Case study: Claire Mason wins a digital marketing tender

At TenderScout, we’re on a mission to share the news about tenders being a growth hack for SMEs with every business-owner. Although people are willing to listen, many have reservations about the tender process, believing it to be time-consuming, tedious and full of bureaucratic obstacles.  

So we thought it would be a good idea to speak to people and companies who have won tenders with TenderScout’s help. We enjoy our customers’ success as much as they do, and we’re aware that tender winners will have practical advice to pass on to other business people.

Today, we’re speaking to Claire Mason who won a digital marketing tender that she saw on the TenderScout platform. Disclosure: Claire is now Head of Marketing at TenderScout, and we’ll let her tell you that part of her story along with the rest of her tender experience below.

Hi Claire, how did you initially come to know about Tenderscout?

I found out about TenderScout in early 2016 when I was the part-time Project Manager for a communications agency. Prior to this, I had no experience at all of tenders and thought they were reserved exclusively for large-scale construction projects.

Did you find the TenderScout platform easy or difficult to use at first?

As part of my PM role, I was evaluating a number of different tender platforms for the agency I was working with. I was confused by a lot of them as only snippets of information were shared and the websites were laid out in illogical ways.

When I took a look at TenderScout’s platform, I felt for the first time that I could make headway in understanding which tenders to advise the agency owner to pursue. Part of engaging successfully with tenders is feeling empowered to do so and TenderScout’s clear UX gave me that shot of confidence.

I’m a bit of a stalker on the internet. I searched high and low for everything relating to TenderScout… and found a lot of information! This additional information and the TenderScout platform helped me build a better understanding of the RFP process and what it takes to successfully compete for one.

When did you become a TenderScout customer?

I became a TenderScout customer in December 2016. I was a tiny consultancy of one and would never have thought that such a small business had anything to gain from competing for tenders, but all my research had shown me that there were opportunities for individual business-owners too.

And then you found a tender to apply for?

Yes, sooner than I thought! About a week before Xmas, I saw a RFP requiring six months of digital marketing support by the UN in New York. The deadline for submitting a proposal was five days later. I thought that the notice was just a box ticking exercise but decided to compile a proposal as practise.

The notice said that people would be contacted on the 3rd January 2017 if their proposals were of interest. The first week of January came and went and there was no word, so I assumed I was unsuccessful and forgot about it.

However, on the 31st January, I got an email asking me to be ready for a Skype interview with the UN at a certain time. After this call, a further three interviews took place over February, and then I was told I won the tender!

Due to the time lag, I had been working on another project that still had some way to go to completion. I therefore had a difficult decision to make and didn’t pursue the opportunity, but I was thrilled to win, and when I realised that small to medium sized enterprises can win tenders, I became zealous about sharing the tender message. I think it was because of this that I became Head of Marketing at TenderScout!

What do you think helped you win the tender?

Without a doubt, the tender library that I compiled.

Tony Corrigan advises putting together a tender library that you can tailor for each RFP opportunity. This is not simply a cut and pasted CV from LinkedIn. I created a new CV that showcased exactly what I could do for the UN, wrote up two case studies to further illustrate how my skills could deliver what the tender was looking for and included three testimonials.

What would you advise another person to do who wants to win a tender?

Apart from establishing a tender library, I’d advise:

  • Think carefully about what the RFP wants to achieve – the tender I responded to just asked for digital marketing support, but I asked myself why would an organisation want to engage these skills. Is it to increase brand awareness, raise market share, relaunch a product, reach a new audience etc.? I then compiled my tender proposal around these desired outcomes.
  • Immerse yourself in the resources TenderScout offers – responding to RFPs truly isn’t as difficult as we all think it is. Tony speaks at lots of events and shares insights into how SMEs can win tenders. The TenderScout blog also has numerous articles that share practical ways you can enhance your win rate.
  • Identify the best keywords for your business – RFPs will be sent to you based on how you describe your business. Don’t try to be all things to all people but do think about your business in a comprehensive way so that you don’t lose out on an opportunity that could be ideal for you.

Any other advice?

I’m not sure if this will apply to all industries, but for digital marketing it certainly does. Many digital marketing businesses are small consultancies or agencies. There is a lot of revenue to go after in the low value tenders. These are tenders worth €25,000 or less; approximately half of all government spending in Ireland is spent in tranches of €25,000 or less, and the RFP process is quicker.

