The forthcoming HS2 will be the UK’s newest high speed rail network. Creation of the new route will offer opportunities to companies of all sizes to supply products and services for the project.
Everything from major civil engineering works to contingent labour will be out to tender. Whilst the opportunities are huge, these opportunities will inevitably attract a large number of bidders and competition will be fierce. Putting aside your tender writing and bid management skills for the moment, the main issues tenderers will have centre on scarce resources, logistics (including people), right first time, risk elimination and of course price.
I cannot offer any advice on price, other than make sure you sharpen your pencil because it is going to be competitive!
As someone with over 15 years’ railway experience, who has been involved in around 1,700 PQQ and tender submissions, what I can help you with is advice on how to prepare for the inevitable round of HS2 submissions you are going to be involved in.
Here are the top ten PQQ and tender topics that I believe you must be prepared to answer, and score highly on, if you are to win contracts successfully on HS2. You must make it your number one contract winning strategy to begin to prepare now.
1. health and safety
2. the environment
3. your quality management systems
4. equality and diversity
5. previous experience
6. recruitment, induction training
7. previous experience
8. organisational structure and the experience of your people
9. business continuity
10. supply chain
Now, you may be thinking that you are already prepared and can respond adequately without any further preparation—you may be correct, but just spend some time looking at the example I give below.
Q.1 please supply your organisational chart
At first glance this seems like a very straightforward request and most companies simply include their standardised, off the shelf organogram. This is a mistake. Why does the buyer request your organisational structure? It is to identify if you have the capacity, capability and knowledge to deliver the contract. Too often firms do not think about their charts enough, and I know of many, many companies who have failed a PQQ because of inadequate charts. Generally firms do not provide enough detail for most of the responses but organisational charts are nearly always weak. Poorly thought out structures with no clear functional reporting lines, escalation pathways or sufficient resources often result in a fail. Remember that writing a PQQ or a tender is a competition.
- It is not good enough to want to deliver the work
- It is not good enough even to be able to deliver the work
- It is not good enough to be able to deliver the work and clearly demonstrate it
- You must be able to demonstrate clearly that you can deliver the work better than anyone else
- It is a competition and you can lose out by only one point.
The questions at tender stage will vary depending on your product or service. Most of the PQQ questions could well reappear but pitched slightly differently and requiring more detail. An example would be where you are asked at PQQ stage to describe your approach to the environment and to provide your policy and then at tender stage are asked about biodiversity or how you reduce your CO2 emissions.
Here are some bankers for HS2:
1. Collaborative working
2. Risk management (not health and safety risks, but other risks)
3. Recruitment, training, competence and managing people
4. Mobilisation plans with timescales, critical path and timescales
5. Supplier selection, monitoring and management
6. Subcontractor selection, monitoring and management
7. CVs and details of your key people
8. Service delivery (can be called method statements)
9. Continual improvement
10. Detailed quality management, assurance and compliance processes.
To be in with any real chance of success you need to begin planning now. Becoming bid ready will mean you will significantly improve your chances of winning, and it will allow you more time to think and reflect when the actual bid is issued. If you leave your preparation until the date the PQQ or tender is issued then you have probably lost already.
The key points I want to communicate are:
1. It is a competition and you can sometimes lose by one point
2. It is not sufficient to be the cheapest
3. Do not underestimate the level of detail you will need to provide. If you think that the question is easily responded to—you have probably misunderstood it
4. Submissions take a long time to write properly. Maximise your chances of success by preparing now
5. Don’t base your policies on Google, base them on fact, best practice and legislation. Previously the evaluator just used to ensure they were supplied. Modern tenders are evaluated by people who have been trained and who will look for specific content within your policy. Yes, they really do read them!
Good luck and happy tendering.
Neil Capstick has worked in engineering and construction for most of his working life. Prior to setting up Executive Compass in 2009 he worked for British Rail Engineering Limited, Fastline, Jarvis Rail and Balfour Beatty. His knowledge on tendering into the rail industry is extensive and he has been involved in bids into Network Rail, Crossrail, Transport for London and London Underground. Neil manages the day to day running of Executive Compass and oversees a team of writers. Executive Compass provide PQQ and tender writing services, bid management services and interim bid writing/bid management services up to director level.