d write an updated blog to include these discussion points.

When procuring goods or services over the financial threshold a public authority must do so under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015  in Scotland.

The current thresholds are as follows:

PUBLIC CONTRACTS

Supply, Services and Design Contracts Works Contracts Social and other specific services
Central Government £106,047

€135,000

£4,104,394

€5,225,000

£589,148             €750,000
Other contracting authorities £164,176

€209,000

£4,104,394

€5,225,000

£589,148            €750,000
Small lots £62,842

€84,000

£785,530

€1,000,000

n/a

 

Social and other specific services are subject to the new ‘light touch regime’ as described in a previous blog.

UTILITY CONTRACTS

Supply, Services and Design Contracts Works Contracts Social and other specific services
Utility authorities  

£328,352

€418,000

£4,104,394

€5,225,000

£785,530              €1,000,000

 

DEFENCE AND SECURITY CONTRACTS

Supply, Services and Design Contracts Works Contracts Social and other specific services
Defence and Security authorities £328,352

€418,000

£4,104,394

€5,225,000

 n/a

 

CONCESSION CONTRACTS

For the first time Concession Contracts are covered in EU Law under a separate directive and therefore separate regulations in the UK.

The EU Directive is found here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/GA/TXT/?uri=celex:32014L0023

The UK regulations here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/273/contents/made

The UK Directive gives instruction on how the value of a concession contract should be calculated: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/273/regulation/9/made

The thresholds for publication in the OJEU refers to Article 8 (1) of the EU Directive which is:

  1. This Directive shall apply to concessions the value of which is equal to or greater than EUR 5 186 000.

The Sterling equivalent is £4,104,394.

CALCULATING ESTIMATED VALUE

The calculation of the estimated value of a procurement exercise shall be based on the total amount payable, net of VAT, as estimated by the contracting authority, including any form of option and any renewals of the contracts as explicitly set out in the procurement documents.

CONTRACTS SUBSIDISED BY PUBLIC FUNDS

All applicable contracts which are subsidised by 50% or more of public funds must be advertised in the OJEU. From time to time a public body may part fund a project and request that the recipient of funding must advertise the procurement in line with public contracts regulations even if their contribution is less than 50% of the overall value. As such any recipient of public funding on a project should verify with the funding body what is expected of them in procuring for the project.

WHAT ARE SMALL LOTS?

My colleague Line recently wrote a blog to clarify this question: https://blog.tendersdirect.co.uk/2017/01/06/procurement-terminology-what-are-small-lots/

HOW DO I KNOW IF A CONTRACT IS CLASSED AS WORKS?

Many contractual requirements are a mixture of works and services. Whichever element is the highest in value should be taken as the contract nature when determining what threshold to apply. If you are unsure whether a specific element is classed as works or services then you can refer to Schedule 2 of the regulations which lists all activities which constitute works by CPV code:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/102/schedule/2/made

If the CPV code which fits your requirement is not in that list then it is not classed as a Works contract.

I hope you find this blog useful. If you want more help with understanding thresholds and other public sector tendering procedures, Millstream’s Training and Consultancy team are available to answer any of your questions. Or, leave us a comment below.

 

millstream

%d bloggers like this: