Understanding how tenders are evaluated

There are various criteria used to assess a tender response. Most often it will be specified in the tender document (or Request for Tender) itself.  Other times (frustratingly) it’s not, however, through experience we know that the selection panel will assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each tender and therefore it’s not just a matter of compliance to get your foot in the door.  It’s exceeding the requirements in comparison to your competitors.

Remember, the first step in the tender evaluation process is disqualification. This is a standard process undertaken by selection panels to reduce the sheer number of tenders they need to assess. First and foremost, your tender will be assessed to see if it complies with mandatory tender and contract conditions for participation. If it doesn’t, it may be considered to be “non-compliant” (or invalid) and eliminated from further evaluation.

An assessment is usually then undertaken against each of the non-cost evaluation criteria. These are also referred to as “uncompetitive issues”. These will be specified in the tender documents and may include:

  • the technical merit of your proposal;
  • the capability of your business to fulfil the requirement including: technical and management competence, financial viability and relevant experience;
  • the relevant skills, experience and availability of key personnel;
  • quality assurance (or quality process) requirements;
  • the risks or constraints associated with your offer; and
  • sustainability programs and measures.

Increasingly, a value for money assessment of each tender may be undertaken. This does not necessarily mean choosing the cheapest price. When assessing value for money the tendering organisation will weigh up the benefits of your tender against the whole-of-life costs of your tender.

For others, this means weighing up the risks of doing business with you (remember you need to provide assurance – and proof – that you will not subject the client to the “three D’s” – debt, delay or disputes). The value for money assessment may include consideration of wider benefits such as providing local employment opportunities, or the value of your intellectual property, collective knowledge and experience, or your novel approach that will provide a benchmark for excellence.

What do evaluators want? 

If the tender document doesn’t clearly state the evaluation weighting, you may need do some research. Use your intuition. Ask ‘above board’ questions directly to the probity officer or tender contact, and then do your own further research – talk to people within your organisation who may have established relationships and who can give you some insight into how the tendering organisation, or the people who work there, like to do business.

The following tips should help as a start:

  • What will be the criteria for evaluation and how will they be weighted?
  • Who will be evaluating the tender?
  • Who will be making the final decision?
  • What type of documentation does the tendering organisation want – how much detail is needed, level of language (simple, technical etc), length of attachments including CVs
  • What “extras” would be valued by the tendering company – consultancy, after sales service, maintenance, guarantees, seminars, workshops, secondments, newsletters, social events, sponsorships etc
  • Identify incumbents and understand how they are perceived by the tendering company. In particular, what organisations are being used for what type of work (if relevant).
  • How is your organisation perceived compared to your competitors vying for the same work?

Knowing how your tender will be evaluated (or knowing you will be evaluated against your competitors) will enable you to focus your efforts on those areas which are considered most important by the tendering organisation.