Tag: tender

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.

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Pet Hates of Suppliers (What not to do if you are a buyer)

A few months ago my colleague Cindy published a blog on the Pet Hates of Buyers which went through some of the main issues that buyers have had when dealing with suppliers. This blog will consider the other side of the coin and cover some of the pet hates that suppliers have when bidding for tenders.

Through my experience working in the Tenders Direct support team I have put together this blog from feedback that we have received from our customers and other external companies that are involved in public sector tendering.

The issues can be broken down into two main areas. Firstly all issues relating to the tendering process (planning, identifying the needs, market analysis and tendering) and secondly all issues that relate to the post tender activities (contract management, supplier relationship management and the actual performance of the contract). Continue reading “Pet Hates of Suppliers (What not to do if you are a buyer)”

Tendering across Europe – How to step out of the UK

With £714 billion being spent on the public sector in the UK in 2014 you may feel that there is plenty of business to go around. However, if you are considering broadening your options or want to look further afield you could consider bidding for tenders across the European Union.

The European Union was created on the basis of it being a single market which includes the free movement of goods, capital, people and services across all member states. In practice this means that a UK company should have an equal chance of winning a tender in a different EU member state as the local companies and there should be no barrier to intra-EU trade. We often hear of dissatisfaction that local contracts in the UK have been awarded to non-local suppliers and so this could be considered the other side of that coin.

While it may seem like it is easy to go for these types of opportunities there are certain things that need to be considered before taking the leap! All the points made by my colleague Gemma on this blog: How SMEs can break into the public sector will apply but there will be other aspects that will need to be considered as well.

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Your Rights as a Supplier

The most common question that we get from Tenders Direct customers is: ‘What rights do we have once we put in a bid?’

The answer to that is dependent on what stage of the process the supplier is at and the rights for both stages are listed below:

For the PQQ:

Questions should only be asked of your company and not your potential solution (It should be about selection of suppliers and not an evaluation of your product).

Buyers have a legal requirement to notify candidates eliminated at the PQQ stage “as soon as reasonably practicable”.

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Why are framework agreements important to SMEs?

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In our blog about election manifestos one thing that was clear is that all the main parties feel that involvement of SMEs in procurement is the key to economic growth. The current Government set a target of 25% of all Central Governments spend to be with SMEs when it came to power in 2010 and it met this target in the 2013-2014 financial year. Framework agreements represent around 45% of procurements in the UK and compared to other EU nations the UK uses this type the most. The purpose of this blog is to explain how important framework agreements can be for SMEs.

They can be broken down into lots. In the new regulations it suggests that authorities can break tenders down into lots where applicable. Although this has always been an option, there has been a change in focus initiating a ‘do it or justify why not’ approach which is good news for SMEs as it means that larger contracts that would previously have been out of reach for SMEs are now available. Continue reading “Why are framework agreements important to SMEs?”

2015 Procurement Regulations – Changes to the ITT stage – What Suppliers Need to Know.

Following on from our recent blog regarding the changes to the PQQ stage in the new 2015 Procurement Regulations we are going to look at what has changed at the ITT stage and what suppliers need to be aware of when tendering to the public sector.

The most important changes to the ITT stage for suppliers are:

1) There is now greater clarity regarding the rules on social and environmental aspects being taken into account in tenders meaning that:

  • social aspects can now also be taken into account in certain circumstances (in addition to environmental aspects which have previously been allowed);
  • contracting authorities can require certification/labels or other equivalent evidence of social/environmental characteristics, further facilitating procurement of contracts with social/environmental objectives;
  • contracting authorities can refer to factors directly linked to the production process.

The caveat to this is that any factors taken into account must be reasonably achievable for all suppliers so as not to favour larger companies or specific methodologies. We would encourage suppliers to keep a check on your key buyers to see what policies they have in these areas and how they are likely to implement these new rules. For example do they have a big drive on apprenticeships or carbon emissions you could support them on? In general it would be a good idea to start gathering data, case studies and evidence of your company’s positive social and environmental impacts to use in your responses going forward as the level of detail asked for in these questions is only going to increase.

2) Full life-cycle costing can be taken into account when awarding contracts; this could encourage more sustainable and/or better value procurement which will hopefully save money for tax payers in the long term. Continue reading “2015 Procurement Regulations – Changes to the ITT stage – What Suppliers Need to Know.”

Avoiding Risky Business

I recently attended our latest training courses on completing PQQs and Bid Writing. One of the messages I picked up was that the public sectors’ evaluation of suppliers is a lot like a risk assessment exercise.  Public sector authorities have to be scrupulous when spending tax-payers’ money.  They have to balance various priorities, including quality, budget, delivery, timescales, policies on equality, sustainability, supporting SMES and local businesses, and abiding by the relevant regulations, while also avoiding the risk of anything going wrong during the course of the contract.

So, as a supplier going through the tendering process, your task is not only to demonstrate to the purchasing authority that you can provide the requirement (and more if possible), but also that you can mitigate any risks that might be involved.

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Answering your Questions on Framework Agreements

What is a framework agreement?
A framework agreement is an ‘umbrella agreement’ that sets out the terms (particularly relating to price, quality and quantity) under which individual contracts (call-offs) can be made throughout the period of the agreement (normally a maximum of 4 years).

