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The UK Government allocates around £300bn annually to public procurement, which constitutes roughly 1/3 of public funds.
We are optimistic that the government's tighter spending this year will create more opportunities for SMEs and emerging technologies to compete with the 'Big 4' consulting firms that have dominated this sector for a long time. As central and local government departments aim to reduce costs and adjust their strategies, we have observed SMEs benefiting from this change by improving their bidding approaches.
At Karve, we have developed an in depth understanding of the Government bodies and funding streams available to SMEs and disruptors as they seek to win Government funding and eventually contracts. Unfortunately the process for accessing these opportunities can be time consuming and bewildering especially if you don’t have any previous experience of the process.
It might be no surprise to learn that the recipients of funding from the UK Government’s TRIG programme included BAE Systems, BT, Cisco, Fujitsu, IBM, Microsoft, Siemens, Rolls Royce and Vodafone. Hardly a who’s who of disruptive upstarts. We think this emphasises the massive uphill struggle that many SMEs have in accessing such funding; they either don’t know it exists, don’t have the time or patience to align to it or they don’t have the knowledge of how to give themselves the best chance of success in their submissions.
To assist SMEs in bidding for public sector contracts, we have identified the 5 major mistakes that we know are crucial to avoid to give you the best chance of success. We hope that by following them or partnering with us on your grant and funding strategy prior to pitching for Government contracts, we’ll see your company name in amongst the recipients listed above in the near future.
1. Not taking enough time to understand the process
It's crucial to take the time to understand the procurement process, which can be complex, time-consuming, and highly regulated, especially in sectors like defence. Ensure that you comprehend the rules and regulations governing the procurement process and the specific contract and organisation issuing it.
This often involves several stages, including a pre-qualification questionnaire, tender documents, and negotiations. Additionally, you should note the evaluation criteria, clarification deadlines, and other requirements or restrictions. It's also beneficial to research previous tenders to understand their expectations better.
2. Not demonstrating value for money
Public sector customers prioritise value for money when selecting a bidder. Bidders must demonstrate that they can provide high-quality goods or services at a competitive price without compromising on quality or cutting corners. Consider finding efficiencies and cost savings while still meeting the requirements of the contract.
Be sure to carefully consider all the costs involved in delivering the project or contract and provide a competitive price that aligns with the public sector organisation's budget.
3. Not demonstrating relevant experience
When submitting a bid, highlight your experience and capabilities relevant to the application. Provide examples of previous successful projects and explain how your business is uniquely qualified to meet the buyer’s needs. Bidders who fail to provide evidence of their experience may be seen as higher-risk candidates and may not be successful.
4. Not having the right resources to respond
Bidding successfully requires clear roles and responsibilities to ensure complete and timely submission. Some roles to consider might be who:
– Makes the bid, or the decision not to bid
– Is the project manager
– Designs or approves the solution
– Signs off the final bid
Before responding to an RFP, bring together the bid and support team to understand and agree on the RFP requirements. Ensure that everyone is aligned with the approach. When you receive an upcoming opportunity, give key stakeholders early warning of the commitment you will likely need from them.
5. Saying yes to every opportunity
Pursuing every RFP may be futile, and it might be time to reconsider your strategy. Instead, focus your efforts on preparing accurate, thorough, winning quotes for projects that match your business. Take the time to prepare and resource a bid that you are confident in. If you don't have the time, it may be better to pass on the opportunity and start preparing for the next one.
With mounting pressure on public sector spending, the need for transparent procurement practices, and the push for sustainable approaches, the trend towards prioritising value over price is gaining traction. As buyers shift their focus to future considerations and break away from traditional practices, consider these tips when bidding for your next public sector contract.
If you’re an SME with a revolutionary product trying to access Government funds or win Government contracts, we’d love to hear from you and leverage our experience of supporting clients through the often confusing process to give you the highest chance of success, while you get on with what you’re best at – designing and bringing to market game changing solutions and innovation.
Co-authored by Richard James.