How to prepare effectively to win your rebid (part 2)

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In Part one of this two part article on successful rebid preparation to help win your rebid we looked at how to ensure you get buy-in to your preparations and how to gain initial momentum for your project. But even rebid preparation processes that have a good start can easily tail off. Here we look at two issues a lot of incumbents face with their rebid preparations, and how to overcome them.

Reasons why Rebid Preparations ‘fail’: 3

The process loses momentum

Some incumbents we talk to complain that they started their rebid preparations some months before the rebid, but the process lost momentum. Actions that were set at the start weren’t completed, more important short term priorities diverted people away, changes to the customer’s needs weren’t identified, and the existing contract team didn’t make the changes that had been identified as needed to get present delivery into a strong position for the rebid.

The result is that despite an early spate of activity, they arrived at the rebid with too little preparation completed.

When we look at what happened, what we usually find is that they did indeed start with good intentions, but just assumed that having got people together and set a number of actions that this was enough. As with all projects, setting out the initial requirement then leaving things to just happen is not a recipe for success.

Put someone in charge

The first requirement to solve this is to ensure someone is responsible for maintaining momentum. That means putting someone in charge of the project who knows it is their responsibility to get it successfully completed. Usually that will be someone in the bid team, although it may be someone else who is involved in the bid. Ideally it needs to be someone with the motivation to succeed, the ‘clout’ to get people to do the things that need doing, but the ability to do this respectfully and through positive motivation. Usually it should not be the lead of the existing contract delivery. Whilst they may have the motivation to get the project done, they are unlikely to have a lot of experience of rebidding, or of the consequences for the rebid of not completing actions. They are also likely to be pulled away to day to day priorities on the contract itself.

Put progress reviews in place – and make sure they happen

To maintain momentum an effective rebid preparation process also needs to involve regular reviews and updates of progress. These should be set out at the start of the process and their purpose made clear to all those involved. Actions should be set to be completed by particular dates and their progress towards completion regularly updated. We usually suggest monthly update meetings, with a conference call in the intervening fortnight for typical 6 month preparation process. For longer processes you may want to just update monthly until you are 6 months away from the rebid start. But if you do this, don’t miss a month, leaving things for 2 months

Each meeting and call should go through all the actions set (written out as a project plan with responsibilities, outcomes required and dates for completion against each action). Those with responsibility for each of the actions should be required to report back on progress, together with updates on expected completion dates. If action completion dates start to drift, a separate session with them may be required to understand why – are they being pulled onto other priorities by others, is the action itself presenting problems, are they not getting the input or cooperation they need?

Each review should also look for new information and updates – what new intelligence has emerged from the customer, how does this impact on plans etc.

Ideally you will also hold one meeting halfway through the overall project period, where you will take a detailed look at the progress to date and your readiness for the rebid. This should lead to refocusing efforts and resources on the key areas identified as priorities for the final part of the project.

Focus on the right areas

There tend to be four strands of work involved in a rebid preparation process:

  1. Understanding and reviewing the existing contract
  2. Building / expanding customer relationships
  3. Understanding what changes will be required in the new contract
  4. Building a new solution

Each overlaps and interacts with the other (better relationships help understanding of changes, which leads to a better new solution for instance) and whilst the main focus of effort will move from 1 through to 4 as the preparation process progresses, all will continue throughout the project period. Ensuring actions and plans for each area are in place, and proactively reviewed, updated and completed to time will ensure you maintain momentum and arrive at the rebid itself fully ready to win.

 Reasons why Rebid Preparations ‘fail’: 4

Starting from scratch with every rebid

The rebid you are (hopefully) preparing for now may possibly be your first rebid, but it is unlikely to be your last. And any organisation with a portfolio of contracts will face multiple rebids, potentially each year. Many repeated processes, especially in bidding have set actions and governance processes that are written down, agreed, signed off by senior management and are completed for each bid. But many businesses don’t have such a repeatable set process for rebid preparation, even though the process is largely the same each time.

