Go ahead then, prove it!

One of my biggest frustrations when entering the world of domestic tendering from international development tendering was the fact that submissions seemed to lack substance. They were well written. They were well presented. They had some nifty messaging (I guess …), but they had no weight. They didn’t resonate with me and I doubt very much they resonated with evaluation panels. The reason for that was because they were lacking evidence.

Over the last decade I have seen (and I hope I have influenced) a change in direction in submissions to the use of more examples, the application of more substantive case studies, the highlighting of features and benefit, the application of messaging based on client need rather than plucked from thin air, and the development of more granular approaches. But it is still not enough. It is still mostly reflective of things that have been done before, lessons that have been learnt before. It doesn’t point to the future and what might be achievable.

That is why over the last few years, I have been incredibly excited to see (and delighted to have been increasingly involved in) tenders which require an evidence-based approach. An approach which necessitates research to underpin decision-making; proof to make decisions about solutions; the monitoring and measurement of outcomes associated with projects over time. This is the substance that should drive tenders, the substance that makes the financial, time and resource investment in tenders worthwhile.

At the moment, I am involved in a major tender that is whole-heartedly embracing an evidence-based approach (and investing in it in terms of resources, time and money) and it has made everything easier.

We have:

  • research to underpin our decisions

  • analysis of that research to support design

  • quantitative and qualitative data to articulate benefit

  • a way in which to measure outcomes over time, and

  • genuine substance from which to derive our messaging.

Evidence. Imagine that. So, from now on, I’m changing my catch cry from “so what?” to “go ahead then, prove it!”.


Written by Deborah Mazoudier, Managing Director

A rainbow of insight.

I love post-it notes! Particularly colourful ones. They are, in my opinion, one of the best inventions of this century (and yes, all the better if they use recycled paper!).

My strategy sessions with clients invariably end with these colourful little friends scattered all over butcher’s paper, whiteboards, windows and walls (accompanied by my often unintelligible (except to me) scrawls linking them all analytically and thematically).

Most commonly, the rainbow these little squares of joy create, is a result of a strategy session brainstorming client drivers, project risks and opportunities, and potential to add value or innovate. And that rainbow is an insight into so much more than the potential themes of a tender strategy. It tells me:

  • Whether a client is capable of looking beyond the end of their own nose (or whether their approach is all “me, me, me”)

  • How well my client knows their client and if their engagement has engendered mutual trust and knowledge sharing

  • How much work a client has really done pre-tender to position themselves and their potential solution

  • Whether a client understands where their influence truly lies on a tender and how to make the most of the influence they have

  • Which of the client’s team can see the forest through the trees (and which are busy rustling around in the weeds beneath the trees)

  • Whether certain team members are able to understand the potential impact of their discipline on others, and

  • How willing a client and their team is to be taken out of their comfort zones and challenged to create something exceptional to be successful.

So, next time I come along to one of your workshops with my little pile of colour, you know I am assessing a whole lot more than if you actually have the potential to win!

ATFQ... Answer the full question!

I’m sitting in a bid room, about 2 weeks out from a submission deadline… Gold review is coming up and the Silver content received so far is sitting at about Bronze level. Frantically, I’m emailing back Silver schedules to the allocated subject matter experts for further information and clarification, with strict deadlines noted (such as COB today). Simultaneously, I’m reviewing the efficacy and relevance of the many attachments received with comments such as, “just refer all the questions in the schedules to all of the attachments on this email”.

I say to myself (unknowingly out loud), “these attachments only answer 1 out of 5 parts of the question”, to which the Bid Manager responds with a grin, “reply to them ATFQ!”. Call me naïve, but this acronym was new to me, my guess was it stood for answer the full question! His explanation of it was slightly different but both to the same effect. We both had a giggle and decided that it was obviously coffee time and took a break.

If the Client asks a question and deliberately provides space for an answer in their issued schedules, then it is probably fair to presume that they want us to answer it there, unless otherwise stated in the requirements.

Attachments are kind of like a double-edged sword when it comes to tendering, on one hand the business has put in a lot of work to accurately manage and record their history, relevant experience, human resource, systems and processes. On the other hand, all these attachments, when added to a tender without care, can water down or overload your responses unnecessarily, or worse, confuse and overwhelm the Client.

However, in a schedule such as industrial relations, you could be asked to provide a few things in a single question, for example;

“Please provide a copy of your Industrial Relations Management Plan (IRMP), discuss and provide information about any disputes (e.g. Unfair Dismissal Applications, Bullying Applications, ROE disputes etc) elevated to the Fair Work Commission in the last 24-months, and also include your process for new employees”.

In this example, if you only attach and refer the Client to your Sample IRMP and process for new employee’s, without addressing the disputes component of the question (even if you don’t have any), then you have not ATFQ.

To ensure compliance when answering questions, break them down into sub-questions and requirements and set out to answer each one. Once you have all the answers you can then formulate and structure your response from there. Using the example above, there are three components to this question, they are as follows:

  1. Provide a sampled copy of the IRMP as an attachment

  2. Provide a statement relating to any disputes within the company that have been elevated to the Fair Work Commission, coupled with any necessary evidence/documentation

  3. Provide a statement relating to the process for new employees and if necessary, provide evidence of the process/documentation.

