BLOG: Getting Procurement Ready in a Pandemic

Claire McLaughlin, P4P Coordinator, discusses how best to use your time during Covid-19 to get your organisation tender ready.

Introduction

Preparing for ‘a new normal’ this seems to be the current message from both the UK and the Scottish Governments.  I am trying, trying to establish a home working routine, master home schooling and keep sane.  I am sure everyone out there is also trying to establish some form of new normal. 

I haven’t hit the giddy heights of learning a new language or playing the piano, but I have started thinking about how I can use this time within the new normal to not only function but prepare and get into a better position for when (hopefully) some of the restrictions are lifted. 

The same is true of business, most of us are now getting used to working from home, zoom meetings and a new way of delivering (at least some of) the services that we have in the past.  For many, this also means that staff have been furloughed, applications have been submitted for funding of some sort to get you through, crisis interventions have been made and you are now looking at what you can do to best use your time as productively as possible.   

In the list of things to do with this time, I would like to make a pitch for becoming ‘tender – ready’.  I think we can all agree that this pandemic will cause many changes, a lot of them unwelcome.  However, one thing that is not set to change is the fact that the Public Sector remains a significant market opportunity for social enterprises, third sector organisations and SMEs.  Before the current pandemic, procurement spending across the public sector in Scotland was in excess of £11 billion a year.  Even if this spend shrinks this still represents a significant opportunity.  The time we have now can thus be utilised to get us into the best possible position as organisations to try to bid in and win some of this work. With this in mind, here is a simple P4P 4 step guide to becoming ‘tender ready’ and using your time wisely. 

Step 1 – Understanding the Market

The first thing you need to do is some market research 

Key questions to answer are  

  • Who might buy my products and/or services? 
  • Are there any current or future opportunities that my organisation would be interested in? 

For guidance and information on how to conduct this market research please refer to P4P’s 10 Stage Guide to Procurement.

Step 2 – Seeing Opportunities

A key step in becoming tender ready is ensuring you are informed about any opportunities that might be of interest to your organisation. This means registering with Public Contracts Scotland ( https://www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk ) as a supplier and signing up for relevant alert e-mails.  

P4P have developed a free to download guidance document that will walk you through this process. You can find it here.

Step 3 – Becoming Visible

A linked and vital step is becoming visible to buyers.  This is of increased importance during the current Covid-19 crisis, as buyers look to make urgent purchases, include direct awards and Quick Quote awards (contracts under £50,000 in value).  Key to all these opportunities is buyers being aware of your organisation and the services/products that you offer or easily able to find out.  To increase your visibility, you need to spend time developing a Supplier Finder Profile as part of your registration with Public Contracts Scotland.  P4P have developed a free to download guidance document that will walk you through this process. You can download it here.

Another key to visibility is to engage with buyers who might be interested in your organisation and the services that you offer, making them aware of who you are and also that you are operating and available to take on contracts.  If the current situation means that you can’t currently deliver services then just alerting buyers to what you will be able to do in the future is a great use of your time and puts you in a good place for the future.  The market research that you have conducted will really help in identifying the buyers that you want to engage with.  Another great way to let buyers and a wider audience know who you are and what you can offer is to set up a profile on the P4P Social Enterprise Finder.  The P4P Social Enterprise Finder is a searchable database of Social Enterprise organisations who provide services which is regularly searched by buyers and promoted by P4P. 

Step 4 – Ready

Now that you have completed the first 3 steps, the best way you can use your time to become tender ready is to get everything that you might need in one place ready and waiting for a tender opportunity.  A common belief is that organisations can’t do anything in advance of a tender being published, however this is not true.  In reality there are a whole host of worthwhile timesaving things that can be done to get you as bid ready as possible well in advance of any particular opportunity.  This is time well spent and can save a whole lot of stress.  We have developed a free to download guide to creating a Bid Library and this is a great place to start. Download it here.

Conclusion

By implementing these 4 steps you will have  

  • increased your knowledge of what potential opportunities there might be for your organisation 
  •  increased the visibility of your organisation with relevant public sector buyers 
  • Increased your ability to respond quickly to any potential opportunities  

I think that this is an amazing outcome for an investment in your time.  It will open public sector procurement to your organisation and put your organisation in a much better position to compete and win work in the ‘new normal’ 

Further Reading and Support

If you want to continue investing your time in getting procurement ready a brilliant guide to help you through the process is P4P’s free to download 10 Step Guide to Procurement

The P4P website is packed full of free resources to help you get ‘tender ready’, improve your tender practice and collaborate.  

Our latest resource, Collaboration during a Crisis, walks you through developing partnerships during a crisis situation. During a crisis situation, resources and income may be reduced or there could be a requirement to deliver a new joint project on an urgent basis.

claire@p4p.org.uk