Tendering in the COVID–19 environment – a test of endurance of a different kind!

 By Kate Burrows, Managing Director, Tender Training College

I recently had the ‘unprecedented’ experience of working on my first tender in a pandemic – from home, with a new kitten and a puppy. 

I must admit to feeling grateful for the tender as a focus during the uncertain times, albeit a test of endurance of a different kind to what I previously experienced on bids!

The bid period was lengthy because of the complex and high-value nature of the contract that was being tendered (more than $1 billion).

The COVID-19 lockdown restrictions came into place several weeks before the bid was due, so the team was working remotely for the ‘pointy end’ of the submission.

A virtual set-up of this kind does put more pressure on a bid team, but conversely, it means that people can be quite productive if their work from home environment allows.

The good thing to note was that the client submitted the tender on time and it proves remote bidding can be done effectively – with a few improvisations.

It is likely on the other side of this crisis, that we will engage remote bidding more readily using the lessons learnt throughout this time.  Here are some of my key learnings from my recent COVID-19 tendering experience.

Key learnings for remote bidding

Key learnings

1.  Sense of team – one of the things I most enjoy about tendering is the camaraderie that develops between the bid team members from the shared experience. It is this ‘teamanship’ that helps you to pull together and get the submission in the box after potentially long days and nights. This can be difficult to recreate in a virtual environment. However, celebrating milestones, managing the submission and collaborating on the bid solution can all be done virtually with strong leadership, the right systems and tools, and regular communication.

2.  Encourage flexibility and care – when working on a tender remotely in a pandemic there are extra dimensions at play. Family responsibilities, distractions from pets and keeping up-to-date with the household chores included. We need to be flexible to enable people to work when is the most productive for them – whether that is at 5am before the kids wake up or between looking after elderly relatives. It is also important that people check in on each other to make sure they are taking the appropriate breaks, and that they are OK. Bids can be exhausting, not to mention the added stress of a pandemic, mixed with home schooling and pets demanding extra attention.

3.  Set-up strong communication systems – this is vital to keep the bid on track. Systems can include regular video conferences to discuss matters impacting all team members, phone calls and instant messages to resolve more immediate issues, and emails and a document management system for documentation and information flow.

4.  Maintain the submission status – getting a tender in the box is a team effort and requires a level of commitment from everyone to deliver their requirements on time. It is much harder when authors are working from home to get an answer as to where their document is at – and when it is going to be delivered. Setting clear deadlines is essential (as always), but ensuring they are regularly reinforced up by the bid leader(s) is also critical.

5.  Robust version control and document management is essential – be clear on what the expectations are for authors in terms of how to manage version control, and how to submit their documents. It’s much harder to keep a track of version control when you have people working offline on documents in different locations.

How to get better tender content from your SMEs

By Kate Burrows, Managing Director, Tender Training College

One of the biggest challenges of any tender is getting members of the bid team to submit quality and timely content that effectively responds to the question.

Sometimes, the authors/subject matter experts (SMEs) who are charged with writing responses are so busy developing the solution or working on the tender price, they fail to write an adequate response.

There are many risks associated with this, of course. 

My approach to tender submission management has always been to reduce risk wherever possible – regardless of whether it is an $800,000 or an $80,000 bid.

Here are three ways to extract bid-winning content from your authors that I have successfully applied to previous tenders.

1. Early engagement

The evaluators can’t score your company’s approach to a tender when it is in the head of your bid team members!

Early engagement with your SMEs is critical to get them focused and aware of what they need to submit in written form – and by when.

The right time to do this is after they have had the opportunity to thoroughly read the tender, and before the madness of meetings and workshops really sets in.

The best bet is to book a session with each author/SME to:

·     Ensure they understand the question they need to respond to and how best to answer it

·     Identify the evaluation criteria that applies to the question

·     Understand what tender requirements are relevant to their question

·     Discuss the key elements that need to be included in their response.

The result from this early session is a framework for answering the question that can be referred to throughout the bid period.

2. Rigorous draft and review process

The later you begin the tender writing process, the less time is left to develop and refine the content. It also results in gaps, mistakes and inconsistent information – and unnecessary panic.

An effective draft and review process is vital for the development of a quality and mature tender response.

The draft process helps the authors to progressively develop the content in line with their thinking and the feedback from reviewers.

