On March 31st 2021, I ran a bitesize masterclass on tendering for the Urbano Network Create-Media Community looking at the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Campaign Solutions 2 framework for UK creatives, marketing and event agencies.
The session broke down the tender requirements into a digestible format for participants. My aim was to make sense of what agencies need to answer and submit, against the documents CCS provided as ‘information’. Don’t get me wrong, this is still critical information to read, digest, and understand and will be vital to your Go/No Go process, commercial and legal review. However, it should not scare you off at the starting line.
Making the complex simple
Tender packs with several documents is overwhelming and turns many small businesses off from even considering the opportunity. It feels like hard work in itself but hear me out. Set aside a couple of hours, download all the documents, read the guidance (assuming it has been provided), separate out the tender documents (information vs response). Check for any compliance showstoppers. Familiarise yourself with key dates (are they realistic?) and opportunity to ask questions. If it looks doable then you can move forward. This does not yet mean it’s a ‘Go’ – it just means you have not dismissed it based on the fact that there are 20 attachments.
For the CCS framework, I took the time to break this down and gather some facts ahead of the session. In a nutshell this consisted of:
2 online submission ‘envelopes’ – technical and pricing
1 mandatory section with c.70 questions (50 are Yes/No answers)
5 lot specific sections (with a separate pricing matrix for each lot)
Several pass/fail requirements and specific ISO for certain lots (for priority review/action)
Character restrictions for online entry and guidelines for PDF uploads (font, spacing, etc).
Understanding the bigger picture
Getting a clear picture of the response requirements drives confidence by enabling you to check all the important elements before you invest time in the submission and value proposition compared to the competition (which can be pretty significant for these frameworks).
The framework introduced six key areas that government communications will be focusing on – from removing barriers through inaccessible content to future-proofing expertise and embracing emerging technology. During the second part of my session, I walked the participants through how this could be used to develop win themes and alignment to the scoring criteria. This is about building trust and standing out from the competition as well as demonstrating you have a thorough understanding of the requirements.
Think about it from the client’s perspective – why should you have a place on the framework? What added value do you offer? What lessons learned would be useful to them from other clients and industries? Can you bring advantage through community engagement? Do your research. Make sure your evidence is relevant. Most of the time the client will make you aware of the bigger picture but if they don’t, Google is your friend (or indeed any other preferred search engine).
This was not the starting point
Another sticking point with tenders is the faceless interaction. In my opinion, this is another assumption. In the last few years we have seen increased market engagement, supplier days and Prior Information Notices (PINs). We have insight through Urbano‘s weekly tender search service. It is also what the Green Paper: Transforming public procurement is advocating going forward. The desire is to replace outdated procurement procedures to allow for more negotiation and greater engagement to deliver innovation. (At the time of writing this post, the Green Paper was closed after consultation so watch the space for an update.)
Leading up to the release of the CCS Campaign 2 framework there were several engagement sessions and outputs. Remember, it is also a renewal and evolution of an existing framework so – to be absolutely frank – if you missed out last time you should have been tracking and planning this way before the engagement even started.
Key takeaways from the session:
- Don’t make assumptions – spend time understanding the tender requirements before you dismiss potential transformative new business for your company.
- Don’t be reactive – focus on targeted public sector clients/contracts as part of your business development strategy, engage early and consider pre-positioning activities ahead of the tender.