We held our second breakfast event, Bids and Procurement LIVE! 2 on the 12th June.
These events are essentially mini-conferences for people with an interest in bids and procurement.
We find it’s a great forum to bring together both sides of the story in one place to drive greater mutual understanding and sharing of best practice and current insights.
The speakers and panel members are drawn from UK industry across both the public and private sectors. The event was near capacity again, with an audience from a wide variety of organisations of all sizes.
We followed the same format as before with two panel discussions and an interview. The panels were on ‘bid and procurement tech’ and ‘leading and developing great teams’. The interview was with Simon Boyle, award winning Chef and the brains behind the social enterprise Beyond Food. Conducted by Red Review co-host Mike Reader, the interview focused on the subject of leveraging more social enterprises into procurements and bids.
Bid and procurement tech
The first panel made for a lively start and the panel had some great questions to answer courtesy of the audience.
The immediate theme that emerged was that we are seeing a change from tech just getting the bidder side community to a ‘first draft’ to a new focus on getting us to a ‘final draft’. We’re seeing collaboration becoming the focus, working together online, for example leveraging integration through Microsoft Office 365 and their teams platform.
There’s a need to use existing technology smarter, stuff that already exists, combined with a real trend of new entrants in the content management systems space – pushing the boundaries.
The key question that should be considered with thinking about how and what tech to deploy should be – where are you looking to drive efficiency?
For instance – document analytics insights from Tilkee show that people only truly read a small proportion of the content they are sent. Stéphane said that: “people are only taking four minutes to read 80 pages.” Andrew Gittins commented that: “The game has changed from people taking seven minutes to read four pages to them only taking one minute.”. They are skimming content looking for triggers that are relevant to them.
The way people consume content and make decisions is changing fast.
Victoria Whitcroft and Andy Perrins talked about how the public sector are under pressure to change their behaviours and to drive efficiency in their procurement documents, their requirements and how they are scored.
There is a drive for Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS). There was some debate on watch outs with DPS not having guaranteed workloads through them and having numerous suppliers on board versus the benefits of the ease of getting on them. I challenged the need for public sector users of the DPS approach to be forced to use the same ‘mini-bid’ template and questions, to drive efficiency for bidders and reduced cost of sale. We’ll watch this space.
Lastly on the future, the panel talked about the rise in the use of online procurement portals in recent years. Andrew Gittins feels that in the future there will be a convergence of procurement portals with the seller side to drive efficiency and ease of use, including passporting standard / compliance content (H&S etc).
Stéphane had some great insight on how clients have begun using document analytics to maximise the response to tenders and to see where sellers are looking at documents and for how long in order to improve tender documents, the same as web designers optimise their websites.
Leadership and Teams
The second panel tackled head on some of the key challenges facing us as a bid community in terms of driving recognition of the discipline and the value we create.
They explored the art of building and leading high performing teams, both as a bid function of bid managers, writers, graphics pros etc, but also actual multidisciplinary teams deployed to go and win competitive tenders with a bidding pro at their heart.
A key theme surfaced on how bidding professionals can be reduced to an administrative function, constrained in the value they can create and the visibility they deserve.
Jack Strickland said that we all as bidding pros feel passionately about adding value as sales professionals. He said that in leading organisations we are seeing change in that bidding people are becoming valued as an investment, but that we as bidding professionals need to hold the line in terms of the quality of recruitment and development we undertake with our people. I also added that we need to ‘act as if’ and build confidence as the sales professionals in the room and demonstrating the value you create through innovating and going the extra mile. Simply being passive and ‘on receive’ doesn’t help anyone.
Kerry Jarvie said that she looks for three key attributes in good bidding people: positivity – people who find solutions and innovate, proactivity and practical skills– people who can implement and influence. You’ll have to ask her about the third one . . .
Julian Wathen said how he looks on the Business Development and bid team as the future of the business. The business has to regenerate itself through the business winning process. He outlined his view on the attributes of sales and bid functions that succeed, including having purpose – through agreeing what the team trying to achieve, aligned to the boards directives, which guides the shape of the business and the pipeline. He also talked about teams needing to be obviously ‘customer focus’ but also solutions minded – focused on innovation and driving value for the client.
