Solvendis use Tender Rocket to Source and Manage Apprenticeship, AEB, Devolved and Combined Authority Tender Submissions

The team at Solvendis are experienced in submitting tenders and bids for providers, colleges and universities with successes cumulatively amounting to £10’s of millions. High profiles capital developments, ESF, AEB, Apprenticeship, National Lottery, LEP, Devolved and LA grants all feature amongst our successes.

Applying for Apprenticeship, AEB and Other Government Tenders

Background (The World of Tenders)

Approximately 1500 new government tenders and contracts are advertised each week across 18 business sectors including construction, clinical and medical, IT Services, education, energy and utilities, vehicles, financial services and waste management. The NHS and Fire and Emergency Services also use tender processes for awarding work to small, medium and large contractors.

UK Trade and Investment estimate that public sector ICT expenditure in the country is worth £18 billion, which is one of the largest in Europe. The latest figures from the Government Procurement Service say that the public sector market is worth £284 billion.

As part of an ongoing initiative the current administration has been seeking to increase the number of government tenders and contracts advertised, as well as encourage smaller companies to bid for a bigger slice in the public sector marketplace.

Every year, this translate into millions of pounds of business, all of which is awarded to organisations just like yours through open and accessible tenders which you can bid for.

To put it succinctly, the public sector spends an enormous amount with suppliers every year and will continue to do so.

Why do Business with the Government and its agencies?

Government procures goods and services from tens of thousands of suppliers, ranging from FTSE 100 listed multinational companies to small businesses and local charities. A good supplier can bring specialist expertise to a problem, potentially delivering a better service and saving government money.

Working with Government departments can also bring benefits to organisations – regardless of size. Government procured work is a fairly stable market that is less likely to be periodically switched on and off. During a recession it can offer a reliable source of business, and during a boom it offers ever expanding opportunities. But one thing is certain, it will still be a gigantic multibillion-pound marketplace no matter what happens in the future.

The payment terms can be extremely good.  Wherever possible, Central Government bodies will pay within 10 days and failing that, The Prompt Payment Guidance for Public Sector Organisations requires payment to be made within 30 days.  The HM Government terms of payment are generous to suppliers as they recommend quick payment to avoid problems with cashflow and to help maintain a stable supply chain.

The Government wants to deal with more companies so it can have a diversity of suppliers and thus receive better products and services at a better price. For the past 10 years it has taken repeated steps to encourage more and more SMEs into the public sector marketplace.

There’s a vast amount of money to be made for some companies, working with the government can be the difference between prospering or going to the wall.

Breaking into The Tendering Marketplace

Some of the largest companies in the world find tendering to be an extremely lucrative marketplace. However, they do not dominate all of it, and a well organised and supported small/ medium organisation is often well placed to benefit from tender opportunities.

Tender award summaries will confirm that more small/medium enterprises are successful through tendering than ever before. Over the last decade, there has been a concerted attempt to introduce more and more suppliers to the public sector.

However, it has historically been the case that if a company lacks the knowledge of how to tender, then it will not be easy to secure business. The Government acknowledge that it is necessary for all organisations to learn how to tender in order to compete successfully in the public sector marketplace.

In 2018, there were 4 Government departments: The Ministry of Justice, the Department for Transport, the Department for International Trade and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which spent more than half of their entire budgets with external suppliers.  Across government, the money is spent on a wide range of things from goods such as stationery and medicine to the construction of schools and roads, and from back office functions such as IT and human resources to frontline services such as probation and social care.

How to Find UK Tenders

You can source Government Tenders through the https://www.tenderrocket.com/ website, where finding tenders that meet your need is entirely free.

Another useful source of information are the regular ‘Meet The Buyer’ events, in respect of which more information can be found at  https://www.government-online.net/category/meet-the-buyer/

A Typical Tendering Process?

Whether you’re a small company operating on a local basis or a larger corporation operating across the UK, there are likely to be tender opportunities which meet your organisations strategic needs.

The bidding process is different for different types of business.  Higher value opportunities will generally require the completion of a detailed questionnaire, supported by financial and other documentation required to satisfy the due diligence needs of the tendering organisation.

There’s a widely held perception that to win a tender contract you must submit the lowest price, but this is not the case.  There are a range of criteria which the tendering authority may consider including price, quality, risk, social value and other factors.  The lowest price bid doesn’t always win and during the evaluation process may be adjudged to represent poor value.  Some local authority led tender processes use a weighting system which includes local labour recruitment and commitment to skills development and training.

All organisations and company’s need to assess their strengths to maximise their chances of success.  Even a large organisation/ company needs to be clear about its objectives and its ability to compete.  Tenders can be time consuming to complete and organisations are strongly advised to bid for the opportunities that truly play to their key strengths.   

Different Tendering Procedures

There are several different tendering procedures, each of which have slightly different requirements which are broadly administered along the following lines.

  • Open Tender Procedure

This type of procedure is open and available to any organisation that can supply the products or services indicated as required in the tender specification.

