How many of us really believe tenders will be published by the expected date? Unfortunately, it has become common for commissioners of publicly funded services to have complete disregard for the tender timescales that they themselves set! Tender delays have become the norm.
Some recent reasons for delays in issuing invitation to tender (ITT) documents include:
Re-configuration of service specifications.
Reviews of budgets.
Possible extensions of current contracts.
Legal / procurement issues.
Low supplier interest at pre-qualification stage.
Absence of key commissioners (e.g. due to illness).
Some of these tender delays have resulted in ITTs being postponed for at least a year or cancelled all together. Once tenders do get underway, they are often significantly changed (e.g. reduced price envelope).
This uncertainty is placing even more pressure on suppliers. It is very difficult to plan resources around tender timescales, and contract specifications, that are so changeable.
This flexibility with deadlines doesn’t usually extend to submission dates though. Woe betide any company that submits their tender late!
This means that tenderers are left dangling on a string, waiting for tenders to start. Then it’s 'al
l systems go' to meet the usual tight deadlines - often for multiple tenders with now overlapping time-frames.
It’s like waiting for the bus – none come for ages and then a bunch arrive at once. What frequently happens is that workloads increase beyond capacity. Staff work evenings and weekends, morale falls and tenders are not completed as well as they should be.
So, what can you do to mitigate the risk of tender delays?
1. Talk with commissioners to better understand expected timescales and the reasons for tender delays. You can sometimes get a much better idea of start dates through an informal discussion.
2. Use down time to create efficiencies including obtaining a stock of good quality evidence to be used in future tenders.
3. Increase the size of your bid teams to be able to respond to multiple tenders at short notice.
4. Engage bid writing services to support your teams at peak times.