The number of drafts will depend on the length of your bid period. Even the smallest tenders can benefit from two drafts.

It will also make sure the authors keep their answer in mind as they develop their approach, so neither is developed in isolation of the other.    

3. Socialise and integrate

We all appreciate the benefits of socialising – especially in this current COVID environment!

This is also particularly important in the bidding environment – where you need to socialise your response with other members of the bid team to share ideas and align the submission.

For example, it is necessary for an author writing the Workforce Training Plan to understand what training initiatives are listed in the Safety Plan so that both responses are consistent. 

One approach to achieve integration is for individual authors to swap responses at the appropriate time – the more mature the draft, the better the outcome here.

Alternatively, workshops can be held where bid team members present the key elements of their respective approaches. 

One of my clients has a member of their team with an eagle-eye read every response for consistency and integration at the final draft stage. 

This is a very valuable exercise. You don’t want the evaluators to read mixed or conflicting messages across the tender response!

If you would like to know how to implement the above approaches, contact kate@tendertrainingcollege.com.au for more information.

Five tips to get bidding for government tenders

By Kate Burrows, Managing Director Tender Training College

The opportunity for small business to grow through government tendering is expanding with a 30% increase in the value of Federal Government contracts awarded to SMEs in the last financial year.

More than 9,000 different SMEs won almost 39,000 of the 73,000 Federal Government awarded contracts in 2017-18. These contracts were valued at nearly $13 billion, representing an increase from $9.95 billion in 2016-2017.

Government represents an attractive client for SMEs to grow their business, with procurement policies in place to pay on time, simplify tender documentation and targets to ensure small business participation is increased.

There are a wide range of Federal Government contracts available across Australia, not to mention those tenders issued at a state and local government level so it really is an opportunity not to be missed for small business.

However, government tendering is overseen by compliance and formal procedures that small business professionals need to understand before they begin bidding.

Tendering can be time consuming and costly, so it is important that small business is familiar with the framework and rules of government procurement so that they can deliver a compliant, client-focused and compelling tender response.

Five tips for SMEs to get started in government tendering include:

1. Search local council and State and Federal governments tender opportunities to see what contracts are available and relevant to your business – most government tenders are released through electronic portals at no charge

2. Develop a process for responding to tenders, including a program for gathering quotes and information, and developing your response to ensure you meet the tender deadline

3. Government like low risk suppliers – make sure you can demonstrate a sound track record in contract delivery and performance, with strong client and project references

4. Government tenders are assessed on value for money – identify your company’s differentiators so you can show how you will deliver value along with a competitive price

5. Develop a thorough understanding of the contract requirements in the bid phase to be compliant in your response and certain your company can deliver upon these if you win.

If you are an SME and new to tendering, join me at the half-day Secrets to Winning Tenders workshop in Sydney on 21 November: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/secrets-to-winning-tenders-tickets-73772923801 as I share the key steps and practical tips to get started in government tendering.

I am the Founder of the Tender Training College. I was inspired to start the Tender Training College to help businesses and professionals secure their futures by providing quality tender training courses.

Overcoming the challenges of remote bidding

By Kate Burrows, Managing Director, Tender Training College

Gone are the days in tendering when everyone on the bid team was located under the one roof for the duration of the tender period.

Nowadays with the benefit of technology, it is not uncommon for members of tender teams to be working remotely in various geographical locations, including in different corners of the globe.

There are many benefits to working as a remote tender team. You have access to ‘world-class’ team members and people can work ‘around the clock’ across different time zones to achieve more efficient outcomes.

But with the benefits, comes the challenges.

I’ve noticed these issues pop up from working in and managing remote tender teams across Australia and New Zealand over the last several years. These are the workarounds I have employed to help overcome these trials.

Tender Team Training - Avoid Emails

1. Avoid death by email

Email communication in tenders is ridiculously voluminous at the best of times. But, when it is the primary source of communication between remote bid team members, it can easily become unmanageable and potentially blow up your inbox!

At the beginning of the tender, agree with your team, or work stream:

  • How you will communicate
  • Who needs to know what and by when?
  • A priority system for relaying your information.

For instance, you might agree to:

  • A daily team video conference to discuss matters impacting all team members
  • Phone calls between key members to resolve urgent issues
  • Send all files through a document management system
  • Save emails for formal, transactional communications.