We also talked about the challenge of finding good contributors / SME’s with capacity to work with when the business is busy and by definition the good people are utilised.
We talked about the importance of being clear on the roles of people in teams on bids, and in particular how vital leadership and accountability are, making sure everyone knows what they are responsible for with a leader who drives the team forward. Process and structure has its place, but it only works where its imposed.
I mentioned how I believe in writing bidding accountabilities in to the personal objectives / scorecards of every member of staff, an ongoing debate among my bidding friends and I. And I talked about the ‘hero’ roles in the bid toolkit process content, including that of the ‘Sponsor’, with our research showing that where a Sponsor plays a part in bids from the beginning and checking in from time to time, you are much more likely to win.
Lastly, we talked about wellbeing – and how our people need to bring in their whole selves to work, how we need to allow teams to rest and re-energise, as well as spend time with their team to learn lessons and develop.
The Simon Boyle Interview
I’m very committed to supporting social enterprises however I can, through my business and through influencing others to do the same. It was one of the reasons for starting Growth Ignition and the bid toolkit, to do more good and to do it better – mostly for the sales and bidding community, but additionally wherever else we reasonably can.
Brigade Bar + Kitchen is top of my list. Yeah we had a bit of a noisy extractor fan going in the kitchen at the back of the room which we’ll think of a way to tackle for next time, but other than that – Brigade appears to be, and is, an extremely high quality facility to visit, eat and drink, have fun and do business at.
I’ve committed to holding all my London training events, breakfast events and dinners there. I’d urge all the London based readers to look to do the same and / or look to research and engage other social enterprises where you can. Why wouldn’t you? Perhaps start with https://www.socialenterprise.org.uk
In the interview Mike Reader and Simon talked about his background in social impact around the world, his passion for solving displacement and homelessness and the journey of starting Beyond Food. Simon landed the staggering stats that there has been 169% increase in homelessness in the UK since he started Brigade eight years ago and a 15% increase in the last 12 months.
The guys talked about how social enterprises are the fastest growing space in UK business, with more of them starting than any other type of organisation. Simon mentioned that corporate businesses can and do have a huge impact working and partnering with social enterprises and how true partnership is important to success. He talked about how product and service quality is critical. How social enterprises have to be competitive with the private sector, but with the profits going to doing good. In order to do so they must have to be clear that it’s a professional high quality business and not a cheaper vanity project. Honesty and transparency has to be in the DNA of the enterprise.
Simon provided some tips for starting a social business that included – a strong business proposition and plan. The social aspect is almost secondary. They have to be transparent and honest about what they are looking to achieve and who they are looking to help. You can’t help anyone if you aren’t making money
Sadly, Mike highlighted some recent data from Passle that shows that in 2018 social enterprises share of work won through procurement had dropped by 28%. Given that there are more starting than in any type of bidder or supply chain partner, this seems rather odd. They talked about the challenges of bidding for work when bidding isn’t a core competence of the organisation. Perhaps corporates and we bidding pros could help out?
They rounded the interview off with the point that it will be interesting to see how the sector develops, when we start to get professional services and wider industry delivered by social enterprises as opposed to products and basic services.
Bids and Procurement LIVE! 2 – the video
Missed the event? You can hire an online video of the full event if you would like to watch the panel debates and the interview again or to share it with your team or colleagues. Head this way to check it out.
Bids and Procurement LIVE! 3
I hope everyone enjoyed the event and found it useful. Our next one is on the 11th of September at Brigade Bar + Kitchen, London Bridge. You can book your tickets here.
The format is going to change slightly with a keynote speech by Dan Connors of Applied Influence group. Dan will be talking about what AIG have found in the three years since they landed the elite influencing skills and methodology they developed working as part of British Military intelligence in Afghanistan to influence the Taliban in the UK corporate world. Dans speech will lead into a panel debate on capture planning of pursuits.
We will then have two further panel discussions on wellbeing and bid content libraries.
Lastly, I should say that we will be looking to expand our events geographically, with an event in Manchester in November to be confirmed.