Extracting Useful Information From Failed Bids – a View From IBM

One of the indicators of a good conference in total or at individual speech level is when you get some "nuggets" that make you think "I really hadn't thought of that before". It doesn't have to be a life-changing session or presentation in total, and let's face it, we don't see many of those, but something that just gives that little frisson of excitement that can come from something new or original.

One of those moments hit me in the presentation last week at the ISM / Spend Matters Procurement Tech Summit. In the session from IBM’s Vice President of Global Procurement Dan Carrell, there was a lot of discussion around data and the power of analytics and taking that into Artificial Intelligence and the “Watson” super-computer solutions the firm is beginning to offer. We’ll have another more detailed discussion around his session shortly.

However, the specific point for today is this. “Watson” type discussions about the power of big data and so on can all sound somewhat theoretical, but the comment from Carrell that made me sit up and take notice was: "think about how much information there is in all the bids and tenders we get from potential suppliers who don't win the contract".

Yes, of course! It's fairly obvious once he said it, but I confess that is not something I've really considered previously. When I think of some of the public sector bids I've rejected in my time, the amount of information that was contained in those documents was huge - now might some of that have proved useful and helped in some way if we had been able to extract what was relevant?

Analysis of pricing for instance, particularly in complex contracts, might have told us something interesting about how our winning supplier put their bid together or how to contract manage them better once the delivery phase was under way. There may be market information that could provide benchmarking insight into the winning bid or even other contracts we have in place.

What about any innovative ideas lost in those unsuccessful bids? There is almost always something useful even in what might be the weakest overall proposals. If we were able to grab hold of those ideas and that data, in a systemic manner, what might that allow us to do better or differently?

Now this isn't something you can instantly implement - but it might be worth considering even if you don't have the clever technology to facilitate the process. Even a manual review of failed bids might be illuminating. Now we're not claiming this idea is a game-changer for procurement, but it is another interesting example of how we can act professionally and generate more value for our organisations through better data analytics. So thanks to Carrell and it was certainly an idea that got me thinking.

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