I have also found the occasional text message can be quite effective for matters that require an urgent, but informal answer.

In-House Tender Training

2. Prevent document or version control nightmares

We have all been there. You spend hours making changes to a document, only to find someone on the other side of the country has also been working on the same file, and you now have two versions.

Document control and version control go hand-in-hand, and you need to agree a system for both early in the tender to avoid multiple headaches.

These days, the beauty of modern technology also provides a range of options to:

  • Enable simultaneous inputs to, or reviews of a document
  • Keep the versions of documents in a controlled and orderly manner.

Regardless of what system your team is using, ensure everyone understands how to use it and the importance of using it to avoid document and version control nightmares.

Bid Team Training

3. Keep a single source of truth

“But I thought we decided to bid 20 units, not 40 units to help keep our costs down,” one bid team member said to another.

“Well, the operations guy told me 40 units, so that’s what I am going with,” the colleague replied.

Keeping your team’s bid strategy consistent and up-to-date is a massive challenge when you are working in different corners of the state or globe.

It is vital to know who in the team is responsible for determining and communicating the bid strategy to keep a single source of truth in the written response.

Clear roles and responsibilities will help achieve this, as well as strong leadership and effective communication.

Successful bid leaders will provide regular updates on matters of strategy that impact the team, and have a system for ensuring that the bid documents retain a consistent message. 

However, ultimately as a bid team member, we each have a responsibility to make sure we are on the same page as our colleagues – no matter where we are working from.

How to avoid the heat in the tender moment

By Kate Burrows, Managing Director, Tender Training College

When you are knee-deep in a tender, your focus is on the prize and the task of submitting the bid on time.

It is very common to over promise in the heat of the tender moment – that is, offer the client the world to increase your chances of success.

It pays to stop and ask yourself the following questions before you press the submit button:

  • Why are you offering the client that initiative or innovation?
  • What benefit will it give the client?
  • How will you deliver on your tender promises?

Asking these questions will help keep your company accountable to your tender commitments, and also give your proposal greater credibility.

I have helped numerous clients in the delivery of new contracts that were won through a competitive tendering process.

This included being part of the delivery team for the $3.6 billion Waratah Train Project in NSW after also working on the tender.

I learnt the importance of being highly accountable to the client for what we committed to in the tender and what was in the signed contract.

The following are key learnings I took from this experience and others that can be applied to tendering process to ensure you can deliver on your bid promises.

Tender Training - Show How You Will Deliver

1. Show how you will deliver

Provide an action plan for how and when you will deliver against key initiatives or innovations you have proposed in your tender.

This not only provides the client with tangible evidence for when they can expect these tender commitments to be realised, it helps you plan for how they will be delivered.

For example, an action plan for communication and marketing activities can be included in the relevant management plan to keep you accountable to your promises.

Tender Training - Demonstrate The Relevance

2. Demonstrate the relevance

Often, we are so enthused about offering the client our new app, or, latest whiz-bang service that we forget to tell them about:

  • How it will meet their requirements
  • How it benefits them.

Remember, a tender proposal has to meet the tender requirements set out in the bid document. Failure to do so may mean the response is non-compliant.

So, draw the link between how your innovation or initiative meets a particular tender requirement or requirements, and also what benefit it will deliver for the client.

In doing so, it will help you to weed out any tender promises or offerings that aren’t relevant to the client and their requirements.

Tender Training Course

3. High value, not high volume

Remember, the client is paying for your tender commitments, and they want assurance what you are offering is going to be of value to them.

Most tenders, particularly government bids, are assessed on the basis of value for money.

Working out what is of most value, or importance, to your client at the beginning of the tender process will help you to determine what you offer in your tender proposal.

If the client’s goal is for accelerated project delivery, then make sure your tender commitments are geared towards helping them achieve this goal.

And, don’t forget to spell this out for the client when writing your tender response. Tell them how your offering will deliver them the best value for money.

Kate Burrows is the Founder of the Tender Training College. Kate was inspired to start the Tender Training College to help businesses and professionals secure their futures by providing quality tender training courses.

What I wished I known on my first tender

By Kate Burrows, Managing Director, Tender Training College

My first major tender was a $9 billion Defence contract for new Air Warfare Destroyers in Adelaide.

