Has the time now come to move on from ‘trial by portal’?
It probably seemed a good idea at the start: narrow down the basic corporate info to yes/no answers and force tenderers to develop summary narratives about product and service capability to fit those cute little character-limited boxes. Then reduce scope to illustrate answers with graphics or illustrations. And rule out the inclusion of marketing or sales material that is not expressly requested.
Certainly this makes it easy for evaluators to carry out electronic comparisons across the submissions and eliminate the non-compliers. And sure it can save time and cost to automate these qualification processes. And yet. And yet. It’s hardly a surprise that homogenising responses has squeezed out almost every ounce of creativity, personality and differentiation from the suppliers’ input. It’s literally the definition of writers’ block…!
So now the evaluators have everyone looking the same, how to select a winner? How to establish which supplier is really the best fit for the job? How does any supplier differentiate or stand out in that restricted tendering environment?
Procurement teams then have to rely on the in-person (or Zoom or Teams) presentation to flesh out the responses. Which actually makes the selection process once again more subjective. The best presenters on the day may prevail, as opposed to the best solution. In other words, creating exactly the environment the marvellous portal protocols were designed to avoid…
We’ve already seen sales teams coming back from bid presentations and asking for help to write up new propositions based on discussions there. To conduct a fair assessment process, the client then needs to allow the other tenderers to write up similar propositions. All of which extends the procurement when they could have asked for the creative and innovative responses at the start.
Surely it’s only a matter of time, then, before the pendulum swings back to a more truly inclusive process: where tenderers can demonstrate their creativity and highlight their points of differentiation as part of the main bidding activity. Which may need more than 2,000 characters.
So… creative bid writers: get the coffee on, empty the toast crumbs from your keyboard (or is that just me?) and look forward to reclaiming our ‘writeful’ place in the bidding process once again. The tick-box tyrants may finally have had their day….