Viewing entries tagged
tenders

Framework Agreements: Getting SMEs involved in public procurement

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Framework Agreements: Getting SMEs involved in public procurement

The annual conbined turnover of UK Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) was over £1.8 trillion in 2016. Governments in recent years have committed more and more funding to them, since it is clear they are key to economic growth.

Following on from a previous blog (‘A Bidding Guide for Small Businesses’, 10/04/17), we want to discuss how else SMEs can get involved in public procurement. Framework agreements represent around 45% of procurements in the UK, and they are increasingly valuable for SMEs.

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Selection Questionnaires: the new PQQ?

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Selection Questionnaires: the new PQQ?

In September, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) released the Selection Questionnaire (SQ) to replace the Standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). Since then, we’ve had some experience using the SQ, and have decided to write a blog listing our thoughts, along with some helpful hints and tips to completing your own SQ.

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Word Counts: Make your Words Count

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Word Counts: Make your Words Count

Capture planning, designing the solution, story-boarding answers… Here at HealthBid, we recognise these as the key parts of the process that is bidding. However, when composing the bid itself, the basic rules of writing come back into play: structure, content, & word counts. Structure and content are on the whole prepared for through the previous stages, yet word counts are set by the commissioning body and have to be adhered to. Unless, of course, there is no word count... Either way, capped or uncapped, it is a useful part of the question to take into account.

 

Capped

When there is a word count, this is a good indication of how much content you should include. For example, 500 words indicates only the bare bones of your ideas should be cohesively included, whereas 4000 words really gives you room for examples, thorough explanations and justifications.

Despite what can feel like frustrating restrictions at the time, word counts can improve your answer. They prevent you from waffling, forcing you to be concise and really reflect on what you are writing. They are therefore not just there to consume yet more time through cutting words at the end of the project.

However, the amount of content you have for each question will differ. There is little point padding out an answer just to reach the word count when you could have said the same information in half the number of words. This will retract from the key points within the response and just serve to dilute your answer. It is important to be confident with your writing; if you believe you have covered all the important points and communicated them well, yet are under the word limit, leave it be.

With a capped word count, also make sure to thoroughly read the tender documentation. Where you include diagrams, appendices, etc., be aware that, in some cases, these may count towards the word count.

 

Uncapped

Bid responses can also have no word count. This may initially seem like the ideal situation, with the possibility to write whatever you want without any consideration for its length. It certainly is a lot easier when you first put pen to paper, as there is less pressure to adhere to a limit. However, as mentioned above, word counts can help your answer. The danger is that, with an unlimited amount of words, the key points are hidden within a large amount of other information which, if we’re honest, isn’t entirely relevant and consequently doesn’t need to be there.

In this situation, it is often helpful to set your own limit. Having read the question and knowing your content, the information required is usually clear, thus the necessary length of the response reflects this. It also makes sense if there are multiple bid writers working on the same submission, as it avoids large discrepancies between the lengths of answers, making the bid more cohesive when read as a whole.

 

If you need support with any part of the bidding process, from simply cutting down your answers to fit the word count to writing it your responses for you, get in touch with our Managing Director, Tom Sheppard, at tom.sheppard@healthbid.co.uk.

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Style & Substance

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Style & Substance

 

When doing creative writing as part of an English class, it is always important to write for your audience. School tends to teach you how to identify who they are, what they like, and then tweak your writing style accordingly. Register, tone, tenses… These are all buzzwords of English writing which have an impact on your final piece.

 

Even though your school days may feel like a while ago (or perhaps just a few years!), the lessons learnt here are valuable. For example, the tone and register you use in a job application will be different to that when writing a party invite to your closest friends. In every situation, there’s a subtle difference in style which is important to pick up on, and bidding is no exception.

 

The bidding style could be seen as a unique combination of commercial (sales) writing, essentially persuasive writing, and storytelling. It’s important to be concise and clear to get across your key points, your win themes. The style you use will influence how your message is communicated to the Commissioner, and so it’s important to be on point. For example, talking about yourself in the past tense too often makes it seem as though you’re not looking forward, and aren’t also currently achieving all of these things. Subtle nuances in the text like this can mount up to change the feel of the text, and so it’s important to bear in mind.

 

If you would like some support with your writing style, want us to write answers for you, or to simply review what you’ve done to maximise your chances of winning, give our Business Development Manager, Joe, a ring on 07341 338 200.

 

 

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Excel with Experience

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Excel with Experience

In certain situations, experience and the knowledge it provides is vital. For example, if you aren’t feeling 100% and you want to get a reliable second opinion, you’d trust the advice of your GP over that of your friend, as your GP has more knowledge and experience in that area. Likewise, if you have a specific issue when you go to your GP, such as an eye problem, you are sometimes referred to a specialist, an ophthalmologist in this case.

 

Experience is therefore evidently an asset. Bidding is no exception. You may know your organisation inside out, but ensuring that the knowledge is communicated in the best way can be a challenge. Writing a good bid isn’t just about knowing your own company either; other companies who will be competing, the commissioning body and the incumbent all are key things to analyse, and being able to use this knowledge effectively to your advantage is a skill.