  • Restricted Tender Procedure

The Restricted Tender Procedure requires Companies to have met certain qualifying criteria before being invited to tender. After an expression of interest has been made, the bidding organisations are supplied with a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ), which is then assessed to determine which ones should progress to the next stage. Those that satisfactorily meet the criteria are then sent the Invitation to Tender (ITT) documents.

Restricted Procedure is used when there is a specialist requirement – when particular skills are needed that not every company possesses. The PQQ is a means of checking that prospective suppliers can do the work or supply the services they are bidding for. It will have emphasis on technical abilities, past experience, company profiles, internal resources, etc – it’s usually more about the company that wants to put in a bid, than it is the tender of the buying organisation.

  • Negotiated Tender Procedure

This is a procedure normally used only in exceptional cases, in which the buyer invites pre-qualified suppliers to help negotiate the terms of the tender. Once a tender specification has been fully defined, the suppliers are then judged by their ability to meet that specification. Complex high-level tenders are often characterised by the negotiated procedure, when the specific requirements can’t be defined without supplier input, or when there are only a very small number of companies in the marketplace that can meet the needs of the tender.

  • Competitive Dialogue

Competitive Dialogue is a procedure which was introduced in 2006 as an alternative to Open and Restricted Procedures. It is a means by which the buyer and its prospective suppliers can discuss all aspects of a tender prior to awarding it, which is why it is so fundamentally different from the other procedures. It was designed to compensate for some of the limitations of the other tendering methods. When a buyer doesn’t have all the technical answers to questions relevant to the tender it needs to consult with the market to define its requirements, and then to be clear about the solutions that will satisfy those requirements. Competitive Dialogue is normally only used for very complex, high level tenders.

Structure of the Tender Documents

Tender processes always follow a structured format with the following being typical of what the tendering organisation publishes: 

  • Background Information about the opportunity
  • Instructions for submitting a tender
  • Technical specifications
  • Main tender response form
  • Pricing requirements
  • Terms and Conditions of the tendered opportunity
  • Award criteria and evaluation criteria
  • Appendices

The published instructions will typically include deadlines for submitting an Expression of Interest, Submission of the formal tender documents, timing of any presentations required (presentations are not needed in many of the opportunities published), evaluation period, award date, and any key dates for communication.

Many of the tenders issued will require your submission to be through their designated online portal and we strongly recommend early registration (if you aren’t registered already) and also spending time to become familiar with how the portal works.

There are a number of portals in use, all are different though they work on similar principles.  Examples include:

There should also be information on an Appeal Procedure, should you think your organisation has been treated unfairly, and the bidding process was not impartial. The Award Criteria should give a clear definition of the criteria by which the tender will be awarded. These are usually defined by points or percentages, as indicated in the section on pricing.

Stay Relevant (And Keep Up with The Times)

In a world which is seeing a noticeable drift toward digital and electronic business-2-business, if you don’t embrace the opportunities presented through electronic tendering, you may fall behind.  The modernisation of Government and the desire to ‘open up’ contract opportunities are resulting in year on year growth in the number of tenders announced and in the values of goods and services procured by way of tender.

Not wishing to scare-monger, but we all know what happened to the once dominant Blockbuster when they ‘chose’ not to evolve with the times.  Whilst streaming services grew in popularity; Blockbuster couldn’t keep with changes in consumer needs. They effectively refused to go digital. Surprisingly, in 2000, the CEO of Blockbuster, John Antioco, sat down with Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, where they presented a partnership deal that would lead to Blockbuster’s shift in their business model, launching subscription-based on-demand video online. Antioco couldn’t see the value in innovating, sticking to the status quo, and turned down the deal. Ten years later, the company filed for bankruptcy. We don’t really need to tell you how it turned out for Netflix.

Preparing to Submit a Tender

Once you have made the strategic decision to grow your organisation through tendering, there’s a lot you can be doing to help yourself prepare for your first submission, even before you have identified a tender opportunity to pitch for.

Often, you will only have a few weeks from identification of the opportunity to the submission deadline, we cannot stress enough the importance of being organised and anticipatory.

Most tenders will require you to submit a range of policies and procedures and it would be well worth your while making sure that you have up to date information ready and available to submit.

The documentation required may well include:

  • Financial Statements (typically for between the last 1 – 3 years),
  • Health and Safety Policy,
  • Environmental and Sustainability Policy,
  • Equal Opportunities Policy,
  • Insurance Certificates,
  • Data Protection and Freedom of Information Policies
  • Etc.

Individual industries will also have specific documentation requirements.  For example, in the Education and Training sector, the Safeguarding and Prevent Duty Policy and Safer Recruitment Policies are often requested.

Your financial statements will be reviewed, and it is likely that your ‘financial health’ will be scored.  As part of their Due Diligence process you should expect the tendering organisation to be scrutinising some key ratios such as your profitability, gearing and solvency.  They may also look at trends over time (say 3 years) to seek comfort and reassurance that your organisation isn’t in a period of significant decline.   The tendering organisation will also wish to assure itself that in awarding the tender there are no conflicts of interest and that your key directors and staff have no adverse tendering history.

We hope this talk through tendering processes assists.