Category: Tender Tips

Tender Forecasting

deadline-stopwatch-2636259_1920A little heads up can go a long way in the world of public sector tendering. Suppliers usually rely on Prior Information Notices (PINs) to give them a heads up that a contract was soon to be out there to bid on.

PINs are a great way to prepare for a bid response, but the time a supplier has to prepare their bid off the back of a PIN can vary: some PINs can be live for as little as a month before the contract notice comes out.

The longer the supplier has, the better position they are in to make a successful bid. That’s why Tenders Direct has launched Advance Tender Alerts.

Advance Tender Alerts provide suppliers with notifications of tenders, related to their business, up to six months before they expire – covering both above and below threshold opportunities.

Continue reading “Tender Forecasting”

Why we love low value tenders

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Low value tenders are those which aren’t published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) as they are below the EU threshold set at £106,047.

More information can be found about thresholds in our blog post, but what are the key benefits of low value tenders?

For SMEs and companies who have no experience of working in the public sector, low value tenders are a good starting point. Securing a few low value contracts allows smaller suppliers to build up a body of work that can help them go after high value OJEU notices in the future.

Here are the five key benefits of low value tenders:

Continue reading “Why we love low value tenders”

Top five considerations when bid writing

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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SME week – Are you ready to tender?

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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.

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Developing a bid strategy in a challenging marketplace

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Set your own strategy – be proactive not reactive when tendering.

 

Recently, Millstream highlighted the strength of Virgin’s approach to business development in our article featured on Energy Voice’s website. Virgin have championed diversification across sectors to generate more business opportunities: taking people to space, running the railways and providing healthcare services are just a few examples of Virgins product range.

This approach to business has resulted in staggering financial rewards for Virgin and other companies who are able to operate as primes in the prime/sub model.

The prime/sub model is when a large contractor wins the tender and are the prime contractor to the buying authority, they subcontract out elements of the tender to other suppliers, usually locally based SMEs.

So what impact does the prime/sub model have on SMES?

We all know there has been a massive drive from the government to support SMEs to benefit from the wealth of opportunities in the public sector.

This has been seen through their commitment to spend 33% of central government money with SMEs and also through the changes to the selection criteria in 2016 making it easier for SMEs to bid.

The question is – when huge prime contractors are winning huge contracts and replacing existing smaller providers, how is the government’s agenda being achieved?

The answer is it usually isn’t: when a prime contractor wins a public sector contract they are ultimately responsible for delivery and are looking to make profit. This often has a negative impact on the finances for SMEs as the prime contractor seeks to find efficiencies and cost savings through the supply chain to increase their own profit.

When a supplier is faced with the potential of the prime/sub model taking up a chunk of their business or taking away a business critical tender, many SMEs may feel they have no option but to join the supply chain if they are to survive.

However, that might not be their only option to succeed! Facing your Goliath means you have to find your inner David and seek out a new way to do business.

So what is the answer?

The answer is simple – have a strategy in place. Nothing stays the same in business and this is the next big challenge smaller providers are facing. There are a number of proactive steps suppliers can take to ready themselves for any impending changes:

  • Pre- Engage with the Contracting Authorities – in these situations waiting for the tender is too late. The only way suppliers can influence hearts and minds is to engage in advance of the tender being released. Use Tenders Direct to search for contract award notices (CANs) to find out when a contract is due to end, or to gain contact details from key buyers. You can also keep an eye out for prior information notices (PINS) which notify you of a future procurement exercise and give you plenty of time to pre-engage with the contracting authorities.

 

  • Form a consortium – rather than get swallowed up into the jaws of a prime contractor, suppliers can meet with other local providers to see if they can form a consortium or a special purpose vehicle and bid together. These groups of suppliers can then trade on their established infrastructure and wealth of experience and be able to trade on their own terms.

 

  • Join the team – some may relish the prospect of joining a supply chain. Suppliers will lose a lot of responsibility and liability when it isn’t their name on the contract, and some may prefer to operate with a lower steak in the contract with less risk rather than nothing at all.

 

These potential strategies translate across industries and sectors. Millstream meet with suppliers every day and as a qualified bid manager, I am constantly surprised how many do not have a documented and thought out bidding strategy.

I encourage suppliers to be proactive and take control of their destiny.