Thank you Claire. That was a motivating story and we’re delighted you had such a positive experience with TenderScout. We have a lot of digital marketing tenders on our platform right now and encourage agencies and consultants to pursue these.

 

How much does it cost to respond to an RFP?

You may have heard that governments around the world spend more that $3 Trillion on goods and services that they procurement through competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) processes.

If you’re like the vast majority of small-medium-businesses (SMBs) you’ll have concluded that it’s not really worth the effort – it’s too resource intensive, too costly and the outcomes are too unpredictable to be considered worthy of investment.

Is it really thought? How much does it actually cost to respond to an RFP and how much should you be investing in related presales activity before you start seeing an uptick in your fortunes?

Empirical evidence is quite thin on the ground in this regard. A cursory internet search reveals that the Irish government suggest SMBs spend about $5,000, LexMundi estimates a legal proposal, , will take 40-50 hours to compile (again c.$5,000), but there’s very little data. So at TenderScout set ourselves the challenge of figuring out what the right answer was; we decided to get some data! Data is the difference between feeling that proposals are too expensive and knowing exactly how expensive or not that they are.

Gathering the Data: How much do SMBs tell us they spend?

We asked 130 SMBs how much they spend on proposals in response to RFPs; this is what we found:

  •  SMB Investment in RFPs worth less than $140,000
    For low value contracts, typically those published by state, city or county buyers, 57% of SMBs spend a maximum of $2,100 on their proposal, while 26% spend in the region of $5,300.
  • SMB Investment in RFPs worth more than $140,000
    For higher value contracts, typically those published by federal buyers, 48% of suppliers spend up to $5,300, while 50% spend up to $10,000 and beyond.

    Analyzing the Data: What’s the % of cost to contract value?

    To determine the correlation between the cost that SMBs compiling a proposal and the value of that contract, we mapped the data taken from our SMBs real proposals and we found that SMBs spend 3% to 6% of the contract value on all of the activities leading ou to and including the proposal delivery.

Analyzing the Data: Can we predict competition outcomes based on the amount invested?

To round out our challenge, we asked our SMBs to tell us their win-rate, the ratio of proposals submitted to contracts won. We wanted to see if the level of investment could be used as a predictor of outcomes. When analyzing our sample data set we discovered a linear correlation between the amount invested and the win-rate;
An SMB that invests 1% of contract value on proposal delivery has a win-rate of 10%, while a 6% investment results in a win-rate of 60%. The impact of investment at higher levels becomes increasingly marginal.

 

In conclusion, SMB, should invest at least 3% of the expected value of the business if they are serious about competing for RFPs; those that spend more than that will realize significantly impactful results.

Beating the Odds – How SMEs win RFPs

It’s common wisdom that for small and medium businesses (SMB) competing for government contracts is a waste of time. RFPs are loaded with legal jargon, the requirements are vague, the names of incumbents a closely guarded secret. And what? You want to know the budget? That’s just crazy talk.

Those are just some of the sentiments that I hear from bid managers and sales executive, when I ask them why they’re avoiding government contracts. To a large extent they’re right to. The average win rate for an SME is an appalling 26% according to PwC’s most recent report into European procurement Activity (Report).

To digress into figures for a moment, the same report indicates that the average contract value is €60,000. Most businesses spend around 5% of the contract value on presales activities. It’s plainly unsustainable to build a 20% margin into your proposals just to break even.

Next time you’re weighing up the odds of spending that money on writing a proposal or having a flutter in the casino, take note that in The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver noted that the odds of winning at Blackjack in Las Vegas were 48% – that sounds more attractive in the short term than slogging over a proposal you’ve little chance of winning!

But here’s the thing, there’s a small cohort of SMEs who are beating these odds and winning as much as 70% of the RPP proposals that they write. At TenderScout we studied over 100 of these businesses to try and understand what they were doing differently and how we could apply their strategies in our clients businesses.

All companies spend pretty much the same amount (between 3% and 6% of the contract value) on their presales activities; the difference is in where they spend it.

In most companies, around 10% of pre-sales cost is incurred on qualifying opportunities and almost 90% on proposal development – writing content, creating graphics and so forth In the cohort that are beating the odds, they spend three times as much, up to 30% qualifying opportunities (and conversely less time writing actual proposals).

