This series outlines the steps to creating an effective and productive bid document (for tenders, quotes and EOI). Part 3 covers how to ensure your bid document can be easily separated for assessors and setup your response matrix for project management purposes.
As I mentioned in the first two parts of this series, when I am managing a bid submission for a client – whether a tender, quote or expression of interest (EOI) – the first thing I do is set up the response document. An effective and productive bid document needs to be completed quickly so that you and your team have the basis for preparing the bid consistently and all in one place.
This blog is the third in a series of three that explore the following steps for creating a bid document:
- Isolate the Response Schedules (where relevant)
- Sort out the Microsoft Word features and definitions for the document
- Set up the lead-in pages for Title, Table of Contents and Executive Summary
- Set up a separate document for Ancillary Information
- Make separation of Sections easy: Start each Section on an odd page
- Now create a response matrix and start assigning the work
Part 1 in this series covered setting up the template (steps 1 and 2), and part 2 covered how to set up the lead-in pages and handle ancillary information (steps 3 and 4). In this post, I will give you my recommendations for steps 5 and 6.
5. Make separation of Sections easy: Start each Section on an odd page
The Response Schedules in your submission will most probably each encapsulate a particular topic, enabling the bid document to be separated and distributed between multiple assessors. As an example, Assessor #1 might have Schedules 1, 5 and 8 to review, while Assessor #2 has the rest.
Often there are many assessors, so distributing the different Schedules to each can be a difficult logistical exercise. If the assessors are being asked to separate and distribute the Schedules, then they may be cranky about your submission even before they start their reviews. Alternatively, if you make separation and distribution easy, then you send the message you are well organised and professional. This is less likely to make the assessor cranky, giving you a better chance of enhancing your score.
A simple way to make separation and distribution easy is to format the bid document so that each Schedule or major Section starts on an odd-numbered page. This allows the person distributing the Sections to simply separate the physical document into mini-documents, with the first page of each Section face up to the reader.
If a Section ends and a new Section starts immediately on the same page, then separating a physical document is difficult to achieve without photocopying pages. Similarly, if a Section ends on an odd-numbered page and the new Section starts on the next even-numbered page (i.e. the reverse side of a printed page), it becomes another awkward exercise.
To achieve an odd-numbered page start to a Section, simply end your Sections text on an even-numbered page. If instead it ends on an odd-numbered page, simply add a Page Break to force a blank page to be inserted as the even-numbered page.
6. Use the Table of Contents for your response matrix and start assigning the work
Now that you have a bid document created for the team to use, you may want to track progress for each question or group of questions. A simple way of doing this is to create a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (response matrix) that lists all the questions. You can then assign team members to each question and use the spreadsheet to track their progress.
Does this mean you have to type in all the questions or groups of questions from scratch into the spreadsheet? No, not necessarily.
With all the headings established in your submission document you can now update your Table of Contents. If these major headings also correspond to how you intend to assign the work among your team, you can also use the main Table of Contents to populate the response list in your spreadsheet/response matrix.
If, on the other hand, you wish to track or break down the work further – such as assign work at the level of each question – the Microsoft Word Table of Contents function can be used to generate a more detailed table that reflects the questions and responses in the document.
Here’s how to use Microsoft Word ‘styles’ to tag content you want to pull out and list for the purpose of populating a more detailed response matrix:
- Select the text you wish to be listed. It could be the first sentence of the question or some other indicator.
- Set the selected text to a paragraph outline level that is larger than what is currently reported in the Table of Contents (typically one of the levels 3, 4 or 5).
- Paragraph or outline level is set under “paragraph” (home menu or right mouse click over highlighted text). The default style is often “body text”, but there is a drop down menu to assign different outline levels.
- Alternatively, you can set this text to a low level heading (such as 3, 4 or 5). If you do not change the formatting, it will not look like a heading.
- Repeat for all text you wish listed.
For tenders where there are lots of questions, ‘tagging’ individual questions may not be productive. You may find the questions are already grouped under headings, where each heading has a heading style with an appropriate paragraph level, or you can set those heading levels yourself.
To generate the list for your response matrix, locate the Table of Contents function for your version of Word and increase the number within the show levels box. The new number should reflect the paragraph or heading level applied to the text you want listed. It’s OK to replace the current Table of Contents, but remember to change it back later.
You will now have at the start of the document a Table of Contents listing the headings and questions you want for your work assignments.
Select the entire Table of Contents and copy it to the clipboard (or a blank word doc with fields removed). Open your spreadsheet for work assignments and paste the contents of the clipboard into the appropriate cells. Format the list in the spreadsheet appropriately and start assigning team members’ names to the tasks to complete the response.
This completes my three-part series on creating a bid document, all ready to be populated with the content that will make up your proposal. By taking the time to lay the appropriate foundations, your resulting bid document will look professional and consistently presented, and streamline the completion process for your team.
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For other useful strategies around tendering and proposal writing, see our Tendering Tips.