Working in the public sector can offer suppliers long term, well-paying business opportunities, and these deserve just as much time and attention as an internal strategy.

If you want to analyse your own bidding strategy or even create one from scratch, you should join our half day Success Simplified courses in London and Manchester and make sure you are deciding on your business’s future and not leaving it in the past.

The tender matchmaker…

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It’s Valentine’s Day. That time of year when people pay attention to the special connections they have in life and take a bit of time to celebrate them. Or maybe you are still looking for some special connections? Still searching for that one relationship with long term potential, stability and plenty of money…

Of course, here we’re talking about your business connections – specifically your connections with public sector buyers and tendering. With contract life spans of three years plus, 30 day payment terms and a high chance of you retaining a contract once you’ve won it once – what’s not to love? Continue reading “The tender matchmaker…”

CPV codes – are they accurate?

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In October of 2016, the European Commission announced details of a study on CPV codes – Common Procurement Vocabulary codes – which tender notices are classified under.

There are around 10,000 CPV codes, and the list of codes was last updated in 2008. The codes range from very niche; animal ear tags (03340000); mange-tout (03221222); zirconium (14735000), to more common areas; building construction work (45210000); health and social work services (85000000) and computer supplies (302373000). The codes don’t reflect new technologies and computing mimicking the advance in technology in recent years, branding a lot of CPV codes out of date.

Despite this, buyers still list their contract notices under these codes in the hope of them being found by suppliers who want to bid for it.

The research carried out by the European Commission this October threw up some sobering news: in a sample of 405 notices tested, 23% had the wrong code associated with the scope of work tendered.

In around 10% of cases the code applied did not describe the work/supply/service procured; in some 8%, the code applied was too general, and in about 4%, the code was too specific.

So amidst this muddle of what code gets used where, what does this mean? In fact, it’s a pretty big deal for both buyers and suppliers.

If an incorrect code is used, a buyer is minimising the chances of there being a range of suppliers for them to choose from. They may not be able to choose from varying prices or scrutinise against the MEAT criteria: most economically advantageous tender. Public contracts can be awarded either on the basis of lowest price or MEAT, and buyers have to justify why they have chosen to spend a certain amount of money.

If they have very little to make comparisons on, buyers can end up spending more, either by using an expensive supplier due to lack of choice, or by using the cheapest supplier and getting a shoddy result which may have to be re-tendered for in the future.

For suppliers who supply works, services and supplies in a specific field, if a wrong code is used they are less likely to find contracts that they can tender for. CPV codes are a very specific classification and if the code isn’t correct, the supplier is missing out on opportunities which are destined for them. These could be SMEs who survive on providing specific services, and using the wrong CPV codes doesn’t benefit these niche businesses.

For example, for a contract ‘Collection of key qualitative and quantitative information on the European Commission’s merger decisions’ the code for ‘market research’ (code 79310000) was used, when in fact, something more appropriate like the code for ‘economic research’ (79311400) or ‘research services’ (73110000) could have been used. Due to the misuse of CPV code, the contract was never awarded.

The ill use of codes also affects the public. When work finally passes the business case for approval within an organisation, and for various stages to be passed, the work is still ‘undone’. If the tender needs to be re-advertised, we are looking at a similar timeframe to. Across the UK we are waiting for better roads, new schools, these things are all part of a very long queue.

Time is money. So what help is out there? Suppliers who don’t have access to a comprehensive tender alert service like Tenders Direct could be potentially missing out on lots of business opportunities thanks to incorrect CPV codes.

Tenders Direct is a wide-ranging tender alerts service which relies on a team of tender reviewers reading the contract and then classifying it against a set of key words that ensure tenders are classified to meet supplier requirements. We do not rely on CPV codes, we rely on experienced reviewers who can read between the lines and figure out exactly what work is being tendered for.

Our service helps marry up buyers with suppliers. A supplier is notified of tenders which fit the criteria of work they are looking to deliver, which is the way our service works. With our site, there is less likelihood of suppliers missing out on potential opportunities.

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Our procurement experts help make procurement easier, and we take pride in being able to minimise the noise and help a buyer classify what they want, and feed the right opportunities directly into the right supplier mailboxes.

To CPV or not to CPV? That is the question.

Link to Tenders Direct homepage

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