The qualification process is fundamentally data-driven decision making around which RFPs, fit the sweet spot and are winnable. We identified 4 key categories of tools used to help make decision:

  • Customer Relationship Management Tool (CRM) to record details of your relationships with buyers and build up a record of your engagement with them.
  • Buyer Profiling to better understand who the buyer is, who the key decision makers are, what the buying history looks like, how they make buying decisions, how much they typically spend and what their needs are.
  • Competitive Landscape Analysis to acknowledge whom your competitors are, their strengths and differentiators, their relationship with the buyer, their track record, experience and expertise and whether they are likely to submit a better proposal than you can.
  • Bid/No-Bid process to standardize decision making in the context of your solution, the buyer need, the competitive landscape, the budget and timescales within which the solution is to be delivered and so forth to determine whether all else being equal your proposal will meet their needs and be a more compelling proposition than that of your competitors.

Businesses are using tools like salesforce, Datahug, VisibleThread and TenderScout amongst others to simplify the process, increasing the robustness of their decision making and ultimately giving themselves a platform for sustainable success.

3 Startup Lessons from the Valley

I was chatting with Paul Burfield, Enterprise Irelands’ man in Silicon Valley over breakfast; we were pondering why it was that US startups appear to have more success at scaling than equivalent companies elsewhere.

As I travel back from the SaaStr 2017, an annual orgy of all that is SaaS, held in San Francisco, I’m musing on what I’ve heard from the founders of leading companies like Facebook, Dumo and Zendesk. Many of the speakers, tell stories of their journey to Annual Recurring Revenues (ARR) to $100m within 5 to 8 year timeframes. They tell stories about cracking $1m in their first 18 months and the struggle to get to $5-6m ARR – when the “cavalry arrives” over the next 18 months.

The level of ambition, or perhaps, it’s expectation, amongst US startups is on a totally different scale to that I’ve experienced elsewhere – they’re only getting started by the time their revenues hit $30m; many founders in a different environment are looking for the exit doors.

Having spent time getting under the covers of many of these startups heading for the stratosphere, I’m struck by how ordinary their technology often is. Listening to the speakers at SaaStr, the talk is not so much about technology innovation – mostly (and it is a sales conference!), it’s about building a sales engine.

Many of the solutions SaaStr are centered around optimizing the sales process, improving your Net Promoter Score (NPS), better tracking of SaaS metrics – tools for all the other SaaS companies to build their own sales engines. Every solution now comes with ‘machine learning’, which means all things to all men, but in truth, there’s no technology that’s any more innovative or game changing than what I’d commonly see in my home town of Dublin or any of the other startup hubs around Europe.

I’ve distilled the thoughts of the leading minds from Stripe, Intercom and their peers speaking at SaaStr into three strategies.

1. Prioritise Market Definition over Product

Prioritise defining your market above the product you’re going to build. US companies happily go to market with ‘minimum viable products’ and trust that the technology will catch up with the marketing.

2. Recruit Sales Recruitment over Engineers

Prioritise recruitment of sales staff and even marketing staff over engineers. In Silicon Valley, this may be a result of the shortage and the cost of engineering talent, but it’s clear that where Irish companies are knuckling down and writing code, their US counterparts are building momentum through brand awareness and early sales.

3. Build your Sales Machine Early

  • Build your sales machine as early as possible. US companies invest in sales technology like Datahug, insidesales.com and pipedrive.com that optimizes lead generation, incorporates predictive analytics and supports a scalable process.
  • Measure every element of the sales process – the lead conversion rate, sales velocity, customer acquisition costs, customer retention costs, churn and the all-important monthly recurring revenue. Because at the end of the day, without sales, nothing else matters.

As I travelled home I met startup founders from SwiftComply, Phorest and several Irish companies. Having spent time learning from SaaS pathfinders, they’re more confident than ever in their ability to compete with the very best on the planet.

Double honour for TenderScout

Last night was a humbling experience for me personally as well as the entire team at TenderScout as we picked up the Best Digital StartUp and the Grand Prix awards at the 21st eir Spider Awards 2016.

Last night was a humbling experience for me personally as well as the entire team at TenderScout. We picked up not one, but two awards at the 21st eir Spider Awards which took place at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel.

First, I want to say a big thank you to eir for organizing that amazing event and secondly, to all the judges who decided to honour us with these great awards – The Best Digital StartUp 2016 and the Grand Prix!

To be selected as the overall Grand Prix winner was an incredible surprise and I would like to thank everybody who made it possible. The night was such an amazing and long lasting experience.

The award is a great validation of the hard work that the team has put in over several years. It’s gives us confidence that we’re on the right path and we look forward to achieving more success in the future.