There was a large international team of specialists working together for many months, long into the night, to get the very best outcome.

I was part of the editing team. Even though I was a professional writer, I had very little experience in tendering and even less knowledge about warships!

However, I sat in the editing chair, day after day, week after week, to help get the thousands of pages in the box on time.

And the best news – I survived the process and the company won the tender!

Looking back now, with 15 years’ tendering experience under my belt, I realise the win was no accident. This was a very well-planned and executed tender.

There are several elements I now know from that tender are essential for a similarly successful outcome – whether you are working on a $9 billion, $900,000 or $90,000 tender:

  1. Teamwork is essential

There is definitely no “i” in a tender team. And to use another coined phrase: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Regardless of the size of your team, the way it is managed and functions can make or break the tender. Strong teamwork is essential.

Here are several characteristics of a well-functioning tender team that I witnessed:

  • Communicative – teammates talk regularly with one another and as a group, and raise any concerns or issues so they can be resolved early
  • Considerate – colleagues consider one another and display positive behaviours
  • Consistent – you follow through and do what you say
  • Cooperative – colleagues support one another to get the job done, particularly through the tough times
  • Collaborative – teammates work together to get the best possible price and outcome.
  1. Process is key

A team without a tender management process is like a rudderless ship.

Having a robust tender process is crucial to keep things on track to meet the deadline. This will also ensure you meet the submission date in the most efficient and effective way.

Key elements of the tender management process include:

  • Program – to outline who is doing what, by when
  • Budget – to keep your tender expenditure on track
  • Scheduled drafts and reviews – to improve the tender response, you need draft and review processes at key dates throughout the tender period
  • Tools – to ensure you have the right systems, templates, and checklists in place
  • Rules/guidelines – to guide the team on how to submit and control documents, meet deadlines, and develop the core elements of the response.
  1. Develop a competitive price and approach

Every bidder should meet the minimum requirements of the tender, or, what is the point of them bidding?

What differentiates the various tender responses is the “how” – how each party demonstrates their approach for meeting the tender requirements and their price for doing so.

You need to set yourself apart from the other tenderers in a way that most benefits the client.

The right approach or solution only comes after concerted effort of integrating the following elements:

  • Identifying what is of value or importance to the client who has issued the tender
  • Understanding the client’s areas of concern or risk
  • Fully understanding the tender requirements and how you are going to meet them
  • Knowing who your competitors are, and their strengths and weaknesses
  • Knowing your own company’s strengths and weaknesses, and its unique points of difference.

The final element is developing a robust and competitive price that fully reflects your approach and delivers a sustainable profit margin.

Kate Burrows is the Founder of the Tender Training College. Kate was inspired to start the Tender Training College to help businesses and professionals secure their futures by providing quality tender training courses.

If your business needs assistance with incorporating the above best practice elements into its tendering, please contact kate@tendertrainingcollege.com.au

 

 

Three tips to complete your online course

So, you have signed up for an online course with the best intentions, but are finding it difficult to find the time to complete it? You are not alone!

Online study offers the convenience of being able to learn anywhere, anytime and at your own pace. That is why it is such an attractive option for many. However, life also gets in the way and it is difficult to juggle competing priorities.

Here are three tips to help you get back on track with your eLearning:

Step 1: Set a deadline and establish a study schedule

Whether you are studying in work hours or outside business hours, it’s essential that eLearning becomes a part of your schedule.

The best way to do this is to schedule time in a daily or weekly planner – just as you would any other commitment or event that you don’t want to forget.

This gives you the flexibility to schedule study time that fits with you and your other commitments. If you have an upcoming tender to prepare for, it is particularly important to set a deadline for when you are aiming to finish the course.

Regardless, having an end date when you want to finish will help you keep motivated and on schedule.

 

Step 2: Ensure your environment is right

If you have scheduled study time in your office and you keep getting interrupted by colleagues, you might want to consider a better place to complete your course.

Everyone is different with what works and what doesn’t when it comes to their physical learning environment.

Some learners will find background music helpful, while others will be distracted by it. Others will excel by heading to a coffee shop and getting online, while others will find the noise and constant movement difficult to concentrate.

Work out what is the best environment for you so that you can make the most of your dedicated study time.

