Cloud-based tender management systems take the headache out of the bidding process. With such systems, the issuer who is sending out packages and responding to requests for information (RFIs) can focus on making the right award decisions instead of wasting time on unnecessary administration.
And recipients of those packages can concentrate on putting together winning responses rather than on accessing and collating bid documents.
The tendering process is becoming increasingly electronic in line with the latest legislation, and with plenty of contracts up for grabs through online tendering websites, there has never been a better time for SMEs businesses to get to grips with the process.
Marianne Raine, founder of business consultancy Red Whippet, has put together an in-depth training module on online tendering for SMEs, aimed at businesses that have never applied for public sector contracts online before, or that have tried but found the process difficult.
Ms Raine advises that the first step is to investigate online tendering websites.
She said: “These will help you to find out about opportunities as soon as they arise. Search on Google to see the most relevant contracts for where your business is based. It’s a good idea to register with multiple websites that are suitable for your business to gain access to a greater number of opportunities.”
Tendering websites usually concentrate on either a geographical area or a particular sector. To save time, it is worth remembering that many tenders will ask the same questions so you can prepare a bank of information that you can use in all your responses, for example, your insurance and accounting documents.
Ms Raine said: “While you won’t be able to recycle an entire tender, it’s beneficial to have as much as you can ready in advance. I strongly recommend that businesses invest the time to look into and consider each opportunity as this can save valuable time and free you up to work on high quality responses for the projects you really want to work on.
“In addition, make sure to check whether it would actually be viable for you to take on the work if you were successful, both in terms of finance and resource. If not, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t throw your hat into the ring – consider whether you could subcontract or partner with another business on the tender.”
An obvious-sounding, yet valuable, piece of advice is to ensure you read every question properly, underline key words and double check that you submit all the required information.
Ms Raine said: “It’s also worth remembering that everything you submit should be relevant to the specific opportunity so resist the temptation to include details of a great project you’ve worked on if it doesn’t fit the brief.
“When you see the council or NHS name on tenders, it can be daunting if you don’t have much experience of the process.
“However, large organisations are aware of the advantages that working with small businesses can have so have confidence in your offering and response because you do stand a good chance of winning the contract.”
The UK Government G-Cloud is an initiative targeted at easing procurement by public-sector bodies in departments of the United Kingdom Government of commodity information technology services that use cloud computing.
Research from Sage has revealed that 90 per cent of UK’s SMEs are entirely unaware of the G-Cloud and are missing out on a potential revenue stream as a result.
The government’s Digital Marketplace (G-Cloud) was launched in 2012 as a one-stop shop for the public sector to buy digital services and for SMEs to promote themselves to public sector bodies, local authorities and central government departments.
Brendan Flattery, president, Europe at Sage Group, said: “Eighty seven per cent of suppliers currently listed on G-Cloud are SMEs, but many other still aren’t aware of the initiative."
“The Digital Marketplace is a powerful tool, helping these firms to sell their services to public sector organisations by simplifying the tender process.
“Small business owners need to re-examine whether they are able to sell their consultancy or services via G-Cloud, as they could tap into rich, unexplored revenue opportunities.”
Mark Evans, commercial director at specialist IT services provider Imerja, said that in a Cabinet Office report, published in 2012, the government stated that by 2015 at least 25 per cent of new government IT should flow to SMEs directly.
“However, the figure currently stands at just 19 per cent about half of which is due to bigger firms winning the contracts and SMEs securing supplier subcontracts,” he said.
Mr Evans noted that while being on a government framework is a definite advantage for SMEs, he would like to see the larger providers being encouraged to engage with the SME community on a more strategic basis, working in partnership on tenders and delivering solutions.
“If big providers are committed to the SMEs they work alongside, government organisations will realise the benefits of working with innovative and agile SMEs within a larger delivery team – allowing them to become more than just a name on a list,” Mr Evans added.