February - Ask the Expert
by Rob Harris 04/02/2015
With many of the recent mutuals and social enterprise spin outs now approaching the first retendering of their core contracts, what are the five key messages for them in winning existing and new contracts to build growth for the future?
Winning new contracts and ensuring you don’t lose the ones you have will be the main way sustainability and growth is achieved in the current market place, and should form a crucial element of your commercial strategy soon after ‘stepping out’ of statutory provision.
In order to keep hold of what you’ve got, and to win new contracts, you have to be ‘tender-ready’. My key message is ‘don’t wait until a tender is on the CEO’s desk before checking that you are tender-ready’. There are plenty of ways to prepare the organisation and staff for this process, here are my top 5 suggestions:
- Put tendering on the agenda: The organisation that is best prepared to deliver on tendering will have put it on the organisations agenda in advance – at senior manager or executive team level. There needs to be an agreed approach to how tenders will be dealt with and resourced. Updates on development and planning to deliver tender work will have to be shared with the Board.
- Research the tender process; the internet is full of relevant information, for example local tendering portals illustrate the process you will be expected to go through. Take an honest view of the requirements and measure them against your organisations capability. Most importantly identify the skills gaps and put a plan in place to fill them. An easy one to consider here is data and outcomes and how you can evidence them – this is a basic requirement for a tender.
- Get support: If you don’t have specific tendering expertise in your organisation save yourself some time and take advice and support from people who have done it. It’s easy to make mistakes and it’s pretty much a process of learning on-the-job in the early days – you probably won’t have the luxury or time to make a few mistakes. By getting support you will be able to avoid the pot-holes and fast track your progress to becoming ‘tender-ready’.
- Broad staff capability: Evaluate your ‘bid team’; you must have people that can write well – using a good exam technique is a simple starting point when writing tenders. Your organisation’s ability and track record in delivering great services is a basic expectation; you must be able to describe it well, and back it up with excellent data. Really good governance is a basic requirement too – PQQ’s are increasingly contributing to overall scores or ‘top 5 scores go through’ to ITT stages. It’s an important part of the process. You need finance staff that can assimilate numbers quickly and accurately (particularly useful in large public sector contracts where TUPE is involved). Good administrative support can make the co-ordination of this process much better.
- Get tender systems in place: Putting systems in place will achieve two things; firstly it will make the process a lot easier to complete. Secondly it will improve the quality of the bid. Systems may include an answers archive, a scores record and a tender timetable; tender systems can also include staffing and training & development. Stepping Out can help you implement systems that will work for your organisation.
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