Instead the rebid lead has to start from scratch each time, persuading people the preparation is important, that time spent in preparing will be worth it and ‘selling’ the effort and process each time a rebid approaches. If they aren’t on the ball, the process doesn’t happen automatically and they can find themselves facing a PQQ/RFI for the rebid of an existing contract with little or no preparation done.

Setting out a repeatable process for rebid preparation is relatively easy, especially for organisations with multiple contracts delivering similar products or services to similar customers. But it does take time and effort and sometimes a couple of failed attempts before the process becomes engrained in the culture of the organisation as the natural and right thing to do every time.

There are a number of things you can do to make this process easier;

Know when rebids are due

In some respects it is easier to know when your rebids are going to be than it is to plan for potential new bids. You know the contracts the business has now. In most cases you know how long the contract is for, when it was won and therefore when it is due to end. Whilst they may vary somewhat you can usually estimate how long the rebid process itself will be, so you can subtract this from the contract end date to get a sense of when the OJEU or equivalent will be released. You should therefore be able to plan for at least 2-3 years ahead when and how many rebids you will be facing. Whilst there will be variables such as extension periods for contracts, you can also take these into account in most cases (we usually recommend you do this by assuming the extension won’t happen and starting to prepare for the rebid anyway. Your preparations might in fact help you in getting the extension you are hoping for).

By then estimating when the customer is likely to start their own process of thinking about and working on their preparations for the rebid (deciding on possible extensions, looking at future needs, deciding on the scope and specification for the new contract, writing the process, questions to be asked and deciding how the bids will be evaluated etc) you can work out when you should be starting your rebid preparations. This might be anywhere from 6 -18 months before the rebid ‘officially’ starts depending on the size and complexity of your contracts.

By creating this forward looking calendar (see a simple example below) you can make sure your yearly budgeting and planning takes into account the work on rebid preparation you will need, and the resources you will require to implement the projects. It will also mean your (or your relevant senior director) can ensure colleagues in contract delivery and other relevant departments are also aware of the effort required.
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Part of this planning process should also highlight the amount of turnover and profit the company would lose if these rebids were lost. Knowing this can focus the attention of even the most senior people in your business on what needs to be done to avoid these losses!

 Set out a clear repeatable plan that can be used for each rebid

In the previous parts to this article we have set out what a rebid preparation process should look like and the areas to focus on. You can also read more about it here. Your own process will be unique to your organisation and sector, but will most likely follow a similar general outline. Creating and communicating this process will mean people know what to expect, and will have more confidence that there is a plan to follow. By adding this detail to your calendar for the year you can also see exactly (within reason) what you (and others) should be doing when. If you have multiple rebids you can also see where the ‘pinch points’ might be for resources and plan for them.

Learn from each rebid

As you are persuading colleagues that a rebid preparation process is needed, using examples of issues created by a lack of preparation in previous rebids will be useful. And as you start to gain the benefits of a preparation process, using these to reinforce its repeated use will help embed the process.

Review each rebid, including what happened in the rebid preparation period. Make sure colleagues see the benefits and add new elements of variations based on what has worked (and what needs improving) every time you complete a rebid.

Focus on communicating with all your contract colleagues

The bid team and many ‘central’ departments will most likely be involved in multiple rebids, so the learning from each will grow. But contract teams only face a rebid every few years for their own contract. For many of them it will be a new experience. Although they will be motivated to retain the contract (and their jobs – at least in your business), they will perhaps not fully understand the benefits of preparing for the rebid, how the process will work, or how it will mean additional work for them.

To overcome this, get one or more contract managers who have been through the process to do a joint presentation with you at any business contract managers meetings that occur in your organisation. Whilst you can cover the process, they can cover what the process was like from their perspective and how it helped. Their input with their peers is likely to add credibility and impact to your message and mean those managers with rebids coming up will be more aware of what is required and perhaps more likely to focus on their own rebid preparations.

See how we can help you prepare to win your rebid here