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Three sources of confusion

Writing tender bids
The strategic plan for writing tender bids to win against tough competition begins in earnest when the RFT comes out. Three key issues arise following careful scrutiny of the document.

First, near the front, we find the contract requirement overview. Here someone has set out the issues that over-ride the fine details. The issues include the background, the key objectives, where emphasis should be placed, and principles that the buyer will base their decision on. This picture may be clear or murky.

Next we find the main section headings each with many issues that we are told all bidders must respond to. These issues may be neatly listed, numbered and prioritised, or they can be jumbled into prose, just to annoy the reader. Expect some confusion and ambiguity.

Thirdly we may find some pages said to be checklists that the evaluators will use when assessing each bid. The “checklists” often contain complex details showing how marks could be awarded and weighted for each response. Many RFTs contain checklists that are vague, or none at all, in which case we can only guess what tools the evaluators will actually use.

All RFT details may be only tentative

So far, writing the tender bid might look like a reasonable challenge. But the RFT can also state that the buyer could change their minds at any time on any point without giving reason or notice. This means that the evaluation checklists and all other details are tentative only. 

It may also be evident that the three sections:  overview, response specifications and evaluation checklists, were written by different people with different values. I’ve even seen government RFTs that forbid illustrations, meaning clarity is not wanted.

In summary, the average RFT may be vague, ambiguous and contradictory. Thus the bidder is invited to plan a strong competitive bid based on guesswork and, if the winner, to work to produce a faultless outcome. What a needless mess.

Bottom line: Writing a strategic plan to win against tough competition is no easy task.  It takes years of training and experience to decide how best to write and illustrate each bid given the state of the RFT and the likely confusion that lies behind it.

(c) This Opinion by Tom Evison was first published by Tecads in September 2017

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