Posts Tagged ‘tenders’

Can you tie your shoelaces in Pakistan?

November 28, 2016

shoelaces

Can you give us three examples of where you have done this work in our sector?

I saw where they were going with the question but in a way and quite respectfully it was a nonsensical one.

To make the point I started to talk about shoelaces!

Are you able to tie your shoelaces in Pakistan?” I asked.

If you’ve never been to Pakistan then you probably can’t answer this question for certain but the truth is that if you can tie your shoelaces where you are right now then there is a 99% chance that you will be able to do it there.

Once you have developed a skill, you have the skill!

When we look for “evidence” that someone has the ability to do a particular task (as in tender situations where it is often a requirement) we need to be sure that we do not use criteria that may quite possibly eliminate the very best people to do the job!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Strategic Communications, Marketing, PR, Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Tenders and sun tans!

July 4, 2015

Working on holidays

At last our holiday – a week in Italy with family and great friends. We had a nice place booked for all of us just outside Siena for seven days to rest, relax, chill out and generally recharge the batteries.

Myself and Dee got there a few days in advance and we were due to pick up our buddy and his girlfriend from the train station in Siena for their much deserved break – he works his ass off all year round and the odd time we get to collaborate on work projects.

I called him the day before we were due to collect them to confirm arrangements and he was a little upset – his company was on a supplier panel for a semi-state body and a project was just put out to tender.

This project, which was right up his street and closely related to a bigger project that we had worked with him on was given a one week deadline for responses.

A one week deadline on a tender for a complex project like this is highly unusual and quite unreasonable. At this holiday time of the year it is more so.

Not only is it unfair but if this organisation are genuine about getting the best providers pitching then one weeks notice just shoots themselves in the foot – you have to ask the question, is it a genuine tender process or is designed for their preferred supplier who are fully briefed and ready to submit to win?

Dilemma – Was he to grab a laptop from somewhere and work on the tender submission, which would take up at least a full day of his hard earned holidays or pass? A contract like this would be important to him and his company so it was a big decision.

My buddy did the reasonable thing and asked for a one week extension – surely this was quite reasonable?

They would have done well to allow him this “break”:

  1. There was no real urgency on this work (this semi-state have dragged their heels on this project for well over a year already)
  2. He is hugely knowledgeable on the project and would provide a valuable tender (they know he has this knowledge)
  3. A weeks notice is unreasonable and highly unusual
  4. The request was ‘fair’ and reasonable
  5. They will have a better chance of more quality tender submissions

As expected he got his response;

I have contacted the evaluation team to review the possibility of extending the deadline, unfortunately we are unable to extend

..fantastic!

I know a guy working there who holds quite a senior role and asked him to look into it.

He investigated it and confirmed that nothing could be done …. the thing is of course it can be. When it suits them anything can be done.

My buddy as he was taking a rare week off with his other half decided after much torment against working on the tender proposal and ruining a big portion of his holiday but it did upset him.

In truth I believe he made a great decision because if they really wanted a proposal from his company it would have happened.

I suspect that if he had given up his time and submitted the best, competitively priced proposal of all time it still would not have won him the job.

Readers of my blog will have heard me giving out about the tender process before – some agree with me and others feel I am moaning and I should accept that this is just the way it is and ‘shut up‘. It has been suggested by some that most tenders are done and dusted in advance of them being published and this is ‘Just the way it is‘.

I strongly believe that tender processes are too often being manipulated, including the use of every possible trick at times to ensure that fairness and the very reason that these processes were introduced in the first place are not applied – this happens over and over.

I have also come to believe that complaining is a total and utter waste of time and probably ends up working against you both in the short and long run.

The sooner there is a body with real power that can oversee the proper application of our tender rules (these are the government agencies that we pay for) and processes and genuinely investigate complaints the better. Without this nothing will change and these farcical situations will continue as they always have.

As for my buddy I suspect his frustration will last longer than his tan ..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR, Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

Tenders that are anything but

February 19, 2015

Tenders

I’ve had enough ..