These awards top off a great year for us; we are closing a significant funding round which will help us to capitalise on our customer wins in the UK and the US and to deliver better value to those firms putting their trust in us going forward.

Why our schools need Computer Science

I was interested to hear the news that Computer Science is finally going to be offered to Leaving Cert students. The news is very welcome, though some may be surprised to learn that it won’t be the first time the subject was offered for the Leaving Cert curriculum in Ireland.

This article first appeared on Dublin Globe.

I was interested to hear the news that Computer Science is finally going to be offered to Leaving Cert students. The news is very welcome, though some may be surprised to learn that it won’t be the first time the subject was offered for the Leaving Cert curriculum in Ireland.

25 years ago, I took Computer Science at school (Crescent College Comprehensive in Co. Limerick) as part of an experimental programme whereupon the University of Limerick recognised it the same way it did Physics or Applied Maths for entry to university courses. Having studied the subject then, I can see the potential it has to radically change the way coding is learned in Ireland, and open it up to a much larger audience. For me, it was a course which allowed me to explore further my interest in coding, which started with a Commodore 64 and self-taught BASIC skills. Though I went into it with an interest in computers, I’m sure the course introduced many others to coding for the first time and helped them discover that they too had an aptitude for it. We learned Pascal, 8086 Assembly programming, how a Central Processing Unit (CPU) works, how to write flowcharts… all in the experimental and open-minded environment instigated by our teacher, Eamon Stack.

The teaching of Computer Science will not only allow Leaving Cert students to determine if they have a talent or a passion for coding, but could also potentially help third level institutions with the selection of students for degree courses. Right now, the many universities and ITs that teach Computer Science exclude countless capable students by insisting on higher level maths for entry. In 25 years of working in tech, I’ve never required that level of maths knowledge and fail to see why this emphasis has been put on one single subject. I progressed through the school system before this requirement existed, and having been accepted to NIHE Limerick I graduated with a 1st in Computer Systems, going on to build a successful career in tech – ordinary level maths notwithstanding. Of course, Computer Science and coding can teach mathematical problem-solving skills, but at their core they are creative disciplines which require innovative solutions to solve existing problems.

A Computer Science course at Leaving Cert level, along with a more sensible admissions system to third level, is vital for students and the country right now. Looking at it from an economic standpoint, the benefits are obvious. This country is now home to the headquarters of the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and of course Google. These companies have been calling out for a change in the education system, one which recognises the importance of Computer Science and coding. Most recently, the managing director of SMB sales (EMEA) at Google, Fionnuala Meehan, said that the Irish Government needs to add computer science to the curriculum to secure jobs, while others have gone so far as to describe the lack of Computer Science on the Irish Leaving Cert as ‘worrying.’

This important change to the Irish school curriculum won’t happen overnight. It will require significant preparation to ensure that (a) it is relevant and (b) the resources are in place to ensure it is taught correctly. My early programming career involved writing code to build graphical interfaces, neural networks to train the inept (mainly myself) to play the guitar and to manage core banking systems – none of which required a math degree, but necessitated plenty of hard work and creativity. Based on my own experience, the re-introduction of a second level Computer Science course that encourages students to explore computing and coding in a creative manner will greatly benefit both the education system and students, not to mention Ireland as a progressive, tech-forward nation.

Boost your revenue with government contracts

Generating revenue is a constant preoccupation for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). For those that have a sales strategy, keeping a pipeline filled with qualified leads that are likely to close is an uphill battle. Yet, every year, the vast majority of SMBs are ignoring over 100,000 contracting opportunities that could help to revolutionise their bottom lines.

Too many SMBs are stuck on B2B selling

Most SMBs rely on other businesses for the majority (over 70%) of their revenue. When I started my first company, I relied heavily on just a couple of contracts for my entire cash flow. And even then, the cash didn’t exactly flow – as a supplier, you’re often at the whim of buyers when it comes to getting paid on time. Quoting non-compliance with Directive 2000/35/EC of the European Parliament on late payments isn’t likely to speed up the process, and is more likely to reduce your chances of getting another contract!

Nowadays, buyers are very well informed about what it is they’re buying, how much they should be paying and what kind of service they can expect. They have plenty of choice when it comes to selecting a supplier and are increasingly more comfortable with a ‘panel’ of suppliers rather than relying on just one or two companies.

What’s wrong with this picture?