Also, remember the Tender Training College’s online courses can be complete on any device – so you might want to consider how you can integrate your online learning into your daily commute, or lunch hour, for example.

 

Step 3: Know you are not alone  

Online study can take a bit of getting use to, particularly if you normally learn in a traditional classroom setting with other people. Make use of the customer support along the way.

Our Customer Excellence Team is happy to provide support online and offline. Email us at support@tendertrainingcollege.com.au or telephone 1300 414 000 during business hours.

Also, ensure you download the training materials to guide you through the course and to apply your learnings to the real-life tendering environment.

However, there is one constant to remember when you embark on an online learning journey – that’s don’t forget your WHY.  Why you started this journey! Reminding yourself of this motivation will give you the extra push you need to complete your course.

Stop, wait a minute!

Benefits of auditing your past tender performance

By Kate Burrows, Managing Director, Tender Training College

Are you too busy submitting one tender after another to take stock of your company’s bidding performance?

Many of us fall into this trap – we get stuck on the cycle of one tender to the next.

This can lead to bad habits in your tender process, poor quality submissions and unskilled bid team members.

Pressing the pause button to review your past tender performance can lead to big benefits: 

  1. Apply best practice in tendering

I recently undertook an audit of a client’s non-successful tender to help them identify areas of improvement, and ultimately win more business.

The client wanted to check if its tendering performance was in line with industry best practice as they look to compete in more sophisticated tenders and grow their business.

I helped them to identify the gaps between their existing tender performance and best practice, and how these shortfalls could be addressed.

This included updating templates for core documents to encourage the authors to really consider what the client was asking when writing their tender responses.

2. Define a process to enable success

During a tender, most of us are focused on submitting a compelling and competitive bid on time.

So, after you press the send button, it’s worthwhile considering whether your tendering process enabled your performance, or disabled it.

The aforementioned client knew something was wrong with their process as they had forgotten to include a response to a key question in their final submission.

I reviewed their tendering approach to identify where the link in the chain broke. Somewhere along the line, their process let them down.

The client now has a step-by-step process for planning, managing and delivering future tenders that includes a more rigorous bid review and finalisation stage.

3. Give your team the tools of the trade

A tender team can be made up of any number of individuals with a great range of skills.

However, many of these people don’t have official tender qualifications. They have, like many of us, learnt from doing bids over and over again.

An audit of your company’s tender performance can identify where the skills and capability shortfall is in your team, and what you can do to address this.

Tenders can be stressful due to their very nature – don’t make them harder on your people by not giving them the tools of the trade to succeed.

A well-trained team will drive up the quality of your submissions and put your performance back on track.

Kate Burrows is the Founder of the Tender Training College. Kate was inspired to start the Tender Training College to help businesses and professionals secure their futures by providing quality tender training courses.

To see how the Tender Training College can help you or your company improve its tendering capabilities, contact kate@tendertainingcollege.com.au or visit https://tendertrainingcollege.com.au/review-my-tender-online/

Why a review of your tender is so important – before it is submitted

Why a review of your tender is so important – before it is submitted

By Kate Burrows, Managing Director, Tender Training College

I recently wrote a response to a tender question for a client, who was bidding for a large government contract. 

I was required to submit my response for ‘peer review’ as part of the client’s tendering process. That is, experts in tendering and the subject matter provided an objective and constructive review of my work before the submission date. 

As well as positive comments, the reviewers provided invaluable feedback in terms of improvements to the content and the structure of the response. I was able to use this review to substantially improve the final draft.

The nature of the tendering environment means we are often under pressure to deliver a high-quality document within a tight timeframe – whether it be a small or large tender. An independent review of your tender – before it is submitted – helps improve the overall quality of your response and puts you in the best position to win the bid.

Here’s a few examples of how a review can help improve your tender outcomes.

Online Tender Review

1. A double-check against the core components

In the haste of compiling a tender, it is easy to forget or overlook a key component. This may be as simple as forgetting to include an attachment, or inserting a diagram in the wrong place.

However, it can also mean failure to include mandatory information, or not putting the response in the required format – all of which can make your bid non compliant.

A reviewer with ‘fresh eagle eyes’ can provide a check against these core elements, helping you spot any missing components that may put your submission at risk.

