E-procurement or e-tendering is fast becoming the preferred process for buyers and suppliers involved in the procurement of goods and services, and will soon be compulsory. By March 2016, electronic notification and electronic access to tender documents will become mandatory, and by March 2017, electronic submission of offers (e-submission) will also become mandatory.
Hard copy tender submissions used to be common practice when bidding for a contract, but the introduction of electronic portals has simplified the process, as well as reducing tendering costs.
Top tips when using a portal
Take your time. Make sure you have familiarised yourself with the different areas of the portal, and with all the documentation that needs to be completed. One of the easiest mistakes to make when writing a tender on a portal is failing to do a full compliance check, in terms of the total documentation to fill in, additional attachments, completing the correct sections and generally ensuring the correct boxes are ticked.
Don’t be put off! At first glance many of the portals can seem very confusing. However, with practice it can be a much simpler process than the hard copy alternative. One of our bid writer top tips is to work in a Word document and then transpose narrative into the relevant sections online when you are happy with your responses, as it is not necessarily user-friendly to type directly into the online boxes.
Communicate. Whether this is with the contracting authority or other members of your bid team, e-tendering allows for a much simpler communication process. All clarification questions, notifications and important correspondence will be available via the portal, which is a lot easier and more transparent for the bidder. A portal also creates a centralised location for your bid, and other contributors can work on the same submission — just make sure to communicate who is doing what to eliminate any errors or duplicate content.
You need to stand out. E-tendering eliminates the design, formatting and branding of a tender, which may save you time, but first and foremost, it increases the need for your bid to stand out and differentiate itself from the competition. Spend the time saved through e-procurement on ensuring your tender is of the highest quality and that it matches the contract criteria and specification.
Common problems associated with e-tendering
Although electronic tenders save time and costs in terms of printing and delivering a hard copy bid, portals are renowned for being confusing and difficult to navigate.
The main problem encountered with e-procurement portals is technology. Everyone can relate with the fact that although technology saves a lot of time, it can also create major problems when it doesn’t work! Right before the deadline for a bid submission the portal is likely to experience a lot of traffic and occasionally the system can crash. Don’t submit your tender at the last minute so that you can avoid any possible technical difficulties. If you miss the deadline, even by one minute, the portal may have already closed and the authority will decline your submission.
For particularly large tender submissions, there are likely to be numerous pages of narrative, attachments, supporting documents and financial information. This creates a job in itself to not only check your bid, but then check all elements have been successfully uploaded to the portal, in the correct format. It is important to allocate time to do a full compliance check, as it would be a shame to be unsuccessful due to a small non-compliance — which we have unfortunately seen in the past.
Ensure that you read all notifications and secure messages from the authority throughout the bidding process. There may be important updates or actions required, and these will usually be sent via email or will be available on the portal.