Procurement Regulations

Post-Brexit procurement regs; an SME’s view.

We’re starting off 2019 with a guest blog from Bid Manager Steph Hague, which looks at procurement regulations in a post-Brexit world … 

Whether or not the UK will leave the EU on 29th March or at some point thereafter is still very much open to (heated) debate but, in the meantime, the far-reaching implications of Brexit are being considered across the public and private sectors to ensure readiness for a leave scenario, deal or no deal.  For those of us in the bidding world, the most significant issue will be any changes to the EU procurement regulations, which are currently aimed at ensuring that the purchasing of goods and services by public bodies in each EU Member State is open to EU-wide advertising and competition, creating an EU “single market” for public procurement.

It is safe to assume that the UK Government has no desire to move away from rules which support the core principles of transparency and competitive procurement.  Nonetheless, there have been calls for the rules to be simplified and made more flexible, including from the Local Government Association (LGA) which, in an August 2017 press release, proclaimed the benefits of a “lighter touch” system which simplifies procurement. 

The LGA claims that under the current rules the process can take twice as long as typical private sector procurements and that only 20% of English councils receive EU expressions of interest from companies based in other EU countries and only 1.6% of public contracts are awarded to companies in other member states. Both issues clearly reflect the frustration of those of us working for SMEs where, in reality, access to wider EU opportunities is of little interest and the bidding requirements for even low value, non-complex opportunities involve a significant resource, time and cost investment.

Of course, some regulation of public procurement will remain necessary post-Brexit in order to ensure that councils, and other public-sector bodies, continue to demonstrate best value for money and ensure effective and fair competition.  However, as the current processes and entry requirements rule out many SMEs, therefore supressing rather than encouraging competition, the post-Brexit world may offer an opportunity to really enable the Davids to compete against the Goliaths.

In reality, the scope for the UK to make substantial modifications to the UK Procurement Regulations is likely to be constrained, post-Brexit; the UK will most likely remain obliged to keep most of the core features of the current procurement rules, including prior advertising of above-threshold contracts, minimum time periods for certain stages of the process, the application of transparent, pre-disclosed criteria at the selection and award stages and, perhaps most crucially, non-discrimination against tenderers from other EU or GPA countries.

Watch this space…..

Bid writing

How to create winning bid CVs

Compiling a collection of standout bid CVs is one of the most important parts of any response, yet it’s one that can often be rushed through at the last minute – with a couple of word changes as an attempt at customisation.

To help your people stand out from the crowd guest blogger, Samantha Shilton has compiled a list of bid CV must-haves…

Set a structure 

Determining a standard structure for your bid CVs is a great place to start, and length-wise they should be no more than two pages long. You want to guide your audience to the key bits of information that differentiate you from your competitors. We recommend the following content areas:

  • Brief career overview and commitment to the project: Resist the urge to write War & Peace – just include some high level statements that demonstrate suitability for the role.
  • A snapshot of education and experience: This can usually be contained to a pull-out box, set to one side or positioned underneath the picture, and should include your most salient Years of service with employers is also highly valued, but there are certain countries where this is considered discriminatory – so feel free to leave this out.
  • Personal statement: A succinct quote from the individual about why they want to work on the project, and the skills and expertise they will bring to make it successful.
  • Cultural fit: A short statement on why the person is the right fit for the client organisation can give your CV a competitive edge. People with a track record of open, collaborative work practices are highly sought after, and any particularly innovative work as well as relevant previous experience should be clearly called out.
  • Practical experience: A shortlist of three mini case study-type examples will really bring your bid CVs to life. Focus on the achievements of the individual as opposed to the company – highlighting their specific job roles, ways they added value to the project and, crucially, why it’s relevant for this client on this project. You can even bold this or add as a subtitle of sorts to really make it stand out on the page.

Customise to the client 

Has the client requested references, or other elements not included in the above structure? In this case, make sure your template allows for the inclusion of these and do a little wordsmithing (with their approval) to make sure references read well and are tweaked to suit the project in question.

Demonstrate team efficacy 

If your team has worked together on a previous project, or for the client in question, insert this as a table in your submission. Teams that have worked together before and can demonstrate success from doing so tend to be more valued by clients in procurement processes.

Bid writing

What are win themes and why are they important?

We often see confused use of the term ‘bid win themes’, with various different interpretations within even a single organisation or a business unit, let alone across sectors or markets.

We see anything from great big long lists of what we would determine as client needs or service features to a single statement that is inward facing and means nothing to the client. Here is our interpretation …

Your bid win themes are your big memorable messages that will resonate with the client. We believe they should be three clear, succinct, client centric headline statements that sum up the outcomes you will deliver for them and the value those outcomes create.

So, what does all that mean?

We always say – visualise the key decision maker at the water cooler in their office talking to a colleague after having appointed a winner of their procurement process. When asked who has secured the business with them the decision maker should respond with your name followed by your three win themes as their reasons why. Your key messages. “Company A won the deal because of X, Y and Z . .  .”

Win themes are the ‘golden threads’ that will run throughout your executive summary, into your submission and your presentation. They should be the proposition at the heart of your exec summary and wherever possible – at least one of them should feature in every response or area of your bid. They should be the key anchor pillars of your presentation, and referred to at the start and in conclusion.

Win themes should:

  • be the ‘sum of the parts’ of your proposals, linking to your solution and propositions
  • resonate with the client as solving their issues, delivering their needs, and deriving value
  • be easy to understand – the client should ‘get it’ for each win theme in three seconds
  • be client centric, articulated in their language and terminology
  • provide clear unique differentiation from your competitors
  • be restricted to three big messages only, as people do not tend to remember more than three things from any form of communication.

Why are win themes important?

Your bid needs to be exciting and memorable. But more importantly, it needs to tell the client what’s in it for them and why they should select you – very clearly and quickly. Having well defined win themes that permeate throughout your proposals helps you achieve that. They provide three hooks that draw the client in and help them believe you are the supplier for them.

The development of win themes early in the bid process also helps galvanise your bid team, giving them belief that you will win and to go that extra mile by having clear differentiation.

Bid writing

Top tips for successfully kicking off your bid

It is vital that bids start positively. A good start provides direction to all involved, clarity of actions and drives momentum.

We find that traditionally many organisations, and indeed proposal consultants, tend to mobilise bids with a full team kick off meeting. In our experience there is a relatively high probability that these meetings can fall off track and become a bit of a zoo, with too many voices, not enough action agreed and a subsequent scattering of team members without a clear view of what they have been asked to do.

Don’t rush into being a collection of busy fools

Our key piece of advice is to not rush into starting up your full bid team. We advocate a focused strategy meeting prior to a full kick off. Bring together a smaller leadership group first to understand what is being asked of you in the clients’ documents and to define the win strategy. Ensure that the strategy session has clear leadership, with people encouraged to bring enthusiasm for the opportunity and a detailed understanding of the client, their influences and the opportunity

We would say that attendees should be limited to your executive sponsor for the opportunity, the designated bid leader (if one has been selected), your sales lead for the opportunity, a bid manager for the submission, your service delivery lead (who is likely to be the key delivery CV for your submission) and your commercial lead.

Make sure an appropriate amount of time is set aside for the strategy development in this session. Try to defend that time together, it will reap benefits later. This session is likely to be at least half a day and quite possibly a full day. If the opportunity is worth pursuing, then it must be worth spending time together to understand how to win it.

The attributes of the strategy meeting are:

  • That it is a focused leadership meeting
  • It is facilitated by the bid leader with participation from all
  • It is a ‘Blue sky thinking’ meeting, where innovation and enthusiasm about the opportunity come together
  • Its focused on how to win.