 

Additionally, if you don’t have a bid team within your company, someone will have to write the bid on top of their day-to-day workload. We know that you’ll already be working your socks off, and this could be a big ask. Instead of compromising the quality of the bid, you can use HealthBid. We can help you to write your bid, write it for you, or check it at the end. Not only are we experienced in bidding, but we also know the healthcare sector inside out. When a contract is worth a hefty amount over, say, 5-7 years, why not invest in extra help to ensure you maximise your winning potential? If you want some extra support, give us a ring on 07341 338 200.

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A Win-Win Situation

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A Win-Win Situation

As we have said many a time here at HealthBid, preparation is key. You always stand a much greater chance of success if you take the time to prepare and organise the bidding process. There are many stages to this, but no matter which you’re at: if you want to win, you have to know how. Enter the win strategy.

 

As part of the capture planning process during your preparation, you will perform both analyses of your company and your competitors. Out of this should blossom factors which can be highlighted to put you in a prime position to win, as well as instances where you can’t quite match up to others... Win strategies incorporate all of these: your strengths are obvious winning leads, yet identifying your weaknesses and mitigating them is also an important part of strategically developing your answers.

 

To ensure your bid really gets across your strengths, streamline your win strategy into win themes. Having concise bullets which perfectly encapsulate why you should win makes it easier to weave them through your answers. With these key ideas both overtly and subtly included in all of your responses, not only can you provide an answer to the main areas of the specification but you can also reinforce your strengths to make your bid stand out above the others.

 

Without these win themes, you have less focus on what you’re aiming to highlight. Win themes therefore not only help the writing process but also the Red Team (what is a Red Team? See our previous blog post here!). You can compare and contrast what your answers really say with the key ideas you wanted to initially get across, making any relevant changes to strengthen them before submitting the bid.

 

Want help with creating your win strategy? Picking out your win themes? How about checking your answers are in sync with them? For any help with the bidding process, get in touch with us on 07341 338 200, or send an email over to our Business Development Manager, Joe (joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk).

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The Strengths of Story Time

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The Strengths of Story Time

There is no doubt that writing is a powerful tool. When you’re young, bed-time stories are one of the highlights of your day. When you get just that bit older, despite the narratives changing slightly, stories still remain a great channel through which to engage people and express a point. This is why we believe they are a key factor to bear in mind when composing a bid.

Evidently, the aim here is slightly different to when you were a child; instead of falling into a blissful slumber, you want a story to bring your day-to-day accomplishments as a company to life, and strike a chord with the commissioner. Short of showing them in person how your company works, which of course you can do once the bid has been won, a story gives the most realistic impression of how what you do (and how you do it) would greatly help the situation in question.

Simply describing the way in which your services work and letting the commissioner deduce its benefits is a passive method which makes the reader disengage. Be creative: imagine up a character who is using your solution in their organisation, use it to show them how it has a positive influence on the lives of the patients, and therefore how it’s their best option. They can then visualise why they should choose your bid and services over others, setting you up nicely on the path to victory.

Last but not least, don’t forget to tell your company’s story. Just like tailoring your bid to the tender and to the commissioner as discussed in the last post, make your company relatable through giving it that more personal edge and help the reader to understand its purpose. Finding out who created the solution and why will make your bid stronger, as the commissioner will further comprehend your reasons for tendering. If you fancy getting your stories straight and streamlining your bid, don’t hesitate to call us on 07341 338 200 or send an email to joe.gatenby@healthbid.co.uk!

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What's Next?

Last week's election result came as something of a shock for most pollsters. For most people working in the NHS, as in all public services, a period of uncertainty was anticipated while a new government was formed - a process which looked like it would take some time. Instead, the Conservatives have a clear mandate to implement their manifesto, including commitments to the NHS.

The commercial framework that the NHS operates within is therefore unlikely to change significantly. Pieces of work will continue to be tendered for through the European tendering process, and there will be no assumption that NHS organisations have a 'most favoured bidder' status.

To this point, NHS organisations have not won as many contracts a might be expected. After all, the NHS has many structural advantages over private firms - incumbency, the ability to drawn on other parts of the service, staff loyalty and a pre-existing relationship with commissioners.

In another sense, it is not surprising. Private sector firms are sales organisations, with the best spending money on commercial teams, marketing teams, bid writing teams and more. The NHS doesn't and shouldn't spend large sums on these things. That being so, there is a gap between having great services, but not being great at selling them.

There are different solutions to that problem. Sales (or the euphemistic 'business development') teams can be created, and bid management put in place. With a typical Community Trust bidding for 12-15 tenders a year, however, this is a large commitment. And, frankly, these teams are hard to create and manage, especially when the primary focus of the organisation is improving patient care, not recruiting and running commercial teams.

An alternative is to source external support. Obviously we think that this is an excellent route to go down! However, beware - make sure you know that the company you are partnering with truly knows the NHS. You don't want to spending your whole time explaining the difference between an ECG and a CCG.

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