The call came through directly to us that we were invited to tender for supplying social media training services across the country for this state body (I won’t mention who it was for the  moment).

Alarm bell number one..

Why wasn’t this put out to tender on the normal etender website I wondered?

I get quite suspicious when this happens – isn’t there a normal procedure for this?

Alarm bell number two..

We received the specification for this training and I was really surprised by how specific it was and by some of the language used. The objective was outlined clearly and it was up to the service providers to provide a solution. The thing is the ‘solution‘ was nearly fully mapped out in the specification.

One of the challenges for us was that the prescribed ‘solution’ would not achieve the required objectives.

We were well qualified to deliver a comprehensive solution for this organisation and we have huge relevant experience in the area so we went about writing a plan. This work took me the best part of a day to complete.

Alarm bell number three..

There was a very unusual item in the specification advising that the provider should budget “in a range of between €21,000 and €24,000“.

Why would a state organisation provide anyone tendering with a price guide? This was particularly surprising when the published ‘marking criteria‘ included cost.

Is it not up to each provider to assess the need and then provide a budget to fulfil this need?

Our proposal ..

We completed our proposal and included a more comprehensive training schedule than what was prescribed in their specification, clearly explaining why less training would not achieve their objectives.

I priced this using our normal rates and I was surprised that despite the heavier workload our budget came in a few thousand under the €21,000 – €24,000 price range as indicated.

We submitted our proposal and crossed our fingers – this was a really well thought out substantial and comprehensive evaluation and training plan.

Just like every proposal you work on, you end up investing your time and a little part of yourself in them and you become hopeful – on this proposal we were definitely hopeful.

Alarm bell number four – time to evacuate the building!!

We received our ‘Dear John‘ letter within days of submitting the proposal and we also received our score compared to the winning proposal based on the evaluation criteria.

On ‘methodology and fit for purpose‘ we scored 1,800 out of 3,000.

Surprise,surprise …the winning provider scored a full 3,000!!

Our methodology took their specification and went deeper and more comprehensive – I could feel the rage starting to build inside me.

A score of 1,800 means we barely know what we are doing ..

On ‘quality and balance of resources proposed‘ we scored 2,800 out of 3,500.

Surprise, surprise (once again!!)…the winning provider scored a full 3,500!!

Wow …they must be brilliant. Like those kids in school who get 100% out of 100% for everything.

The rage was starting to brim over … the cat, the dog, the laptop, the office door – nothing was safe (don’t worry I just cursed a lot!)

On ‘cost‘ we scored 3,500 out of 3,500..Jackpot!

Surprise, surprise …we beat the winning provider because our costs were below what was prescribed in the tender document. My accounting training was starting to pay off!

Rules and regulations..

I feel sorry for the government agencies as they are obliged to put things out to tender even when they might have a preferred provider. This ‘technically‘ means there is always 100% transparency, fairness and honesty and equal opportunity for everyone.

90% of the providers I have met have given up on this tender process because they believe it is a farce and a colossal waste of time and anything but fair.

In the commercial world we can work with whoever we want and when we want even if providers are more expensive – this makes business easy as we can just get on with things and not be forced into a painful ‘tender’ process every single time we want to get our business done.

However, these rules are in place and when these agencies are obliged to put things out to tender this commits anyone (fools like us) who is interested in the work to spend a lot of time working on proposals.

If the process is genuine we will play the game and put our best foot forward and let the best crew win.

When it is not and we are being used unfairly just so that the agency can ‘tick the box‘ on their technical obligations it is a much different manner.

What can we do??

This time I have had enough and I am complaining, freedom of information, the whole nine yards and I don’t care about the consequences.

The dilemma we all have is that ‘we don’t want to be seen as the troublemakers‘ and if we complain then we run the risk of not getting some crumbs from the table down the road.

We pay our taxes, which pays for these state agencies and if these rules are in place I won’t put up with anyone wasting our precious time just so they can tick a box and give the business to their favoured supplier.

