Oct 152008
 

Summarising what your project is about, and asking questions of potential researchers can feel daunting.

This checklist will help you benefit from the experience of others, put your invitation to tender together quickly, and receive robust tenders.

Then you’ll be well placed to choose between them.

Check out your organisation’s procedures

If your organisation has a Procurement Officer, or uses online tendering, check this out first. There will probably be a set of procedures you need to follow, and perhaps a template, to make it easy for you.

And it’s still a good idea to check the rest of this list, since it’s possible I’ve included some ‘extras’ you’ll find helpful.

Put yourself in your reader’s shoes

You need to assume the people who will read your invitation know nothing about your project. This probably means spelling out things that are obvious to you, but very necessary for your readers. The better your invitation, the fewer people you’ll have ringing you up or emailing you questions!

Give the background

A concise background helps readers know how your project developed, how it fits into the bigger picture, and why the proposed research has come about.

It’s a good idea to include links to relevant websites and reports.

State the aims and objectives of the research

Include a clear statement of the general aim(s) of the research, and more specific objectives. Be as specific as you can.

For a complex project refining the aims and objectives sometimes forms part of the research.

Include any guidance on methods

If you have already worked out methods for the research include them as suggestions, and allow respondents to offer alternatives. There’s always a chance they may have an even better idea!

Don’t worry if you don’t have ideas –your respondents will certainly make suggestions based on their experience.

Ask for relevant skills and experience

You will feel more confident if you appoint a person, or team of researchers, with expertise of similar research, preferably in your sector.

Include your timescale

Check on the events which will determine the completion date for the research. These might include: a funding deadline, a Board meeting, the start of a new term, a workshop where recommendations can be debated, etc.

You also need to be realistic, for example: it takes time to pilot and conduct a survey, or to get people together for a workshop, etc.

Include dates for the milestones you expect the researchers to achieve along the way. For example: methodology piloted, interim report submitted, etc.

Include your budget

It’s best to give an idea of your budget limit, so the tenders you get all lie within it. Otherwise you may get wildly disparate estimates for the research.

Give a realistic timescale for responses

Allow at least three weeks for responses, or you may miss out on replies from good consultants who are away, or busy.

Explain how you will assess tenders

Common criteria include:
o    Familiarity with your sector/subject area
o    appropriateness of methodology
o    expertise of tender team
o    budget
o    risk assessment

If you propose to hold interviews for a shortlist of respondents, include the date with your invitation, so respondents can keep it free.

Be available for discussion

Unless your organisation precludes this, make yourself available to discuss the research with respondents. This gives them the opportunity to provide you with a fully developed tender, and avoid misunderstandings which can occur where dialogue is not allowed.

Get someone to read your tender over

This could be a co-worker or someone from your Board or Committee.

The bottom line: Following the above twelve points will help you to attract tenders containing the information that you need to move ahead with confidence to commission your research.

© May Johnstone, 2009, Project Perspectives.co.uk. Please feel free to circulate this article provided it is used in its entirety, including this acknowledgement.

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