Online Tender Review

2. Assurance you have answered the question

Tender questions are often complex and confusing. Apart from deciphering and answering the question completely and thoroughly, there are multiple elements you need to address to score top marks.

Your response needs to:
• Address the evaluation criteria
• Show how you will meet the relevant tender requirements
• Be easy to read and score
• Convince the client you are offering the best value for money.

Often as tender writers, we write about the subject we know and sometimes miss addressing these key elements. An independent review against these criteria will enable you to address any gaps before the bid is submitted for the client’s evaluation.

Tender Best Practice

3. Is it best practice

A tender response is a business communication tool that represents your company and is designed to win new business. Not unlike a business email, or a company report, there are best practise approaches and standards that are expected when writing a tender. These elements are not often communicated in the client’s tender document, but are expected. 

They include:
• Don’t openly criticise the client or the competition in your response
• Make sure your font is readable
• Ensure you have the client’s name correct
• Follow the numbering system as set out in the client’s tender.

An independent review will not only identify any of these missing standards, it is also considered best practice when preparing a tender.

Building in review(s) to your tendering process will not only help improve the quality of your submission and your company’s reputation, it will also enhance your tendering skills and capability.

Kate Burrows is the Founder of the Tender Training College. Kate was inspired to start the Tender Training College to help businesses and professionals secure their futures by providing quality tender training courses.

To see how the Tender Training College can help you or your company improve its tender review capabilities, contact kate@tendertainingcollege.com.au or visit https://tendertrainingcollege.com.au/review-my-tender-online/

Counteract the common tender fears

By Kate Burrows

Tenders can be daunting, especially if you are new to tendering and the future viability of your business hangs in the balance of a successful submission.

I am currently working with a small business owner who is bidding their first tender. The outcome of this tender will make an enormous difference to the long-term sustainability of their company and their future livelihoods.

It is completely understandable then that this business owner has fears of the tendering process and also about their chances of success.

Even the most experience tenderers can find the tendering process overwhelming at the best of times. But, the good news is that you can counteract these commons fears.

Empowering yourself with a better understanding of the tendering process, and the skills and capabilities associated with this, will put you on the path to tender success.

Let’s apply some of the key steps in the tendering process to help beat the tender fears.

1. Conquer the tender document

Tender documents can be mind-boggling and downright confusing!

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the questions, language, number of pages, and the rules and the requirements (or sometimes, the lack thereof).

As the first step in the tendering process, take the time to read the tender document. Now read it again.

This will help you gain familiarity with the tender document and its content, which is key.
This is important because at the end of the tender period, you want to submit a client-focused response.

Every time you read the tender, you will pick up something different and gain a better understanding of what the client is looking for.

Highlight key sections, such as: the client’s objectives; the evaluation criteria; the due date and time; and how the tender needs to be submitted.

2. Ascertain your chances of success

Don’t write yourself off as a losing the bid before you even begin.

Another key step in the tendering process is to review the requirements of the tender. These are what the client has stated as the necessary requirements to deliver if you win the contract.

Carefully assess whether your company can meet the tender requirements and for the duration of the contract.

If your company can meet the requirements of the tender and can deliver a competitive price – you are in the running to win.

You should carefully consider whether or not you will proceed with the tender if you can’t meet the requirements, and/or how your business can change its approach to be compliant with the requirements.

Failure to properly consider your chances of winning can mean a lot of time and money wasted on bidding.

However, once you know you are in with a shot, it’s all action stations on preparing a winning bid!

3. Outshine the competition

It’s easy to be nervous of the competition, particularly if they are a larger, more experienced or a better equipped business.

However, use this competition as a motivator!

Another key step early in the tendering process is to understand your company’s points of difference – that is, what sets it apart from the competition.

The first step in doing so is to look at the competition’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of what needs to be delivered.

How can you counteract the competition’s strengths, or use their weaknesses as an advantage?

Now take a good look at your company – what are your strengths and weaknesses, and how are these different and/or unique to those of the competitors?

Once you have identified your competitive advantage, you can distil this into succinct key messages.

This will help define your approach to the questions, and enable you to write your response with much greater clarity.

If you would like the other steps in the tendering process, download our FREE 10-Point Checklist for Tender Success.

Kate Burrows is the Founder of the Tender Training College. Kate was inspired to start the Tender Training College to help businesses and professionals secure their futures by providing quality tender training courses.