I’ll let you know how this one goes…

Update !!

A lot of people have contacted me since I published this post.

Many are irate and have given up on the tender system as they feel it is anything but. Some have criticised me and told me that we are naive to expect any of this to be a chance of winning business – ‘play the game‘ and get in there before things go to tender, which is how you win things I am told.

I desperately want to believe that this system can work fairly and that it is a valid way of winning business.

With that rationale I did officially complain and as expected I didn’t get very far..

There were explanations

Performance – the winning company apparently committed to seven times more activity than what was outlined in the brief. I can’t see how this would be necessary and I struggle to see how the teams would be free to attend that much training. We will keep a careful eye on that one.

Budget – they told me that it is their “normal practice” to give a budget guideline to be fair to everyone tendering. I don’t think I have seen this in a tender, at least not the ones we have entered.

The unexplained

It turns out another company who tendered for the work scored exactly the same as we did on the criteria except for the cost element. An incredible coincidence …what do you think?

They contacted me when they saw this post and have decided not to complain as they want to make sure that they do get those ‘crumbs from the table‘ the next time they might be going.

Maybe they are right!

Next steps .. lets see

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Thierry Henry and the Tender

December 12, 2012
Thiery Henry Goal v Ireland

Farce?

Remember that feeling after Thierry Henry handled the ball and everyone saw it..

We all knew when we got just 4 days notice for this tender that the whole process was stacked against us..

How in the name of God can you turn around a decent plan in just 4 days? – this request was challenging and it was designed to work against everyone except who was lined up to get it, probably who had the contract already?

This was the third year when this contract was out for “tender”.

Year 1 – we put what we felt was a really good plan together – we put huge effort into the proposal. In any normal pitch situation we will be invited in for a briefing where we can probe the client, get an understanding of the issues and put a decent plan together. In a tender situation you don’t have this opportunity.

We weren’t even invited to present …hmmm, that’s unusual – the plan we submitted was really strong and priced competitively. Maybe the other plans were so much better that we didn’t even deserve the opportunity to present?

Year 2  – let’s dig even deeper. Our plan was really strong, priced competitively and once again we didn’t even get a chance to present. Hmmm.. that’s unusual, were we that far off the pace again? I was surprised so this time I carefully monitored the event and the media coverage to see what “magic” was delivered to the event that we were not able to provide – to be honest it seemed to be more of the same as every other year, no new ideas and more of the same formula repeated.

Ok ….this time, lets request a meeting in advance of the tender process so we can meet the team and have that opportunity to get a proper debrief. This meeting went well and we seemed to actually address all of their key issues in our previous plan – there was no point pointing that out! It was clear from this briefing meeting that the whole project had gone stale and needed a shake-up. We stated clearly that we wanted a fair crack of the whip this year.

Year 3 – We get four days notice, and they are operating to a tight budget …hmmm, that’s unfair and the launch date is nearly here.

Let’s make a choice – do we bow out (making it easy for whoever) and not accept the challenge or do we drop what we are working on, dig deep and ask the team to put everything into turning around a plan within the few days? Let’s go for it..this is a contract for a project we really wanted to work on.

We put everything into this plan, give a great price well within the stated tight budget and sure enough we get the “Dear John” letter and  once again not even the opportunity to present.

Was our plan that inferior?

I’m not bragging but when Fuzion get a fair crack of the whip we win more than our share of accounts – here we weren’t even worthy of a “look-in”. We are really busy, we have grown our business winning lots of great new contracts from Irish and international clients but this is a particular one that we were determined wanted to win.

While we pretend to be following guidelines and giving everyone a “fair” chance a lot of this appears to be window dressing and the usual suspects normally end up getting these contracts, because they always have ..this right must earned fairly.

How was that for a rant !!

Must make a cuppa, forget about Thierry and put my head down .. I have way too much to do!

A late addition to the blog post compliments of Brendan Palmer – this is a great YouTube clip

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion