This company have tendered for contracts all over the world, however this was their first UK public sector bid. The bid was very large with a contract value of £1billion, and took a total of four months to complete.
Type of Project
A Blended model of onsite (90%) and remote working (10%)
Neil Capstick, supported by Matthew Walker and Tom Sheppard
Duration of the bid
Value to the client
£1 billion over ten years
This was the client’s first UK public sector bid
Cultural differences on communication, speed of delivery and depth of detail required to win a bid
Key contributors were spread across the world in different time zones
Key staff were often “in the air” travelling between their own or customer sites
English was a second or even third language for some of the contributors
Not all systems and procedures fully aligned with UK norms and needed to be adapted or more clearly explained
- Geographical region – US and Europe
- Output – Circa 220 pages of narrative plus CAD drawings, implementation plan and detailed
- Weighting – 60/40 quality/technical
- Submission – Hard copy and memory stick
- Outcome – Pending
We are approached by a wide variety of clients. Some are very experienced and have previously submitted and/or are submitting PQQs and tenders on a regular basis, while others have no experience of tendering for contracts at all. Bid writing projects range from the very small (£80,000) to the very large (£6.6 billion) and so our projects are never dull!
The company in this case study had submitted tenders across the world but all were simply a matter of meeting the technical specification and submitting a competitive price. They had never before had to submit a detailed response to a public sector procurement exercise. The process was made more difficult because the team was divided between Europe and
the US with no UK base.
The quality section contained seven core questions, each one in excess of 30 pages. Supporting information was not allowed other than where requested. Each of the nine sections was assigned a client lead and the lead reported into a client Project Manager. Executive Compass supplied two full time writers, a part time/ad hoc writer and a proof reader. Design services were undertaken in house by the client. The duration of the bid was a little over four months and is valued at £1 billion.
It is fair to say that both as a team and as individuals, we learnt more from this bid than we have from any previous bids. We have developed a proven, structured and systematic approach to writing tenders and bid management and we apply the model regardless of project size. What we did not expect was that the cultural differences, management styles,
method of working, and communication protocols would be so problematic.
As with most large tender submissions the people involved are not actually bid writers and often have day jobs. In this instance, they all had day jobs, some of which required considerable focus.
We (Executive Compass) divided the questions between us and approached the bid in a methodical way. We ran workshops, held individual and team interviews and liaised closely with all of the client leads and the Project Manager.
The main issues encountered were:
- The client leads had insufficient time and were bolting on dealing with the bid to
their day job.
- The client’s team were not motivated to produce a winning bid. This was because:
– Winning or losing the bid would not really impact upon them
– They had not been fully briefed on the importance of the bid
– The senior management team had not briefed them on the full details of the bid prior to our arrival on site
- The culture of the company was very much nine to five. This is fine with a full time bid team but does not work when the bid is not their core task. Having an e-mail for further information lingering in an in box for the duration of the weekend is difficult for a bid writer with a deadline
- Not all company documents were in English
- Policy documentation was not written in such a way as to be compliant with the UK and some policies specific to the UK were missing or inadequate
The main strengths were:
- Once briefed the team were capable and hard working
- The client had good differentiators and was submitting a very different proposal to those of their competitors
- Each member of the team was very knowledgeable on their functional area
- The company was an innovative one and were hungry to win the bid
Once the team were briefed on the scope, scale and importance of the bid, progress began to be made very quickly.
Due to the language barrier we issued templates which helped to guide content and structure and this proved to work very well. In addition, we ran multiple workshops and capture planning sessions and really pushed the team to come up with innovative solutions. An iterative process of live reviews, including red team reviews, was implemented on a weekly and then daily basis. The quality of the bid began to improve and pretty soon a very strong first draft was created. Iterative reviews and rewrites continued for several weeks and the final submission was very strong.
The key lessons for us were that staff must be briefed in advance and this must continue throughout the process; and that templates containing indicative content are very powerful tools to guide those not used to completing a public sector tender.