My own experience, working with several hundred SMBs, is that most don’t even have a sales and marketing strategy. ‘Sales’ generally consists of fielding referrals and keeping existing clients happy enough that they’ll give the company more business.

This type of selling is expensive – it requires businesses to be extremely flexible when it comes to different client demands. Some clients will want marketing brochures, some will want workshops or demos and others will want full-blown proposals. They’ll all be at different stages of their buying cycle; and they may simply be educating themselves without having any particular buying need.

Governments spend billions every year on equipment to maintain roads, research reports, office stationery, landscaping and thousands of other goods and services. In the private sector, where most SMBs do their business, there’s an opportunity missed every time the government goes to the market.

Government contracts = qualified sales leads

The great majority of SMBs treat government contracts with disdain, because participation can be expensive or require specialised skills. But there is a huge upside for SMBs here – all government contracts follow a standardised process. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s got a beginning, middle and an end; the rules of engagement and how the contract is to be awarded are clear. And government organisations tend to pay on time too!

SMBs that learn how to incorporate competing for government contracts into their overall sales process have a massive opportunity to grow their business through consistent and cost effective sales activities.

In my next article, I’ll look at ways to create a pipeline of such opportunities through a process of finding, evaluating and selecting the right tenders for your business.

HSE faces EU fines over procurement

At the weekend, the Independent published a story about HSE recruitment: HSE facing huge EU fines over tender delays

The taxpayer could face huge EU fines because of the failure of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to issue new tenders for agencies to provide doctors and nurses across the country.

In recent years, procurement competitions involving healthcare personnel have been subject to significant challenges, the recent High Court action brought by healthcare providers being just another example. One of the reasons for this may be that when dealing with outsourcing of specialised services, it is difficult to award contracts where much of the criteria relates to subjective judgement around the quality of personnel and support processes.

Nonetheless, it is unacceptable – given the level of support available to buyers from organisations such as the Office of Government Procurement – that procedural issues remain in the effective administration of contracts.

Ultimately, the issue is one of transparency. The public procurement rules are clear as to how public contracts are advertised, awarded and administered. Any deviation from these rules must call into question the framework and suggests that those responsible don’t actually care whether they are following the rules or not. If this is the case, it’s very disappointing – especially given all the effort the Government, the Office of Government Procurement and bodies such as Intertrade Ireland have been expending in encouraging suppliers to participate in public competitions.

A Procurement Ombudsman has been mooted several times in the recent past. The idea is that an ombudsman would keep public servants on the right side of EU and national legislation, but sadly there’s no sign of that happening soon. It is more than a shame that the HSE, charged with administering health services, has failed to administer its own contracts, with the net impact being fewer resources available to deliver health services in Ireland.

SMEs: how to win more competitive sales opportunities

Government awards nearly a quarter of all public contracts to mid-market businesses. These tenders represent an exceptional opportunity for companies of all sizes to build new revenue streams. The sentiment towards small and medium business and increasing participation in public sector tendering hasn’t been this high in years, but for companies who want to get involved, where do you start?

Here are our top five tips for mid-market companies looking to compete:

1: Find and select the right opportunities

Most countries have a free source of tender alerts. In Ireland, etenders.gov.ie is the best source of ‘national’ tenders (anything up to €200,000), while ted.europa.eu is the go-to resource for higher value tenders across Europe. In the US, fbo.gov is where most opportunities end up.

Some companies gather opportunities from a variety of sources, so rather than signing up to lots of different ones, you can choose one and cut down on the time spent searching for opportunities. Most require an annual subscription, but might also have a free version so that you can try it out.

There are literally thousands of ways for buyers to categorise goods and services, so you need to make sure you are filtering search results in the right way – covering all the goods and services you are able to deliver. The best tender alert tools incorporate specific tools that help you to filter opportunities by categories, keywords and geographies. Be as specific as you can to avoid wasting time sifting through inappropriate tenders.

2: Assess the landscape objectively

Before deciding whether or not to compete, you need to make an objective assessment of the buyer, your competitors, the tender and your own ability to deliver. Winners will typically invest a minimum of 3% of the contract value on their proposal. If you’re not investing that much yourself, then you’re going to struggle to succeed.

Look at the buyer’s procurement history and who they have previously bought from. Incumbent suppliers do have an advantage, but the data shows that they lose contracts far more often than they retain them.

Read the request for tender carefully and asses how well you meet the criteria, whether you have the relevant experience required and how well suited your team are to delivering the services requested. Only compete where you believe that you will score highly (>80%) against the evaluation criteria.

