You've decided to bid for your first tender; you register your interest and then receive the Invitation to Tender (ITT) with its copious amounts of supporting documentation from the potential customer, and you think to yourself hmm maybe not.
Reading the content of an ITT can be time-consuming, daunting and extremely confusing. And although reading every section of the documentation is essential in one way or another, being able to cut through the waffle and get to the crux of what the customer wants and what you need to answer is a skill.
It's all in the reading
If you can bring yourself to read the ITT from cover to cover, then it's half the battle. That's why whenever I'm asked to work on an ITT I'll spend a considerable amount of time reading and re-reading the documentation to pick out the areas that are critical to the success of the submission and then building a plan around what I believe to be the final requirements.
Invest the time upfront
I'm also very strict about being rushed on this vital task, which can be difficult when you have a chief executive wanting to know what the win strategy is a couple of hours after receiving the ITT. You've got to stick to your guns on this though as not understanding requirements at the start can put you on the back foot for the rest of the project.
There’s more to it than just the submission date
Once I've familiarised myself with the documents, I’ll then identify the critical dates that will allow me to qualify whether we can deliver a compliant submission on time. Some of the dates to look out for are:
Date by which you should submit an intent to bid form or send an email confirming your intention to bid. If you don't do this, your submission may not be accepted
Registering for the organisation's eTendering portal
The end date and time for clarification questions; this is your only opportunity to ask questions during the tender process, so make sure you don't miss this opportunity!
Short-list announcement (if there's an interview/presentation stage)
Contract award date
Contract start date
What exactly do I need to submit?
I then look at submission requirements. Do we have to upload a final document or input individual responses to an eTendering portal? Do we have to produce a separate proposal? Do we have to courier hard copies to the customer? Is there a word count limit? Are there any attachment or graphics limitations?
What was the question again?
It's then onto compiling a tick list that highlights the customer's requirements and the questions that they need us to answer. I'll then assess each question against the scoring methodology, working out where we can pick up easy points and the sections that will require more work. Following this, I create a sub-tick list for each question to ensure that we cover all bases and maximise the scoring that we can get for each requirement based on our capabilities.
I also create a list of supporting documentation they need us to provide, such as case studies, policies, insurance evidence, and financial information, saving the files to a folder for conversion to PDF once I've gathered everything together.
The bones of your project plan
I'll then pull of this together into my project plan so that I can confidently start to discuss requirements with the bid team, and assigning owners to each task during the bid kick-off meeting and building a robust project plan.
There's no denying that assessing the requirements of an ITT is hard work, however investing this time upfront will give you and your team the intelligence and control to determine whether the opportunity is worth the effort. And if you do decide to go ahead with it - after going through a stringent bid qualification process (which I'll cover in another post), you'll be in an excellent starting position to pull your content together and prepare your best bid possible.