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Procurement

Is bid compliance a code, or guidelines?

Does your bid lead/sponsor struggle to understand the concept of compliancy in the bid submission? No matter how many times you say “we have to answer the questions we’re asked”, “we have to answer in the order they’ve been asked” or “they’ve asked for five examples and we only have one”, do they still believe it will be ok since the client knows you, or they’ll take your other answers into account?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had these conversations; usually, but not always, with people who aren’t involved in a bid process very often. But the first rule of bids is a compliant submission – you could write the best submission in the world, with the best value price, but if you haven’t adhered to the client’s rules they cannot award you the contract within procurement rules. You risk disqualification, and damaging your reputation for future work. If they do choose to award, they risk your competition challenging the decision (which we wrote about a few weeks ago).

Yet some bid teams still want to bend the rules.

According to the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK): “A compliant proposal meets the customer’s requirements and submittal instructions, answers the customer’s questions, and addresses specifications to the letter—nothing more, nothing less.” The BOK also sets out the following as just a few examples of compliance:

  • “Structuring your proposal per the customer’s instructions
  • Remaining within the page limits [how many times have you asked teams to stick to a page limit, to have their content returned at twice that?!]
  • Adhering to formatting guidelines, such as font size, style, and margin size
  • Meeting each and every RFP requirement and the submission instructions”

The compliance matrix can be a bid manager’s best friend in these situations – demonstrating how closely you meet the client’s requirements, right through to acting as your checklist for submission. Software suppliers are often asked to provide such a matrix as standard as part of their submission, so the client can see how their requirements will be met by each product, but it is just as important for any bid even as an internal tool. You should complete a compliance matrix before you start writing, by listing out every client requirement – whether a housekeeping requirement (e.g. five pages maximum), or a solution requirement (e.g. the supplier should provide x). Against each requirement, you should mark how closely your solution matches the requirement; this can be as simple as compliant, partially compliant or non-compliant.

Compliance alone rarely means you win a competition – responsiveness should mean you work to meet and exceed the customer requirements – but compliance alone can mean you lose. Is it worth the extra page you were explicitly not asked for, or bidding when you know you don’t have the number of experience examples to answer the question? And, as the BOK says, if there are many areas where your solution is non-compliant or only partially compliant, you should seriously question why the opportunity is being pursued.

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