3: Partner with other suppliers to be successful

Your chances of success are vastly improved if you can partner with other suppliers, and in some cases where there are minimum requirements (e.g. turnover) will be the only way you can compete. The Irish Competition Authority has published a guide for SMEs looking to form partnerships for competitive bidding, entitled How to comply with competition law when tendering as part of a consortium. In the US, the FBO provides information about Vendor Collaboration on their website.

Collaborating with other suppliers can increase your credibility, your overall team expertise, and gives you increased chances to be successful. It can help you to achieve the economies of scale that larger organisations are often able to deliver. If you have had limited success in the past, partner with companies who have demonstrated their ability through previous tender successes.

4: Build your network and strengthen your relationships

For the best chances of success, find out about opportunities before they are even published! Many tender opportunities arise from expiring contracts and so can be predicted. Oftentimes, simply asking buyers what their plans are is the best course of action. Your challenge is to be known to the buyer before the tender is published – people buy from people!

Establish a strategy to pipeline future opportunities before they arise. Keep a calendar and source information about procurement opportunities from as many sources you can: previous tenders, newspaper articles, trade magazines, networking events, the grapevine… Start nurturing relationships with the right people and plan ahead so that you are in a strong position to compete when the time comes.

5: Win Government business by not tendering!

For public contracts below a certain value (€25,000 in Europe) there is no requirement on the buyer to ‘tender’ for the business. At least half of all government spending is below this threshold and represents an ideal opportunity for smaller businesses to get a foot on the ladder without the effort associated with responding to a formal tender.

Typically, three quotes will be sought in these cases so the most important thing is to be known to the buyer. Buyers will rely on their network of contacts to solicit quotes so it’s essential that establish your credentials with buyers and put yourself in a position to be offered the opportunity to quote.

Alan Kelly faces questions in row over a state tender

The Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has come under scrutiny and has “serious questions to answer” according to Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, over his meeting last December with Labour TD Brendan Ryan and Task Community Care, a company that was the successful bidder in a state tender.

Claims of “serious irregularities”

It has been suggested that minister Kelly may have violated the rules over state procurement in Ireland. The tender in question is related to the Seniors Alert Scheme, which arranged for the provision of alarm systems to elderly people throughout the country. The meeting took place only days after the deadline for tenders had ended, and before the evaluation process had been completed.

The tender process was temporarily suspended two days after the meeting took place between Kelly and Ryan. According to the department, this pause was put in place to ensure that the meeting did not affect the procurement process. The process was found to be compliant with national and EU guidelines and regulations, and was subsequently resumed – with state agency Pobal choosing Task as the successful bidder.

Lack of consistency

With a tender process that was likely to have had over 40 respondents – spending upwards of €200k in competing for this contract – it’s crucial that companies can believe there is a level playing field. While it’s possible that no problematic conversation about the tender took place (as has been maintained by the department) the companies who compete in these processes, and whose business is impacted by these decisions, deserve to have the rules applied fairly and consistently. Quite simply, this is a meeting that should have never taken place.

An Ombudsman needed to ensure transparent arbitration

This is yet another argument for a procurement Ombudsman to be set up, a point I highlighted in the TenderScout Annual Report earlier this year. I laid out the case that a procurement Ombudsman is needed to ensure transparent arbitration.  Transparency is the single biggest issue impacting on confidence in the procurement process, and ensuring a fair system which does not find itself open to scrutiny when a company feels it has been wrongly passed over for a particular contract. I went on further to recommend that the Ombudsman should have the power to arbitrate in disputes and ensure that both the spirit and the letter of procurement guidelines are upheld.

The best outcome for transparency

In the case of this tender, it’s clear to me that the process should have been scrapped, and then run again under the same terms and conditions. This wouldn’t have resulted in any major additional work for SMEs, as they could largely submit the same documentation. Although there would have been a cost implication to the procurement authority (who would have had to re-evaluate submissions, which is a cost to the tax payer) this would surely have been a better outcome for transparency.

As it is, we have a contract process that’s in dispute, and a case that will only reaffirm the prejudices about public procurement that SMEs already hold. This is an issue the OGP have been struggling to overcome – that public tendering is not transparent. There is no doubt in my mind that the outcome of this latest case will only lead to yet greater mistrust and uncertainty in relation to the process, and as a result there will be less supplier diversity for the government in the future. What’s most frustrating of all is that this whole thing could have been easily avoided!