Now you can kick it off with control

Once you have your strategy nailed, then you can brief your wider team of contributors in a full kick off meeting.

The attributes of the kick-off meeting are:

  • That it sets the direction for the bid, affirming commitment and sponsorship
  • The meeting is led by the bid leader with a firm grip on the agenda
  • It is a more methodical action orientated meeting
  • There is an understanding of compliance among the attendees
  • Attendees are enthusiastic about the opportunity and going the extra mile

Splitting Strategy from Kick Off has the following benefits:

  • It gets your senior team and Sponsor aligned, so there is no confusion or dirty washing aired in front of the wider team – there is nothing worse than senior people disagreeing in front of room of their staff, appearing unprepared or setting a negative tone.
  • It provides clear direction, unpicking action from strategy – allowing you to brief the contributors and then focus on what you need them to do
  • Although it creates an additional meeting, ultimately it is more efficient and effective

Some basics – meeting preparation:

  • Distribute information at least 24-hour is prior to the meeting
  • Ensure you have appropriate meeting facilities booked in advance
  • Make sure you have the right people in the room, push for people to have their availability freed for the session
  • Make sure there are copies of the client documentation and any research in the room
  • Print off the agreed bid strategy and key messages and place them on the walls of the meeting room
  • Lastly, the bid leader and bid manager should develop a pre-populated draft bid plan in advance
Bid writing

Writing an epic executive summary

We’re bored of being bored by boring Executive Summaries. Bored.

We’ve lost count of drafts we receive with an opening line of: “we’re really pleased to have been invited to tender for this prestigious . . .something something commitment, blah blah” Yawn.

When it comes to executive summaries and bids in general remember  – clients do not care about you. They care about what you are going to do for them – what value are you going to create for them?

We’re also tired of being brought in towards the end of bids and teams are struggling to write a compelling executive summary. Your bid leader should be able to draft at least a decent draft executive summary based on the outcomes of your strategy session right at the start of the process.  If they can’t, why are you bidding for it?

Anyway. Grumble over. Instead, follow these top tips – be epic:

Order it for the client, not your ego – talk about them first

When you see a big group shot of a wedding you attended, what’s the first thing you look for? That’s right, yourself. Clients want to hear about themselves and to know that you get them. They want to know that you understand what they need, what their concerns are and how it needs to be tackled. Talk about the client first. Let them you know that you get their issues. Give them an introduction centered around your understanding – talking about their situation and needs, and why it’s important to them.

Make an impact

Then, once you have demonstrated that you understand their situation, the challenge and what is required – hit them with an ‘Impact statement’. This is a high-level strategic statement that demonstrates how you are going to solve their issues and the value you will deliver. It needs to be short, two or three lines at most. It’s a headline that should grab their attention, like in a newspaper. Preferably it should come in the first person from your delivery lead, the accountable person they will work with day to day.

Land your value proposition

Now unpack a bit more of how you are going to deliver value of that impact. Provide three headlines with associated details of your proposition.  This is the core of your exec sum, the value proposition made up of your win themes.  These should be the three big messages that the client remembers about your bid.

Don’t just talk about how much your service will cost, but walk them through the value. Sure, talk about your team, but focus on how their experience de-risks the project or speeds up mobilisation. Talk outcomes.

Bring the boom!

If you’ve got an impressive USP that sets your delivery apart from the rest, now is the time to tell them about it. Wow them with something they will find interesting and that they will remember.

Put your big guns last

And finally – do the ‘big guns’ bit. Provide a statement from your sponsor for the tender, a senior executive who will ultimately be responsible. This is where the commitment “blah blah” bit should go. Last.

Test it with the client?

Lastly, can you test any of it with the client before submission?  Can you at least double check that your proposition resonates with them? Ideally this should take place early on in the bid process to enable change and to provide confidence. You should ask yourself – if you don’t have a relationship where you can phone someone up at the client and test ideas with them, does somebody else?