So please, I implore you, ATFQ!!


Written by Brittany Walker, Tender Specialist

It costs how much??

You would think on tenders that some things would just come easily. It should be a simple task to access the value of a project, shouldn’t it?

I have worked on hundreds of tenders over the last decade alone and one of the most difficult things for each and every organisation I have worked with is to consistently present the value of their own projects.

I worked on major tender recently with a highly sophisticated client and the showcase project that was to be used across the majority of the returnables (experience, approach, people) had seven different values once I had finished highlighting in yellow everywhere it appeared in the bid.

The majority of tenders are contractually binding offers. What happens if you misrepresent your capability and then the client relies on that information?

And that is why a seemingly simple request from a client for the value to be included in a project experience sheet strikes fear in some of the best tender managers and coordinators I know. It strikes fear in them because they know that in amongst all the information, they have available to them across multiple tenders they have worked on, the most common inconsistency is the value of projects.

This arises due to interpretation. The client could be asking for various values:

•              The project value as a whole on a job of which you are only a part

•              The project value just in terms of your part of the job

•              The contract value which is only a proportion of the project value

•              The value of the first phase of a three-phase project

•              The contract plus the contract extension value, or

•              What you made from the project which is another kettle of fish all together.

The point is that you need to firstly define the value that the client is asking for and then ascertain what it is.

And the only way in which to do that and then prevent inconsistency on and among tender responses is to have a list of agreed values available for each project over the last 5 – 10 years in your tender library that are not subject to interpretation.

Maybe then, we can all put our yellow highlighters away.

By Deborah Mazoudier, Managing Director

To bid or not to bid, that is the question...

My apologies to Shakespeare, but in the tendering world, the most critical question to answer is whether or not your organisation should proceed with a bid.

I like to strategise and win (Machiavelli is more my style) and the decision to proceed or not proceed with a tender, and how this decision is made, needs to be purely strategic.

Preparing a tender response requires significant investment and resources. Chasing work that doesn’t align with your organisational strategy and capability will result in wasted time and money, and send your win rate down the drain.  

To save yourself the pain, and an extra long meeting with the Board, when determining the suitability of a tender, keep these four keys areas in mind:

Alignment: The extent to which the opportunity aligns with, and contributes to, the strategic goals of the business (growth / direction / financial).

Capability and capacity: The extent to which the opportunity reflects:

  • An existing relationship with client

  • Knowledge and understanding of client / project

  • Sound to significant insight into client need

  • Ability to meet minimum requirements

  • Track record / past experience / incumbency

  • Available key personnel

  • Agreements in place for teaming / partnerships

Competitiveness: The extent to which you can compete and differentiate yourself in terms of:

  • Client relationship

  • Scale

  • Complexity

  • Footprint

  • Innovation

  • Track record

  • Key personnel

  • Price

Resourcing: The extent to which you can support a successful tender in the timeframe. Are your key personnel available during the tender period? Is there budget available to support the costs of preparing the tender submission? What will be the impact of completing the tender on your current portfolio commitments?

Ideally, assessing the suitability of a tender is done well in advance. If you have an established tender pipeline, even before the tender drops, you can start to consider the four areas above and document any thoughts as you go. If the timeframe for assessment is only short, you should scrutinise the potential opportunity even more precisely.

Happy bidding!

Written by Lauren Jesberg, Senior Tender Specialist

Sorry... why are you calling?

It is often easy to overlook the importance of identifying an organisational referee(s) when you are presented with a (insert ridiculously big number here) page Request for Tender. Many tenders call for multiple referees and the importance of the referee role is something that should not be underestimated.

Whilst it might be simple to grab the contacts list and peruse the CRM system for those who would speak positively of the organisation, remember that the selected referee will be asked to provide evidence of your organisation’s ability to deliver the services required, therefore supporting the claims of your tender.

This evidence could be in the form of recent examples related to your organisation’s ability to:

  • nominate appropriately skilled and qualified Account Managers (or similar positions)

  • implement a new service or transition a service from another provider

  • meet and/or exceed key performance indicators

  • meet all Legislative requirements of service delivery

  • deliver within budget over the term of a contract

  • deal positively with an unexpected matter that has had an impact on the service

  • participate in conflict resolution processes

  • provide regular and comprehensive reporting

Oh. It is always helpful if they could address the above points in a positive and professional manner too!

It is critical that you seek the consent from the referee to nominate them and provide their contact details. There is nothing worse than getting close to the shortlist, only for the tender assessment panel to make a call to someone who has no idea why they are being contacted.

Keep in mind that there can be situations that arise where someone is asked to be a referee for multiple competing tenderers. Should you feel this might be the case, you may deem it appropriate to set a Confidentiality Agreement in place.

Given that the tender review process may take weeks, it is also useful to keep in mind that there could be a large time delay between when you speak with the referee(s) and when they are contacted by the tender assessment team. Providing your referee(s) with a written overview that provides a high-level summary of the work you are tendering for and why you believe your organisation would be best placed to be awarded the work, is a handy way to prepare them for when they are contacted.

Happy bidding!