To Bid or not to Bid? That is the BravoSolution RFP question

If you click on the Bravo logo to the right you can download (free on registration) their latest paper – To Bid or Not to Bid? 5 Best Practices for Asking RFP Questions.

It's another interesting paper, written by Ian Dawson who has been a hands-on procurement manager and is now a Consultant for BravoSolution. He highlights both some poor practice in construction of RFPs and gives five suggestions for good practice. They are:

• Think Small and Focused
• Include Key Terms and Conditions
• Give Suppliers the Correct Answer
• Explain the Questions
• Use Question Libraries

It's good advice, but in a couple of areas quite controversial.”Giving suppliers the answer” for instance might be counter intuitive to some. So rather than asking “what are your payment terms” in the RFP, he suggests you might position it as:

“Please indicate the payment terms your company will provide if you are awarded a contract. NOTE: [Buyer] requires Net 30 Days. Any answer other than Net 30 Days will lower your non-financial score and could impact your company being awarded a contract.” (Multiple Choice, Single Response Answer)

This certainly makes marking and scoring easier, and, as Dawson points out, makes it more likely that you get the terms you actually want.

Similarly, he is a fan of including the key contract terms and conditions in the RFP, and scoring suppliers based on how accepting they are of those Ts and Cs. Now when I was a practitioner, this tended to be part of the negotiations once we'd pretty much chosen the supplier, but I take his point - “having key terms and conditions in the RFP helps with the negotiation of the contract and typically delivers responses that are closer to what you're looking for”.

Some organisations – including large public sector bodies – are now taking that further and presenting a set of Ts and Cs on a “take it or leave it” basis. If you don't like them, don't bid. I do have a couple of concerns with that – it does require the organisation to be very sure of the robustness of the contract, as often suppliers come up with genuine improvements when they make suggestions. And secondly, some worthwhile bidders may simply not bid based on a single onerous condition that actually, when it comes down to it, might have been negotiable for the buyer.

On the other hand, it does save a lot of time in the process – so I suspect this is part of the “Lean Procurement” approach in the case of government.

Anyway, back to the Bravo Solution paper. On the poor practice side of things, Dawson raises the common complaint from suppliers that buyers ask too many questions and too many irrelevant questions. We all have our own favourites but Dawson mentions the supplier who phoned the Bravo help-desk to ask why he had to provide the buyer with his organisation's RIDDOR policy for reporting a death on a construction site, when the tender was for an audio conferencing service!

The Paper is short and to the point, so well worth ten minutes of your time - as I say, you can click on the banner or here to download.

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