Winning Bids in the Telecoms Sector

The last 20 years have seen much change in the Telecoms sector with professional buyers having increased insight, expectations and sophistication. Technology trends have driven digitisation and an increased use of portals for bidding.

Increasing convergence of Telecoms and broadcasting infrastructure has led to nationwide solutions rather than customised local networks. Corporations have merged and government departments have amalgamated to form much larger buying organisations.

National imperatives have developed to meet Government visions and initiatives for citizens using new technologies including programmes for rural coverage.

Telecoms Requirements feature in most bids

Telecoms aspects are often included in bids for other services such as in construction and real estate. Most industry sectors recognise telecommunications as a core need, especially in utilities, security, transportation and where mobile signal may not be accessible at all times.

Reliable communications and a digital backbone are vital in every sector and bidding activity can be driven either by the sector or the Government. Extending coverage into rural areas has become an increasing priority, especially for bids in the healthcare, transport, agriculture and education sectors.

Price/Quality Evaluation in Public Sector

Price is a key element but Quality and Contractual Terms are increasingly important with evaluation ranges that are typically:

  • Quality 40%-80%
  • Price 20%-60%
  • Acceptance of Contract Terms 10%-15%

Focus on Quality

Crucial areas to strengthen Telecoms responses include:

  1. Outcomes to deliver dependable, well-designed solutions to meet the stated requirements.
  2. Flexibility which in Telecoms bids is often evaluated as the ability to get to the required end points geographically or have a minimum percentage national coverage.
  3. Programme Management and the ability to prove you have the people, processes and systems to deliver and flexibly engage with a range of stakeholders.
  4. Innovation and Technology Refresh especially in a longer term contract which may have upgrade requirements and innovation expected over the period of the contract.
  5. Customer Service so that users are assured of friendly, consistent, effective and reliable service, especially for client focused telephony solutions.

The appeal of 5G

Cellular coverage on 5G features low latency, high bandwidth and high reliability for mobile and remote services.

Low latency means communications travel quickly and high reliability and high bandwidth opens up use cases on a wide range of applications across all sectors of business and industry as well as consumer uses.

This may be beneficial for general public uses across a range of interactions but the key impact is for industry. For example, instantaneous rich high bandwidth data could support remote surgery, run automated vehicles or provide real time interaction for manufacturing, education and entertainment.

The Government is keen to test these ideas and expand 5G coverage across the country.

Cyber Security

For larger organisations ISO 27001 is the minimum standard expected for Cyber Security in the Telecoms sector. It is also important for smaller organisations who may not hold ISO 27001 but shape their business to it as their gold standard.

Additional rigour is expected especially when supporting critical national infrastructure and essential services. This can be outlining your organisation’s ability to contribute to future enhancements including: thought leadership, future road map, ethical hacking, physical security of sites, high levels of personnel vetting and training programmes on security awareness for employees and contractors.

Balancing the requirements of Proven, Innovative & Guaranteed

Telecoms is a sector synonymous with innovation but there is often a dichotomy within the bid requirements. Buyers want proven and reliable low risk solutions while also seeking innovative and leading edge technology in areas such as AI and IoT. Stable and new often has the additional request of also being guaranteed. This is a challenge, especially when the scoring for a requirement is based on all three areas being fully met.

To meet these requirements the bid response must:

  • First and foremost provide a compelling company story to establish track record and evidence of consistent delivery of reliable and stable solutions.
  • Demonstrate an innovative mindset for future developments and novel approaches that can augment the established solutions in the future. This can include industry collaborations and any engagement with Government initiatives such as knowledge transfers networks, catapults and testbeds.
  • Detail what will be guaranteed as a commitment to service and performance quality levels with their associated SLAs.

Innovate UK funding and multiple Government initiatives are available to encourage new solutions and technology breakthroughs. Often smaller companies are more open to exploring ideas and building in solutions for the future. Larger tenders typically look for a solution that is established and stable considering innovation as a subsequent layer so it is important to understand your customers’ expectations and appetite for risk.

Key Considerations for Successful Public Sector Bids

Public Sector bids benefit from transparency in the process and clear scoring methodologies. They are often also highly complex incorporating other key factors including:

  1. Stakeholder Management – a network of stakeholders and the interplay between must be captured and considered. In Telecoms this can include government departments, large scale operators, providers of equipment, infrastructure, permissions etc. Different priorities, relationships, funding and communication between all parties can be complicated but crucial. Ensure your solution addresses the full audience and delivers what is key to all the influential parties and decision makers.
  2. Maximise your Scoring – a clearly defined scoring methodology identifies exactly what you need to address to optimise scoring. A rigorous use of clarification questions will get you the information you need to fully understand the weightings and modify and refine your response accordingly.
  3. Political Sensitivity – evaluate the stated objective of the procurement and what the bid will enable, then how this links to political considerations. This may be national outcomes or strategic priorities such as sustainability, efficiency, value for money, digital inclusion etc. These links may not be stated but you can improve scoring by connecting your response to the bigger strategic and policy objectives.

Private Sector Bids – Key Considerations for Success

Private Sector bids also require high levels of professionalism and attention to detail. Not being in the public domain they can be more flexible but also are less transparent:

  1. The Negotiation Mindset – Private Sector requirements frequently have a higher level of focus on the pricing and commercial terms so expect a negotiation to be a core part of the process.
  2. Capture and Stakeholder Management – as the participants are less visible there is less transparent communication and the decision making process will not be shared as it is in Public Sector. A professional sales and business development team will be required to engage and explore the buyers requirements, understand internal politics, identify drivers, motivations and priorities as well as gaining an insight on budgets and pricing. The information provided by the team and your ability to translate this into your response and commercial offer may well be the deciding factor of a successful bid.

Impact of Covid-19

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of Telecoms as the world has relied upon all areas of the industry more heavily than ever before. In general, the sector has performed extremely well and is keeping us all connected.

Telecommunication infrastructures have been built with robust resilience protocols and additional capacity for peaks. Operating to peak demand is now the new normal level of operation with increased home working and home schooling for dispersed workforces with online customer interactions.

The importance of communication has been recognised with some of those working in the industry classified as key workers delivering a range of essential services: constructing, maintaining and upgrading networks.

During the pandemic Telecoms procurement has generally continued in recognition that continued investment will sustain and grow our new models of working, providing services and conducting business. There is an ongoing political will to maintain the support and innovation in this sector.

Trends for the future

Key to innovation is having stable platforms to allow people to explore, experiment and innovate for the future. Consolidation will continue to provide larger platforms of solid reliable networks that are able to deliver a wider range of services, solutions and infrastructure.

Innovation Funding

The Government seeks to mobilise and galvanise ideas with a range of incentives and initiatives for innovative solutions. Specifically dedicated innovation funding is assigned for technology, telecoms and adjacent technologies. With advances in 5G, AI, IoT and increased focus due to the pandemic it is likely current funding levels will increase over the coming years.

Key Attributes in a Telecoms Sector Bid Professional

  1. Strategic perspective – stakeholder view of things, good understanding of drivers from all participants and ideally being involved from the capture stage.
  2. Attention to detail –managing a high level of complex detail at all levels of the solution, programme delivery, contractual stage, pricing matrix and scoring by liaising with key people who own those areas of expertise.
  3. Resilience and Curiosity – always ask questions and challenge to tease out nuggets. Be passionate about the benefits solutions deliver and just keep going!