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Typically, there are several stages to a tender process, this blog has been written to provide a basic understanding of the different stages are and what they entail.
What are the stages of the Tender Process?
Not every tender process will follow all stages; some stages may be combined, e.g. PQQ and ITT.
The key stages are:
- Identifying the right opportunity for your business
- Bid/No Bid Process
- Selection Stage – Pre-Qualification (PQQ)/Supplier Selection Questionnaire (SSQ)
- Evaluation of SSQ / PQQ
- Invitation to Tender (ITT)
- Evaluation of the tender submissions
- Presentation / Q&A Session
- Contract Award
Identifying the right opportunity
All public sector tender opportunities are publicly advertised and can be found via the following:
- E-tendering Portals
- OJUE (Official Journal of the European Union) notice if required.
- Tender alert platforms such as; Contracts Advance and Tenders Direct
- Trade publications
Bid/No Bid Process
Once you have identified an opportunity, it is important to go through a bid/no bid process to ensure you do not waste time or resources bidding for a contract that is not commercially viable.
Things to consider include the following:
- Have you got the time and resources available to produce your best bid?
- Can you deliver the requirements of the contracts?
- Are you compliant? Do you hold the necessary credentials and accreditations the buyer is seeking?
Selection Stage – Supplier Selection Questionnaire (SSQ) / Pre-Qualification (PQQ)
The selection stage occurs first in the tender process; it can be carried out either as part of the entire tender process or separately and is commonly known as a Supplier Selection Questionnaire (SSQ). However, it can be referred to as a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire.
You find out more about the differences between PQQs and SSQs here.
At the selection stage, bidders will be asked to complete a questionnaire about their business.
This demonstrates your capability to meet the buyers minimum requirements and enables the buyer to ensure your organisation has the necessary requirements to deliver the contract.
If you fail the SQ stage, you will not progress to the ITT stage.
The SSQ will assess the following:
- High-Level company information, including registration number, VAT number, sub-contractor details and supply agreements.
- Financial stability – you will be required to self-certify that you can provide copies of your most recent accounts/evidence of your cash flow. You will also need to self-certify that you hold the required insurance levels.
- Quality – you will need to self-certify that you have adequate quality management systems, such as ISO9001.
- Environmental Policy – many tenderers are looking to work with suppliers with a robust environmental management system -this will be assessed. Being ISO14001 will strengthen your response.
- Social responsibility – you will be required to self-certify that you have a comprehensive social policy in place.
- Health and Safety – you will need to demonstrate a health and safety policy.
- Case studies – you will need to provide three previous contract examples, which must be within the last three years, to demonstrate you have suitable experience in delivering similar contracts.
You could be asked to provide evidence of the above and attach this to your submission.
Evaluation of SSQ / PQQ
The buyer will evaluate all completed SSQ responses to ensure supplier compliance before evaluating their full tender submission.
This is applicable when you have been required to complete both the SSQ and ITT at the same stage or to shortlist and select suppliers that are most able to meet the requirements to be invited to the ITT (Invitation to Tender) stage if it is a two-stage process.
Once this has been completed, a decision will be communicated to the successful suppliers.
Invitation to Tender (ITT)
If you successfully pass the SSQ stage, buyers will invite you to submit an ITT response. This will be a formal and structured process with detailed instructions and strict deadlines.
No two ITTs are the same, but typically they will include the following:
- Background information about the project or procurement, including its scope and objectives.
- Instructions for submitting your tender response, including the deadline for submission/clarification questions and the format in which tenders should be submitted.
- The criteria will be used to evaluate tenders, such as price, quality and delivery time.
- The tender return must include the documents, such as financial statements, references, certifications, responses to quality questions and any supporting documents.
- The contract terms and conditions, including payment terms and any warranties or guarantees that are required.
- Contact information for the person or organisation issuing the ITT and for any questions or clarifications.
- Other relevant information, such as the specification and schedule for the project or procurement, any specific requirements for the goods or services being procured, and any policies the buyer would like you to be aware of and adhere to. For example, they may provide a copy of their environmental/social value policy.
Evaluation of the tender submissions
During this tender stage, the submission is reviewed and evaluated against the predetermined criteria issued as part of the ITT documents to determine the most favourable bid.
This process typically involves a team of evaluators who will assess each bid based on factors such as; price, technical capability, and past performance.
Once the evaluation is complete, the team will recommend to the organisation/government agency running the tender on which bid should be awarded the contract.
Feedback on submissions is generally provided, so bidders can see how they have scored against the criteria.
Presentation or Q&A Session
In some cases, buyers will invite bidders to present to a panel regarding their submission. An agenda is issued, and the bidder will prepare a presentation addressing the items for discussion.
This can sometimes take the format of a Q&A Session, and it is an opportunity for the buyer to ask further questions or seek clarity about what you have proposed in your submission.
All suppliers that submit a tender response will be informed of the decision to award the contract, and typically this will be sent via the portal in which the tender was submitted.
Decision letters will be issued detailing the successful supplier/s and the score achieved in evaluating tender submissions.