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.
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.