Do framework agreements need to be advertised in OJEU?
If the procurement is being paid for out of the public purse and the value of all the potential call-offs is estimated to exceed the EU thresholds (and it is not excluded by part B of the regulations) then yes, the framework agreement should be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).  However, the individual call-offs do not then need to be re-advertised.

What is commonly procured using framework agreements?
Framework agreements are typically used where the authority knows they are likely to have a need for particular products or services, but are unsure of the extent or schedule.  So framework agreements are commonly set up to cover things like office supplies, IT equipment, consultancy services, repair and maintenance services etc.

Who can use a framework agreement?
Many framework agreements can be utilised by more than one authority.  If this is the case, the purchasing authorities need to be identified in the relevant OJEU notice.  An example of frameworks available to a wide range of purchasing authorities are those formed by Buying Solutions (an Executive Agency of the Office of Government Commerce), a central purchasing body who create framework agreements for use across the whole of the UK public sector.

How can I get onto a framework agreement?
If the framework agreement has been advertised in OJEU, you can only be considered for inclusion on the framework agreement if you respond to the OJEU notice by the stated deadline.  The procurement process for awarding the framework agreement will then follow all the usual EU procedures and rules and be awarded according to how well suppliers satisfy the selection criteria.

How are call-offs awarded under a framework agreement?
If the framework agreement is awarded to one provider, then the purchasing authority can simply call-off the requirement from the successful supplier as and when it is needed.  Where the framework is awarded to several suppliers, there are two ways in which call-offs might be made:
1) Where the terms laid out in the framework agreement are detailed enough for the purchasing authority to be able to identify the best supplier for that particular requirement, then the authority can award the contract without re-opening competition.
2) If the terms laid out in the framework agreement are not specific enough for the purchasing authority to be able to identify which supplier could offer them best value for money for that particular requirement, a further mini-competition would be held between all the suppliers on the framework agreement who are capable of meeting the need.

What are the advantages of framework agreements?
The main advantage to a purchasing authority of using a framework agreement is that they do not have to go through the full OJEU process every time the requirements arise.  Having to go through the tender procedure once rather than several times, will obviously reduce tendering costs.  It also means there is less downtime between identifying the need and fulfilling it, which considering how lengthy the OJEU process can be, could be a considerable benefit.  There are also further potential savings to the purchasing body because of economies of scale, which may prompt suppliers to offer more competitive prices.

The reduction to tendering costs will also apply to suppliers, as going through the tender procedure is costly and time-consuming for suppliers too.  Obviously, the main advantage to suppliers of being on a framework agreement is the chance of being awarded valuable business opportunities.

What are the disadvantages of framework agreements?
A disadvantage of a framework agreement for a purchasing authority is that they are relatively unresponsive to change – there may be new suppliers and/or new solutions within the market that were not included when the framework agreement was initially set up.  Furthermore, framework agreements tend to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which might make it difficult for authorities to satisfy their own procurement objectives.  However, most framework agreements do not place any obligation on the purchasers to actually buy anything.  Therefore, if the requirement doesn’t fit into the framework agreement or they think they can achieve better value for money not using it, then they can go elsewhere.

This in turn is a disadvantage for suppliers under the framework agreement; most frameworks do not guarantee that suppliers will get any business from them.  Therefore, you may spend a lot of time, effort, and resources getting included on a framework agreement and never get any business as a result.  However, you are still in with a chance, whereas suppliers not included on the framework (whether they were unsuccessful or were not aware of it when it was tendered) are likely to find it more difficult to secure business for the requirements covered by the framework agreement.  It is therefore a good idea for suppliers to investigate what framework agreements already exist and when they might be up for retender.  And for those suppliers included on frameworks, don’t take the business for granted – continue to market your products or services to the purchasing authorities !

If you are interested in knowing when a new framework agreement is being launched make sure that you have a subscription to Tenders Direct. To find out more give our friendly help desk staff a call on Freephone 0800 270 0249, or click here.

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How well do you know your buyer?

If you’re looking for new markets and have stumbled upon the public sector option – do not be misled into thinking it will be exactly the same as selling to a private sector client.

The private sector purchaser can largely suit themselves when it comes to what they buy, who they buy from and how much they pay.  But the public sector purchaser has a lot of different factors to take into consideration, not least that they are spending public money and have to comply with set processes and legislation.

Continue reading “How well do you know your buyer?”

Flying the Flag for Small Businesses

Flagging Contracts to SMEs

Flagging Contracts to SMEsRecommendations first outlined in the Glover Report to help small businesses identify contract opportunities are now coming to fruition.

The Glover Report – Accelerating the SME Economic Engine states…

“Tendering opportunities thought especially suitable for SMEs or consortia of SMEs should be flagged by the procurer during the advertising process.”

Although this idea has been around for a while, the OGC have recently published a paper entitled  Small supplier big opportunity, Flagging your contracts to SMEs which follows on from the Glover Report’s recommendations and outlines the procedure to be adopted by purchasers in highlighting suitable opportunities for SMEs.

Continue reading “Flying the Flag for Small Businesses”

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