Since our interview with Senior Bid Manager, Darren O’Meara, our team have continued to deliver an abundance of winning bids. This week we’ve interviewed fellow SBM, Justine Allan.
Whilst at HealthBid, she has managed a variety of healthcare related bids such as patient transport, integrated urgent care and healthy lifestyle services and has supported major wins UK-wide throughout her career. Justine likes to bring key concepts to life through graphics as well as through writing. We caught up with Justine during a gap in her busy schedule to discuss her approach to bidding, including her co-ordination of complex projects involving multiple stakeholders.
1. Congratulations on your latest stream of wins, Justine! You’ve worked across an incredible number of tenders – first of all, could you fill us in on the service areas you covered during your time as a bid management professional?
Thank you! I’ve worked in bidding for over fifteen years; covering roles such as Bid Excellence Manager, Group Solutions Advisor and Bid Manager. I’ve worked across construction, marketing and customer communication, patient transport, courier and healthcare communications. During this time I’ve led business development activities, co-ordinated best practice in national and local bid teams, delivered roadshows and Subject Matter Expert (SME)/bid writing training, and of course produced winning bids! Most of my experience lies in the healthcare sector; I’m especially invested in every single bid knowing it can make a real difference to people’s wellbeing.
2. Considering this huge variety of subject areas, do you have a common approach when first presented with the ITT documents? Do you have a set timeline for a bid process with reference to review meetings?
When ITT documents are produced, I make a point of reading absolutely everything supplied, cover to cover. I enjoy planning and organising bids, and my initial focus is to understand the compliance and quality requirements, deadlines and communication channels for each project. I always use a bid tracker – no matter how small or large the bid; this document lies at the core of my bid management.
A key feature of an effective bid process is the Pink Team - I work to arrange this with relevant SMEs as soon as possible in the bid prep window. I use this meeting to make sure everybody understands the commissioner pack, the timescales and the input required to build a winning bid, whilst extracting win themes. This SME contribution is tracked and chased throughout the response build period.
The Pink Team will also see a date for the Red Team established, which will allow key SMEs and neutral reviewers to consider a near final draft of each response, prior to final submission.
Following Pink Team, I work with HealthBid writers; leading storyboarding sessions and allocating tasks.
Constantly mindful of the limited nature of bidding timescales, I also meticulously project manage the interim period between the Pink and Red Team to ensure that everyone keeps their promises, and the information generated is accurate and of high quality. Using agreed communication routes with key contributors, I will deliver status updates to inform gap filling, actions and monitor any risks for early mitigation. Iterative drafts are produced for consistent review - building quality, and ensuring alignment with client expectations.
All content received and generated is consistently filed using our set templated structures - I’m an ambassador for this consistency which assures version control and maximises efficiency.
3. You’ve recently finished working on a significant project, with a considerable number of stakeholders - when faced with these bids how do you co-ordinate multiple contributions and present coherent responses?
I make a point of noting each SME who will contribute to the process as early as possible in the bid timeline. This includes how each expert wants to be communicated with and their availability through the bid process. I will brief them during the Pink Team and set early milestones to allow for a single voice throughout the bid response.
Underpinning this approach, I have a designated bid workbook to indicate who is available to give content, their area of expertise and who they’re linked to in their team. I agree assignment of a single owner at the client side to co-ordinate the respective members of the team e.g. Information Technology so as to streamline the feedback provided.
4. Your use of graphics in bids is very impressive – do you have a particular rationale when deciding whether to use these graphics alongside a response?
I’m a firm believer in simplifying messages through graphics, and first worked with them when I was a Bid Excellence Manager at a respected project management consultancy. At this point, bidding was moving from more manual presentation and submission – sometimes commissioners even specified hand-written documents and hand-delivered submission - to a more innovative and online-based process. Graphics were then becoming real currency in expressing concepts in an interesting way; adding diversity to what were previous entirely written documents. Whilst at a branding and graphics agency, I also worked proactively alongside InDesign experts to present engaging bids which allowed concepts of a service model to be translated visually to a single page. Altogether, the innovation of the bidding process has allowed more flexibility in bid presentation; permitting us to highlight key messages and make it more of an interesting task for commissioners to evaluate a submission.
For example, I often use graphics to make long lists more engaging, to show relationships, illustrate flows of information and visually present patient pathways. I also use graphics to convey more complex messages as it allows simplification of a particular concept.
5. You’ve worked on tenders which have often been subject to change during the writing process –question meanings can be changed according to CQ responses and even word counts can be amended, all at short notice. How do you react to such changes?
I’ve overseen many projects subject to change during the process! It’s really important to remain open-minded, thick skinned, flexible and efficient in the face of these unexpected changes. Clarification questions must be circulated to all key stakeholders in a timely fashion, emergency calls and meetings may be necessary, and long sleepless nights could feature. Moreover, as a bid professional, the ability to avoid dwelling on issues and simply resolve any problems that arise is incredibly important; the supportive environment at HealthBid is a massive bonus here. Any of our team can be affected by such changes during any given month and flexibility is key to make sure we meet the one constant; the final submission deadline. Our unique Bidding Engine model gives us resource to surge when workload unexpectedly grows at short notice.
6. Agreed! It’s obvious that you’ve obviously cultivated a proven method to maximise the chance of winning bids – what does each new success mean to you?
I am extremely competitive, and I buy in to every bid I write; it matters to me what the result is. Wins are extremely gratifying, but whether win or lose I analyse any feedback from commissioners working to improve at the very next opportunity. I love receiving client feedback too, it shapes my own personal growth and allows me to feed learnings and successes back to the team.
If you need assistance at any stage of the bidding process, give our Business Development Manager, Laura Moore, a call on 07341 338200.