Electronic Tendering is becoming more common place. On the face of it, e-tenders make sense as they give everyone a clear format to follow and help to reduce paper. However, many of our clients are complaining about difficulties encountered with electronic tendering.
Some Examples of Problems with Electronic Tendering
One council’s e-tendering system prohibits easy editing. Each time you save, you have to wait for up to 2 days to receive an email with a NEW hyperlink to get back into your e-tender! This really adds to the stress of tendering!
A utility company’s e-tender required a confusing combination of hard and soft formats. It involved completing text boxes on-line; uploading Word documents; and also printing, signing and posting certain documents.
E-tenders can be difficult to read on-line and download options are generally poor. Many have Excel spreadsheets to download, complete and upload. However Excel isn’t good for writing copy (eg no automatic spell-checking) and some of these spreadsheets have locked cells – making them difficult to work with. The work-around seems to be writing answers in Word, and then copying and pasting into Excel. What a waste of effort!
Sometimes the download documents are locked PDFs – again, not very helpful.
On-line text boxes often do not allow any formatting – making it harder to write good copy.
Apart from wasting time, these issues can be a barrier to collaborative working. This is bad as team working is an essential part of creating good bids.
Lastly, everyone’s’ fear – not being able to upload! For some reason many deadlines seem to be at noon on a Monday. A number of clients have uploaded their e-tenders over the weekend to avoid potentially congested portals!
On the flip side, many e-tenders are simply an electronic Word document that requires completing and uploading (perhaps with attachments and a few basic on-line questions). These are nice and straight forward – just like electronic tendering should be.
Experience indicates that good electronic tendering projects take the about same time to complete as traditional hard-copy tenders. But badly designed e-tenders take 20-30% longer.
Electronic tendering seems here to stay; if they are easy to use, then why not. Let’s just hope that the bad versions are binned ASAP!
Successful Electronic Tendering
The first thing is to remember an e-tender is still a tender. You should continue to follow all appropriate best practice as shown in Bid Management.
Secondly, take extra special care – make sure you that are totally clear on what is required in your response and how it should be submitted. If in doubt, ask for guidance.
Consider how it is formatted. How difficult will it be for the person marking your bid to read, understand and navigate the e-tender? Try and make text-box answers as easy to read as possible. Also make appendices easily identifiable by naming the files with the answer number as well as a suitable description (eg B2a Customer Care).
Lastly, do give yourself sufficient time to respond to everything correctly.
Does anybody else have any views or comments on E-tenders?