Give suppliers a chance to impress

We cover in detail the various pieces of documentation you need to produce during a procurement process in the sections on Requirements gathering and prioritisation and Preparing for and running a tender exercise. We also have a section on Testing and evaluating. This section gives some general guidance on ensuring that your selection process gives suppliers a reasonable chance to impress you.

Remember the better the suppliers understand your needs and the better the quality of their responses, the easier the selection process will be and you will improve your chances of getting the right outcome.

Help the suppliers help you

Here are a few pointers:
  • Ensure your timetable is reasonable. You are likely to be asking hundreds of questions and, if you want more than cut-and-paste responses, it will take suppliers a lot of time to provide the answers.
  • Ask suppliers to provide an executive summary highlighting the main points of their proposal for easy comparison.
  • Let suppliers know how you will be scoring the tenders. The first thing they will look at is your weightings to get an idea what is important to you and any further information about scoring is useful. They will be doing detailed projections and estimating how they will score against others and this will affect what they offer you. Each supplier will be working out what options to include for the right mix of price and functionality. If they can see the relative importance of the requirements they can judge how to make you the most appropriate offer.
  • Be careful how you word your requirements. You can miss out on opportunities if a supplier is obliged to respond 'No' to a particular point because they don't do it in a certain way when in fact they could offer the opportunity to achieve the same thing in a better way.
  • It can be a good idea to hold a webinar for interested suppliers once you have posted your invitation to tender (ITT). This can be an easy way to avoid issues e.g. if you wrote an ambiguous requirement that could be interpreted in a number of different ways or if you have missed out providing some essential data e.g. how many concurrent users you expect using a particular tool.
  • Leave an unscored or low scoring section that allows suppliers to talk about other things e.g. their environmental impact or corporate giving programme that help you understand what kind of company you will be working with.
Top tip

Make sure any pre-qualifying requirements are reasonable and a best fit to your needs. Most UK universities require a number of UK reference sites as a prerequisite. However, it is worth considering whether international comparators might be equally relevant to your institution.