When should you engage external, critical thinking in responding to a tender and when can you manage it in-house? We think you should answer two key questions to determine this:
Complexity and novelty
Where funders are looking for the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver well-established services, you need a sharp focus on your operating model and being able to scale and/or replicate that with fidelity and at lowest cost. You will have a clear understanding of the costs to deliver and a target margin. In short, you need to deliver maximum services.
Strategic tender support is not likely to be a good investment in this case.
Where tenders are looking for novel approaches (for example, a collective or ‘alliancing’ approach to governance), or where there is added complexity (for example, where a sizeable proportion of the funding can be distributed flexibly) you really do need to think more deeply, strategically and innovatively about how you will respond. The traditional approach won’t maximise your chances in this case
Where there are few likely respondents, where you have significant market share and/or where you do not feel your contract is under real threat, you may not see a return on investment for strategic tender development support.
However, where competition is strong - or where you expect new entrants - the case for strategic tender development support is much clearer. In these cases, establishing a point of difference based on your organisation’s mission, service focus and past performance could well be the difference between you winning or losing the tender.
Latitude Network experience
In recent years we have been able to work with several organisations to develop tender responses that deal with the uncertainty generated by complex or novel processes or where competition has moved up a notch.
Our work with the Toward Home Alliance, for instance, allowed five leading service agencies to come together in a new governance approach (‘Alliancing’) and successfully bid for a significant part of South Australia’s homelessness service capacity.
In another case, we worked to develop a tender response where 50% of all funding could be allocated in a way decided by the service provider. In a case such as this you need to decide which service areas need funding and why. Once this is done you need to allocate the amounts that allow you to deliver the necessary services but that also meet the funder’s strategic objectives over time (for example, to shift resources away from crisis and toward prevention).
In short, in this increasingly complex and competitive environment, you need to know when it is best to engage the right advice and when you can manage in-house.