When bidding for a public sector contract it is all but mandatory to submit an electronic copy of your tender – an e-tender.
Countless buyers have adopted electronic tendering (or e-procurement) as a tool for driving greater efficiency of their procurement process. However, suppliers have just as much to benefit from the technology, with easier access to tendering opportunities and a clear and structured process to follow. Here we run through some of the key benefits of e-tendering for suppliers and provide some tips on improving your e-tendering experience.
When submitting an e-tender, a secure online portal is used to conduct the entire tendering process. There are numerous portals used by organisations and, if you regularly bid for public tenders, you will be familiar with names such as: London Tenders, NEPO, YORtender, The Chest, Blue Light, the Kent Business Portal and many more.
The E-Tendering Portal
Once you have registered on an e-tendering portal you can log on and:
- Promote your business capabilities and start receiving email alerts
- Submit an expression of interest
- Access the relevant bid and tender documents
- Complete and submit a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ)
- Complete and submit a tender
- Ask and receive responses for queries relating to the PQQ and tender
- Track the progress of your submission
- Receive notifications of any changes to the specification of the services
- Keep all your PQQ and tenders in one place (for that organisation)
- Upload any relevant documents
- Access a list of ‘open’ tenders being run by the organisation – it might also allow you to access tender opportunities from other public bodies using the same portal.
Advantages of E-Tendering
✓ Structured Approach
One of the key benefits of submitting an e-tender is the structured approach it provides for compiling your submission. Although the various portals have a different feel and formats, they all take you step by step through the tender and sometimes you are even required to complete one part before you can progress to the next, minimising the risk of missing any important sections. Even if that is not the case, the e-tendering system will be divided into discrete sections and usually an e-tender will have prescriptive questions so it will be easier to give the response the buyer is looking for.
✓ Formatted Text Boxes
Some portals might require you to upload a Word document with your responses, others provide text boxes which you can copy and paste into. One of the benefits of text boxes is that you do not have to worry about the format and no one has any advantages because of their flair for design – you will solely be evaluated on the quality of your narrative responses.
An e-tender usually has some foolproofing to it. For example, you cannot submit it unless you have completed mandatory sections or at the very least it will warn you that you have not attached the documents. Finally, using an e-tendering portal also means that it is much easier to pick up where you left off, with many providing a visual cue of the percentage you have submitted or a traffic light system indicating the fields that still require responses.
Tips for submitting E-Tenders
Although e-tendering provides an easily accessible and structured approach to managing your submission, the below tips might come in useful:
- Don’t forget your username and password – Or to share it with your team members if you are going on leave. It sounds obvious, but if you are on a deadline not being able to access your submission will add to your stress levels. Remember, some systems will lock you out if you attempt to enter the incorrect details several times and you might have to wait 15 minutes before you can retry or request a reset.
- Get your clarification questions in early – The deadline for clarifications is often well before the submission deadline. Be clear with which question or part of the PQQ or tender you are referring to. The question and response will usually be shared anonymously with all bidders to ensure fairness.
- Keep on top of your notifications – Most portals will send you notifications when a clarification is responded to. It is well worth regularly viewing these, especially as clarifications raised by other bidders might answer your own questions. They will also notify you of crucial information, such as a change in the word count for responses.
- Write your answers in Word and then paste them into the answer boxes – This enables you to confirm the word/character count and acts as a spellchecker. It also means you have a record should anything go wrong with the tendering portal.
- Save your work – Security protocols often mean portals automatically ‘time-out’ after around 15 minutes of inactivity.
- Give yourself plenty of time – Even if you have everything prepared, don’t leave the uploading of your completed submission to the last minute. If you have problems you may not be able to resolve them before the deadline. If you do experience problems, take a screen grab as proof. Remember, there’s no harm in uploading documents as and when you prepare them rather than doing it in one go.
If you would like more information on submitting an e-tender please do not hesitate to contact us and for more information about bid & tender writing you can head over to our services and resources pages.