Five myths about government procurement debunked

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Are you labouring under misapprehension? Learn what is fact and what is fiction, as we debunk five myths about government procurement.

Myths about government procurement … They exist. My dual experience of working initially within government, and now interfacing with government on behalf of industry, has highlighted to me the private sector’s lack of real understanding of the government procurement environment

Based on this I have decided to document (and debunk!) what I think are the most commonly held myths about government procurement.

Myth #1 – It always comes down to price and cheapest always wins

Never, in my 15 years of government procurement, did the cheapest quotation or tender win. And never, during that time, did it just come down to price. Every single assessment considers value-for-money, which very broadly is the ‘value’ you demonstrate in your tender or quotation response to justify the government spending the money on you.

Value is determined through a scoring process, and value-for-money is a ratio of that score/price. Put very plainly, if you demonstrate enough value, and score highly enough, then government will do what it can to engage you (within its budget).

If you are told that you didn’t win due to your tender price, you are really being told that you didn’t demonstrate enough value in your tender or quotation response to justify the price you charged.

Myth #2 – There is no point in tendering because the incumbent will always win the work

Tenders are hard work to put together, get approval for, release, evaluate, negotiate and award. As such, government would rarely go to the effort and cost of a full open tender, just to maintain the status quo.

Furthermore, if you see a tender that is asking for new models of engagement or delivery, comprehensive performance management framework, or even a preliminary briefing session, it’s very, very likely that they are seriously wanting to evaluate all supplier options. (Also see our recent post on How to become an incumbent supplier to government.)

Myth #3 – There is no point in engaging with government because it will only engage with its own suppliers

Government doesn’t know who is out there in industry unless those businesses market themselves to government. So many government people I know, including myself when I was in government, would rely on one tool to find suppliers to issue quotations to – Google. Because government doesn’t know who is ‘out there’, then yes it will continue to engage with its known circle of suppliers, until other opportunities come along.

Myth #4 – It’s government so they will know….

Don’t assume. Don’t assume any knowledge of your industry, its composition, its product/services or its technologies. Government is not in the business of having an in-depth understanding of these things, which is why it invests heavily in building relationships with industry and industry associations.

And don’t assume, that because they are in government, they will know of other relevant government initiatives or contracts. If it’s relevant for them to know, then tell them.

Myth #5 – Government doesn’t offer debriefs

Government may not offer you a debrief, but if you request a debrief they MUST provide you with one. If delivered well, debriefs are a great way to understand how to improve your tendering practices. They also offer you the chance to market your business to government and understand other related opportunities. Never dismiss the opportunity to go to a debrief, and always follow up if you are not offered one.

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