Don’t get caught out by using a template without thinking! The result can give you nightmares!
I was recently asked to describe the worst procurement project that I had been involved in. While not the worst, this story certainly highlights the importance of engaging procurement teams early and not blindly following templates!
I was in the role of a buyer supporting an internal customer and I took over a project at evaluation stage. The evaluation team had individually assessed the bid responses and the team had convened to discuss their findings. A weighted attribute model had been selected to help identify what criterion was valued over others.
The template bites back
The ranking of the bidders evaluation scores were revealed and the project lead was shocked. “This isn’t what we expected? These aren’t the best proposals that meet our needs, these are the weaker ones?!”
The problem became obvious. The boilerplate RFP template had been used without tailoring it to the business problem they were trying to solve. Most critically, the evaluation criteria percentage hadn’t been adjusted at all. Innovation was set to a default of 10% whe,n in fact, it was the most critical factor the project!
What is a weighted attribute evaluation model?
A weighted attribute model is one of the most common evaluation models used in procurement. It helps to identify the proposals that best meet the most important buyer needs. This could be requirements like: methodology, project management, resources or capability and capacity.
A typical weighted attribute model looks like:
|Project team and key personnel||20%|
There are many different ways to approach the weighted attribute model. (Top tip, don’t put the percentages too close together otherwise there will be nothing distinguishing one bid from the other!)
What would you do if you inherited a project at evaluation stage and the RFP didn’t actually ask the market for the complete picture that you wanted? And worse, that the evaluation criteria didn’t match the most critical elements of the project?
These were my options:
- Cancel and start again – this wouldn’t be fair to the bidders who had already put in the time and effort to respond.
- Reissue parts of the tender questions – the submission deadline had already passed but we could seek further clarification responses. This would risk our reputation in the market.
- Create a second stage and interview each bidder to better understand their proposal and see if they have the capacity and ability to scale up to our desired needs.
We selected option number 3 and ran a second stage process. The presentations enabled us to drill down into each proposal and meet with each company face to face. They were able to better understand the objectives we were seeking and we were able to better understand the solution they were putting forward.
3 lessons that changed the way I approach evaluation
- One size doesn’t fit all
A template with a generic model can’t be assumed to meet the needs of every project in every situation. It’s important that the needs are thought about carefully and that the right model is chosen for the project.
- Clunky RFP processes aren’t always right – especially where innovation is required
Consider what parts of the process must be executed e.g. notice to market, instead of paper based responses – ask the bidders to complete a simple two pager, then hold a dialogue to flush out the rest of the solution.
- Think carefully about what is important to the success of the project
The commercial team could have determined what was most important to the project. Pairwise analysis is a great tool to help with this!
The traditional RFP model’s days are numbered and will hopefully soon become a thing of the past. It does not suit all processes and yet it’s still frequently used. If the entire process can’t evolve to be more efficient, then we have to change the way we approach evaluation to ensure we’re selecting the best company for the job, rather than the company that can write the best response.
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