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Published Date: 29-05-2024
Author: Ciaran Brass
Category: Top Tips
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Even experienced bid and tender writers will occasionally find themselves in a race against the clock to submit that all-important bid. However, this is not a sustainable bidding strategy or advisable method for tender submissions. Effective time management is a crucial element of the bid process.

Although the size or bid pipeline will naturally dictate some submissions will go down to the wire, last-minute bid submissions can run the risk of missing out key quality assurance processes, or even incorrect or uncompliant tender documents – for example, missing an element of the selection questionnaire (SQ) or incorrectly formatting a tender response document.

The consequences could be severe – even leading to a disqualified tender, with potentially weeks of hard work and a key contract lost. We advise some best-practice approaches for effective time management for your tender submission, avoiding unnecessary stress and giving you the best chance of success to submit a winning bid.

Create a project-specific bid plan

Your project-specific bid plan should serve as a guide for the rest of the submission. At the beginning of each tender exercise, make sure to complete the following:

  • Read the specification and accompanying tender documents in full, making note of any unusual elements within the submission
  • Begin preparing your answer plans by breaking down each quality question into constituent parts, which saves time and avoids any gaps or omissions in a tender response
  • Make note of deadlines within the tender timetable – this could include dates for site visits, deadline for response to clarification questions, and the time of the deadline alongside the date of submission
  • Ensure appropriate time is allocated for appendices or supporting documents to tender responses – for instance, mobilisation plans, organisational charts and CVs of key personnel.

As tenders come in many forms and lengths, so should your bid plan. Putting aside several hours at the beginning of your submission will proactively mitigate any last-minute, haphazard rush to submit, informing your bid planning and time management.

Submit a clarification if something is unclear

After your bid plan has been created, there may be conflicting or uncertain elements within the ITT, specification, wording of the question set or other part of the tender pack. Rather than speculate or make unqualified assumptions, the most advisable and risk-free option is always submitting a clarification to the contracting authority.

It is crucial to submit a clarification early in the tender process – although most clarification deadlines close a week before submission, this can be earlier in the tender timetable. All central and local government authorities have a duty to provide a substantive response to clarification questions from bidder organisations. Questions are published anonymously on a central, easy-to-access location on the e-portal, ensuring the tender process is fair, open and transparent.

An experienced bid and tender writer will also keep a watchful eye on the clarification log, regardless of whether or not they have submitted a clarification. Results of a clarification from the authority’s representative could include updated tender documents, changes to word limits, amended requirements to submission (e.g. new appendices) or even a new submission deadline/extension.

Assign task owners to each element of the tender

One of the most common causes of a last-minute bid submission is a bid and tender writer who has taken on too much. Rushed submissions will naturally lead to shortcuts in drafting responses, quality assurance processes and portal uploads. For larger bids, assigning different task owners to each part of the tender submission will lead to more controlled, measured time management.

Consequently, all parts of the tender should be assigned an individual task owner, who is fully aware of their scope of work within the submission. This includes:

  • Bid and tender responses and other narrative elements, such as contract examples or health and safety questionnaires
  • Standard company information, data responses and yes/no tickboxes in the standard selection questionnaire (SQ), pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) or PAS91
  • Mandatory attachments and appendices which can be information-only but are often scored as part of the associated quality response
  • Pricing schedules and ‘sign and return’ documents (e.g. the form of tender or contact details and declaration), which typically must be completed by a suitably senior member of the organisation.

It is critical to ensure each returned element of your bid submission has a task owner – a missed document is one of the most common reasons for a last-minute, rushed submission.

Organise information-gathering sessions for tender questions

Regardless of whether a bid writer works for a consultancy or is part of an in-house bid team, certain quality questions will likely require input from a subject matter expert or other individual with a technical knowledge or background.

Ideally, an information-gathering call or meeting will be scheduled as early as possible within the tender exercise. Just like bid writers, the subject matter experts have busy schedules, and just a few days’ complacency paired with an ill-timed holiday or sickness can leave the bid writer lacking that vital information and input from an industry perspective.

To mitigate this and a scramble in advance of the submission deadline for relevant information, schedule a meeting with a subject matter expert as a point of priority well in advance of the deadline. Not only does this leave adequate time for drafting of responses, but also the all-important bid review stage of the bid process, which ensures high-scoring, competitive responses.

Ensure sufficient time for a portal check

Finally, a last-minute rush to submit incurs unnecessary risk of a non-compliant or disqualifying submission during the upload to the portal. Where possible, a final review of the bid submission should be scheduled 24 hours in advance of the final deadline. This leaves sufficient room for any final amendments, completion of documents or appendices, or potential IT failure which could result in a late submission.

Executive Compass have supported over 7,000 SQ, PQQ and ITT submissions, and the above points are central tenets of our ISO 9001:2015-accredited quality management system. To learn more about the bid and tender services we provide, contact our sales and marketing team for an informal, no-obligation chat today at or 0800 612 5563.


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