Without doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every company in the UK and in many cases has fundamentally changed the way we do business. However, the ability of so many to find new ways to work is testament to the adaptability, resolve and spirit of British businesses. In a lot of cases, it is this ability to change and persevere that has enabled key services to continue to function, and SMEs – who have long been the backbone of the UK economy – have been agile and responsive, uprooting their usual office-based operations and adapting to working from home.
When it comes to managing bids and tenders, this can present unique challenges. Team members who previously sat side-by-side are now only in contact remotely, and in the fast-paced world of bidding an inability to effectively communicate or collaborate could present real risks in terms of timeliness, compliance and quality.
All of Executive Compass’s bid writers are highly experienced in bid management, and it has always been common for our team to work remotely with key collaborators. We therefore hope that by sharing our own top tips on remote bid management we can help bidders to manage collaborative bids during lockdown.
Eight top tips for remote bid management
- Don’t abandon trusted processes. When working to very tight deadlines, it might be tempting to cut corners on in planning, monitoring and bid management, instead shifting all the focus onto producing the bid itself. In the same way, when face-to-face communication and in-person collaboration become impossible, the temptation might be to leave planning behind, neglecting effective bid management in favour of writing the bid. However, your tried-and-tested procedures that help keep all collaborators on the straight and narrow become even more essential when the operating environment changes.
A good bid manager will therefore ensure that steps such as capture planning, blue and red team reviews, frequent meetings and any other processes that you follow as part of your bid management methodology are carried out just as they would be at any other time, moving conversations to videoconferencing or other platforms as required.
- Hold a kick-off meeting. Closely related to the above point; never underestimate the value of the initial kick-off meeting taking place at the start of each bid. When used effectively, these meetings ensure that all collaborators have a shared appreciation of the potential value of the bid, and a unified understanding of the key themes, messages and selling points that will be used to capture the opportunity.
For some bidders, these points might normally be discussed in general office conversation, with collaborators not fully realising the value that the discussions bring to the finished bid. Make sure the benefits of office-based communication are not lost by implementing kick-off meetings over videoconferencing software.
- Establish roles and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities might seem obvious when sitting in the same office, but with collaborators working from home the risk of activities and tasks falling through the gaps is greatly amplified. Mitigate the risk of a noncompliant bid by clearly establishing a named individual with responsibility for every task.
- Ensure contingency. For many reasons, the risk of a collaborator becoming unable to complete their assigned activities is also amplified at present. By planning for continuity from the outset, you can ensure the on-time completion and submission of a high-quality bid, even if circumstances change and team members become unavailable.
This goes beyond simply identifying a deputy or a back-up resource for each activity: ensure that your systems are set up to allow another collaborator to pick up a colleague’s workload. For this reason, we always recommend that every collaborator works in a shared cloud storage drive with real-time file synchronisation.
- Record and monitor progress. Using a simple and effective bid management tool such as our bid management matrix, all team members can record their progress throughout each working day. The bid manager can then monitor progress at any time, identifying any slippage or risks and taking decisive action as required to keep the project on track.
The benefit of using a templated and standardised bid management matrix is that every contributor has clarity on what has been done and what needs to happen for a complete and compliant submission, further contributing to continuity planning if another bid manager needs to step in.
- Create open and immediate means of collaboration. Emails and telephone calls remain a great way to discuss many matters and issues that arise when completing a collaborative bid. However, collaborators might be less likely to get in touch with the smaller questions and queries that would usually be spoken about when working side by side – and those seemingly small points can often make a big difference, providing a spark for an innovative new idea or an added-value initiative that can swing the whole tender process in your favour. Encourage all collaborators to actively use a communication and collaborative platform such as Microsoft Teams or Slack so that these valuable conversations still take place.
- Report regularly. Supported by effective recording and monitoring, maintain frequent reporting (we would recommend daily) to the nominated bid manager.
- Submit early. With so many additional risks to effective bid management, we encourage working towards a submission several days earlier than usual. As well as building an extended contingency period into the overall timeframe, this will help you overcome any unforeseen challenges associated with the submission process itself.
All of our writers are experienced bid managers who remotely manage bids ranging all the way from £10,000 funding applications to multimillion-pound bids every month. We are therefore perfectly placed to help you continue to pursue contracts during the current pandemic, taking up the reins of your tendering activity while you focus on core service delivery.
To find out more about how we might be able to support you, contact us today.