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Greetings and welcome to my first blog post as an Associate with Validatum. An introductory word: I tend to write as I speak. This is a good-slash-bad thing (see?). The odd song lyric will crop up from time to time. Hopefully you will grow to like it. I may even expand your musical horizons whilst blogging about the procurement of legal services. Come to think of it, I may have just found my USP…

Procurement Management

For example, when thinking about the trials and tribulations of bidding for these contracts, I am reminded of the words of Chris Martin of Coldplay: “… nobody said it was easy; no one ever said it would be this hard …”. A perceptive man indeed.

The subject of bidding for public sector work cannot be covered in a blog. This snippet is designed to merely highlight some of the problems you’ll face and give you some tips on overcoming them.

So, picture this … you have made it through the OJEU Notice/ PIN process and managed, despite various obstacles, to access the e-portal and locate the mountain of documents awaiting the enthusiastic bidder. Let’s see what effect the new ‘light touch regime’ has had, shall we? Hmmmm - ah well, maybe later.

You have in your eager mitts 50 – 250 pages of tender documents and associated contract documentation. The weekend has started. You’ve located the tender closing date and realise - given the gargantuan task of actually responding to this thing - that you need to gather your forces swiftly and decide whether this is worth looking at.

Step 1 – index page (positive thinking). You search for helpful words such as “contract term”, “anticipated contact value”, “aims of panel”, “number of current providers/ future providers”, “TUPE”, “location of services”, “geographical/ jurisdictional coverage”, “categories of work”, “available lots/ tiers”, “remuneration/ pricing models”, “exclusion criteria”, etc. You manage to find enough information to determine that, on an initial read, this one is for you. Happy days.

Some hints and tips (a snifter):

· Market intelligence: continuous, ongoing. Know what is going on, where you are in the market and what your strategy is. Be alive to any soft market testing initiatives. Attend bidder preparation days.

· Team prep: have your team (internal/ external) ready, briefed and up to date with forthcoming opportunities. Once a tender lands you’ll be in project management mode immediately.

· Timetable: log it. These things will never move – not for your benefit anyway. Decide who your key players are for this particular job. You’ll need people on board with time in diaries. Do not underestimate the effort this will take. If you’re doing this, you’re doing it to win, yes? That takes time - and lots of energy.

· Read the ITT and annexes thoroughly. Highlight key words. What is the authority after? Their intentions/ desires? Where is the emphasis? Key words should emerge. List them.

· Read the exclusion criteria again. Are you going to make it past the first hurdle?

· Is there a Q&A phase? When? Start compiling your questions.

· Read every question carefully. Highlight significant words. Answer every part.

· Note weightings per question, if listed. Focus accordingly. Weightings may come only in stage 2 (award criteria), once you’ve passed stage 1 (selection criteria).

· [Quick note re. criteria – who/ what/ where? More at the Forum]

· You’ve read the question. You understand the question. So now answer the question – the question on the page, not that other question you have a pre-prepared answer for. Yes, it happens.

· The scoring guide. You’re aiming for “excellent”, not “good” or ”very good”. This is never truer than where the quality: price weighting is 30:70 (not a typo). If you have 30 points on quality, grab them. Price is a topic in its own right.

· Put some emotion into your answer. Make it bespoke. Don’t just grab text from your last tender; it shows. What is the authority looking for? Give them what they want (and more). Evaluating bids is a tedious business; make it interesting for them.

· Follow the process throughout. Errors are not acceptable. Don’t risk it.

That’s it for now. So Coldplay was right: nobody said it was easy. But then, I imagine – and hope - that won’t put you off, not given the potential contract values on offer. So, whilst there may be trouble ahead, I’m with Frank: “Let’s face the music and dance”.

Need help with your next public sector/legal aid tender, give me a call.

Sarah Barrett-Vane (Law Firm Procurement Consultant)

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