Making Sense of Tender Documents

  • Posted in
  • Tender Preparation
  • Tender Writing

So, you’ve found a tender that you’re interested in, gone to the tender notice, and you’ve downloaded the tender documents. The next step of the tender preparation process is to start to read through the documents, to understand what the purchaser wants to see from your response.

As we’ve discussed previously in our blog about being ready to tender, using the available time wisely is key to maximising your chances of success with your tender submission. Having a good understanding beforehand of what you’re likely to see in the tender documents, and what you need to be looking out for, can be a big help towards writing winning tenders.

While private sector documents have a great deal of variety, local, state and federal government tenders are likely to be broadly similar, because government has rules to follow, to make sure that everything is fair, and that public money is being spent appropriately. This means that there are a number of key sections that are common across many, or even most, tender opportunities.

Tender Conditions

The first section that you’re likely to see when you go into a request for tender will be the tender conditions, often referred to as Conditions of Tender. In summary, these describe:

  • What expectations the purchaser has of you, as the tenderer, and likewise
  • What you can expect the purchaser to do to achieve their goals and make the process fair.

This will include things like:

  • When your response needs to be lodged, and how and where to lodge it.
  • The process for asking questions of the purchaser if you need to.
  • If there is to be a briefing for tenderers, whether it’s compulsory or not, and when and where it is.
  • The evaluation criteria that will be used to assess the responses.
  • The rules the purchaser will follow to make sure that the process is fair for everyone.
  • The rules that the tenderer must follow so their submission can be evaluated, which often cover what they must include in their tender response, or rules about not attempting to improperly influence the result.

Response Schedules

The response schedules outline what information the purchaser wants from you so they can decide if you’re the right fit to provide the goods or services they need.

Sometimes, the purchaser will require that you use their schedules to respond in, without making any changes at all. Other times, you’ll be able to do your response up nicely with your company branding and formatting. This isn’t always mentioned in the response schedules themselves though, which is why it’s important to read all the documents carefully before you begin the actual bid writing process.

Usually, the purchaser will match the information closely to what they’re interested in seeing, which can vary from simply a pricing sheet if you’re a small business quoting for a construction subcontract, right up to a heavily detailed document numbering in the hundreds, or even thousands, of pages.

This means, once again, that there’s no way of saying what exactly you’ll find in the response schedules. However, common items might include:

  • Price
  • Methodology (how you’ll meet their requirements)
  • Capability and capacity to do the work
  • Past experience and referees for similar projects
  • Details (e.g. CVs) of your key people
  • Details of your quality, WHS and environmental systems and process
  • Compliance items (e.g. licences, insurances, agreement with the proposed contract).

Statement of Requirements

The statement of requirements (also often called the scope of works or the specification) is a description of what the purchaser will need you to do once you’re engaged as the contractor.

This will vary significantly depending on how complex the requirement actually is – it may be a simple one-page list of dot points, or it may be hundreds of pages long, including supporting information like design drawings or standards that must be met.

Draft Contract

The final item which you’re likely to see is a copy of the contract which the purchaser intends to use to sign up the successful tenderer. This is an often overlooked item, because it doesn’t kick in until after the tender process is over, but it’s still important to read so that you understand what you’re getting yourself in to.

Because of the complexity of properly putting a contract together, purchasers often use standard contracts which they can simply tailor to their needs. Examples of this include:

  • Australian Standard contracts (e.g. AS2124, AS4000)
  • Contracts issued by an industry association (e.g. the Master Builders Association)
  • Contract suites prepared by major Government departments (e.g. the Facilities and ASDEFCON suites used mainly by the Department of Defence).

This means that it’s likely to that you’ll see the same kind of contracts over and over again for the jobs you submit tenders and proposals for. However, it’s still good practice to read over the contract each time, to be certain that nothing has changed and to identify any special requirements.

How Bidsmith Can Help

Hopefully today’s blog has assisted you to begin understanding what you’ll see when you open up your tender documents. However, if there’s things you still need help with, or even if you’ve understood fully but know you’ll need extra brainpower to put your response together, contact us today.

Our team of expert tender writers works with a wide variety of tender documents every day, and some of our team were formerly involved in developing and administering a major suite of government tender documents. There’s very little that we don’t know when it comes to tendering, so engaging our tender writing service can help to get you on the path to improving your tendering win rate.