Ever wished you could gain a better understanding of government procurements rules, processes and programs to help you do business with them?
While the tender and bidding process itself might still be complicated to the newcomer, the government has taken steps to also help businesses build relationships with government prior to tendering to help them identify and qualify for more opportunities.
Federal government agencies around the world must demonstrate they are model purchasers by creating opportunities for small businesses and giving preference to suppliers with good records of environmental sustainability, respect for employee rights and – across the manufacturing sector mostly – use of apprentices.
This means that government departments and agencies won’t be forced to choose the lowest-cost supplier and must instead consider a range of social and environmental factors when deciding whether potential suppliers offer “value for money”. Some tenders also ask for businesses to outline potential local suppliers and explain any decisions to use competing foreign suppliers.
In Australia, the government has also boosted funding for the Industry Capability Network to help local companies bid for work at home and abroad, and it will also fund business figures to act as supplier advocates in various sectors.
Types of opportunities – how you can get your slice of the pie
There are some general principles that generally apply for government procurement. We recommend that you check with your local jurisdiction to see what general and specific principles apply to you.
- Specialised services– if you are considered to have a specialised service, then you are encouraged to build a direct relationship with government to educate them about what you do so that you are ‘on the radar’. Your first point of call is to contact a procurement manager (more on that later…) who will be able to set up a meeting between you and the person/people in government with the ‘need’. Outside of this process is the early market engagement and proactive proposal process where government actively invites industry ideas and collaborations on new and innovative solutions.
- Routine services– Government can purchase what is considered low risk products or services up to a certain dollar value (for example, $10,000) without going out to open competitive tender. Anything less than $2,000, for example, might have approval for purchase on a corporate credit card. This credit card is also made available to share with staff. The tip is to find out who in government is issued with theses credit cards as they will have a financial delegation (for example management level may have up to $10K limit).
- Critical services– High value, high risk. These are (and should be) tendered for in an open competitive market.
- Volume services– Standing offer arrangements (usually 3 to 5 years) – items such as gloves, pens or other items that are routine or bundled into high volume. Hospitals and central government departments are big users of this type of contract..
Tips to get involved
Industry Capability Networks
In Australia the Industry Capability Network (ICN) is a government-funded scheme to match suppliers with capability. Importantly, it’s where businesses can register as a supplier.
There are currently 249 major projects under study, in planning or underway in the State of Queensland providing an enormous supply chain opportunity for businesses. The Queensland Government wants to ensure Queensland businesses get every opportunity to tender to win business. There are dedicated industry capability networks set up for other Australian states, and there is also a federal government scheme. Visit:
Federal – http://www.icn.org.au/
Queensland – http://www.icnqld.org.au
New South Wales – http://www.icnnsw.org.au/
Victoria – http://www.icnvic.org.au/
Western Australia – http://www.icnwa.org.au/
Tasmania – https://icn.org.au/tasmania
Northern Territory – http://www.nticn.com.au/
South Australia – https://icn.org.au/south-australia
Published procurement plans – get proactive and start prospecting
Many departments are now publishing online their procurement plans which provides a pipeline of opportunities.
In Queensland, the State Budget (www.budget.qld.gov.au) also has line-by-line what the capital expenditure for next financial year will be. If there is a sizable amount then it can be safely assumed they’ll go to market to procure that service. If you see something that you think you can offer bigger, better, more cost effectively etc, then find out who the procurement manager is for that area and ask for a meeting well in advance and go in a pitch your product, service – tell them why working with you would be good for the Queensland Government.
Don’t wait for the tender to land to ask questions. Be proactive and contact a procurement manager!
Finding out who your competitors are
All government tenders above a threshold amount (eg. $100K) are published in the public domain and it’s a growing practice to publish the “read out” prices. That is, who submitted a tender and what their total offer came to. This does not provide any other information other than who tendered – it does not state who it has been awarded to. This information will stay on the website for up to 45 days – so it is important that this information gets printed out and kept for later reference. It will not only provide you with information on who tendered, but it will give you an idea of whether or not your pricing is in the ballpark (or not). It can also provide you with supply chain opportunities as you’ll know who is active in the market and who your nearest competitors are (and the new incumbent supplier).
Registering for opportunities
When registering your company details online, it is strongly advised to use dot points when describing your service offering in the registration field as this gets entered into a database. The more detailed keywords you can provide, the better chances you have of coming up as a ‘match’.
If there is a project on this list that a business is interested in, then it is advised to phone the Industry Capability Network and talk to them about the project and ask them how to get involved.
The above information is a summary only, and while mostly Queensland-centric there are likely to be similar procurement rules for other state governments.
Additional information can be sourced directly from the State Procurement Policy which is published in full at: https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/procurement-policy
Where to go for further information
Most government departments are shifting to online publishing. It’s important to register with these sites and check them frequently.
Tender opportunities are listed at:
Federal – www.tenders.gov.au
Grants and funding opportunities are listing at:
Community Grants Link:
International tendering opportunities are listed at:
USA – small business https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/grow-your-business/become-federal-contractor
Singapore – https://www.gebiz.gov.sg/
Hong Kong – https://www.hketolondon.gov.hk/invest/tend.htm
There are plenty of tender search companies that will email you opportunities based on your own search criteria, however, you will need to pay a subscription fee for these.
About the author
Nyree McKenzie is the co-founder and CEO of Bidhive. With more than 25+ years’ experience as a Bid Manager and Management Consultant, Nyree has gained significant international experience leading bid teams through complex, high value contract pursuits as well leading enterprise process improvement and change initiatives. Having worked in the bid management industry for many years, Nyree was motivated to help companies scale and transform their painful manual bid processes to achieve more through automation.
Bidhive helps companies plan, manage and track their bid activity with an end-to-end platform that follows the key stages of the bid lifecycle. From capture planning to proposal development and post-submission analysis, Bidhive provides the framework, critical path and collaboration tools that executives, bid teams and individuals need for improved productivity and bidding success.