As 2016 draws to a close, what bid trends can we expect to see in 2017? Reflecting on activity in the diverse sectors in which I am active, and looking ahead to 2017, I am calling out 6 Bid Trends for 2017. To quote Bob Dylan, The times they are a changin’, so it is vital that you factor what is changing into your planning for bid success for 2017.
1. Procurement Processes – Some fundamental changes here, including the 2016 introduction of the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), aka known as the Supplier Questionnaire (SQ). On one hand, this is saving bidders the time of reinventing the wheel each time a PQQ is issued; however, on the other hand, it means that many buyers are going straight to an Open procurement route, with the ESPD being the Qualification and bidders being asked to submit a full ITT (Tender) response at first point of asking. Other trends include some public sector bodies producing Annual Procurement Strategies (now a legal requirement in Scotland for organisations with annual spend >£5 million). These can be very useful reference points for business development planning. We are also seeing an increased use of Framework Agreements and mini tender competitions, rather than separate procurement processes for each requirement. Getting on Frameworks will now be more important than ever as missing this bus could shut you out of opportunities for 1-8 years.
2. Impacts of Brexit – There is no doubt that the Brexit vote is concentrating minds in public, private and third sector organisations. Whilst no immediate changes are expected for procurement (EU procurement rules are all enshrined in UK primary legislation), access to labour markets is now featuring as a concern for both buyers and bidders. For example, on construction projects, it will be important for bidders to clearly articulate how they will deliver the contract against a potential backdrop of decreased access to labour markets and increased costs of materials. Thus, contract delivery, contingency planning, risk mitigation and business continuity responses will be examined in even more detail than previously. Bidders should also look closely at the commercials and the contract change control provisions around materials price increases.
3. Increased emphasis on SMEs – The UK Government has a stated intention of £1 in every £3 of government spend going to SMEs by 2020. This can be either directly or through the supply chain. So, SMEs are being given more focus, but a recurring debrief theme can be around the quality of their bids. Buyers are legally required to evaluate fairly and so a professional bid response from a large organisation will often outscore an in-house bid from a SME. However, SMEs can increase their prospects of success by bringing in an external bid specialist. The specialist can help the SME by accentuating the benefits of contracting with them, whilst at the same time strengthening their bid responses to avoid own goals and nosebleeds.
4. Social Value / Community Benefits – We are seeing an increasing emphasis on social value (termed community benefits in Scotland). When these questions first started appearing in bids, they were often For Information Only and Not Scored. However, the times they are a changin’ here too, with scoring being seen in the 5%-20% range, and one bid I am working on currently has them at 25%. The exam question for bidders is not so much what you are doing in this area at present (although this is important) but what you will deliver locally as a direct result of being awarded this contract. Whilst local jobs and apprenticeships have a high priority, there are many other community benefits that can also be considered.
5. Water Market Opening – The water market in England is opening to competition in April 2017, meaning that non-domestic customers (public, private and third sector organisations) will be able to choose their supplier of water and wastewater services. In addition to some cost savings (relatively minor in most cases), multi-site organisations will have the important benefit of dealing with a single supplier across the country and getting, if they want, a single bill. The shadow market is currently open and we are seeing plenty of tender activity as customers get prepared for market opening.
6. External Bid Support – In an increasingly competitive bidding environment, more and more bidders are realising the significant benefits accruing from specialist assistance. For example, in addition to being the Bid Consultant for 2 of the UK’s largest businesses, I am also being brought in by one of the world’s largest professional services firms. These organisations have their own bid / pitch teams, but highly value the external challenge and ideas from a multi-sector bid specialist. Many SMEs are dispensing with discrete bid staff in favour of bringing in experienced external resource when they need it – a flexible approach that delivers higher win rates at a lower cost. Other companies, new to bidding, use an external resource to help them navigate the world of bidding.
Further information on the services we can provide to bidders can be found here.