Dec 102008

You have six tenders sitting in front of you; now comes the challenge of checking them all out and deciding how to proceed.

This task reminds me of going to buy a pair of jeans for my teenage daughter. First I need to be very clear of her size and current fashion preferences, then there’s a fair chance I’ll get a pair she likes!

Here are my four tips for checking out tenders

1.    Be open to different approaches

If you already have a picture of the way you feel the research should go, put it aside while you check out the approaches your respondents have come up with.

It’s quite possible there’s another approach you hadn’t thought of, which would save time or money, or produce results that you hadn’t thought it would be possible to get.

For example, a respondent suggests piggybacking a workshop onto the project’s Board meeting, giving an ideal opportunity to invite the other key stakeholders, and hold a mind workshop to explore their views.

2.    Set up a logical selection system

Hopefully, you gave respondents the criteria you would use to assess proposals. Just like interviewing candidates for a job, it’s good to use a points system, so your subjective impressions don’t take over.

For example you might choose to allocate points as follows for each of the following criteria,

30%    Appropriate method
40%    Relevant experience
20%    Cost
10%    Available start date

If several people are reviewing tenders, each one applies the criteria, so you have an objective assessment from each person.

3.    Interview, if necessary

You may want to leave the decision whether or not to interview until the written proposals have been assessed (though it’s prudent to have given respondents the date to pencil in their diaries in case).

If there is a clear front runner it may not be necessary to interview.

If you do decide to interview, you may want to use the same criteria again, with the ability to change scores given as you question respondents.

You may also want to add in one or two further criteria, such as:

  • assessment of relevant interpersonal skills (eg listening, questioning, engaging)
  • expansion of relevant experience given in the written tender
  • flexibility to accommodate different viewpoints
4.    Inform everyone of the outcome

Aim to contract with your preferred respondent quickly, so you can then let the other respondents know they were unsuccessful

It’s good practice to give unsuccessful candidates feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their tender. This provides some recompense for the time they invested preparing their tenders.

The bottom line: You can increase the chances of selecting the most appropriate tender by: being open to new approaches, having a logical assessment system, and interviewing if necessary.

© May Johnstone, 2008, Project Please feel free to circulate this article provided it is used in its entirety, including this acknowledgement.

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