Lessons Learned & Debrief – Committing to continuous improvement
Why is it important?
As soon as you start tracking and measuring your bid and contract delivery performance, you can better identify areas where you can improve. When the bidding phase ends, your organisation’s knowledge of the buyer and your competitors is at its peak and should be captured.
Closing the loop on the bid lifecycle and capturing the data and learnings means you already have important insights to take with you into your next bid. It also helps you to calculate the return on the investment of your bidding efforts.
Setting key metrics that you can track with a dashboard report will give you important insights to help you make strategic and tactical decisions.
Lessons Learned objective
The purpose of capturing lessons learned is to:
- To bring together any insights gained during a bid lifecycle that can be usefully applied on future opportunity pursuits.
- To gain feedback from the buyer on the strengths and weaknesses of the bid or proposal, and the reasons why it was chosen (or not).
- Lessons learned feedback form and central register
Benefits of a closed loop
Far too often organisations fail to request – and follow through – on the opportunity for a post-bid debrief. They therefore continue to respond to Invitations to Tender with flawed bids based on assumptions, which could easily, and in many cases without additional cost, have been corrected or at least documented centrally.
Appearing keen but not pushy is a delicate balance but it’s perfectly reasonable to contact the buyer after the contract award decision to seek feedback. Debriefs do not only assist bidders to know their strengths and weaknesses, but the buyer can also benefit from gaining feedback on the process to increase the likelihood of improved value for money on future bids.
Whether your organisation is successful with its bid or not, you should ask for a debrief – either in writing or in person. It is just as important for the winning bidder to know precisely why it won the contract as it is for the unsuccessful bidders. The opportunity to hear why other bids were scored and considered more favourably than your own should be some recompense for the time and effort put into preparing the bid.
It could be that your bid was thousands below other bids, in which case your pricing strategy may be costing you profits. It could also be that you did not demonstrate a clear differentiation and the value proposition was not compelling enough. Or maybe you did not fully understand the buyer’ss issues, suggesting you did not spend enough time to fully understand the their business and needs.
Bid process continuous improvement
The best organisations measure their processes and continuously work to improve their performance. They keep their measures simple and relevant.
Since winning is key, organisations that want to win more business should track their win rate versus the number of bids submitted, and win rate value won versus bid.
You can also track the size and quality of your opportunity pipeline including how many opportunities you are pursuing and their value. Top performers have a formal opportunity and lessons learned database which tracks metrics, including the health of their pursuit process and pipeline.
Having visibility into the time and effort (such as resources and total days spent on each bid) helps you to more accurately calculate return on bidding investment.
When the bidding phase ends, this is the time you need to capture insights and feedback on how well the team worked together; what could be done better; and what needs to change in the process. Lessons learned is an internal continuous improvement activity that helps to spot process bottlenecks, system inefficiencies and opportunities to improve collaboration.
Asking for a debrief
If you have been unsuccessful with a bid, it is critical to figure out what the competition did well to win. This information should be captured and documented, and shared with your organisation. This allows you to build your knowledge about competitors, spot patterns and be enlightened when going into the next bid.
Whether your company wins or loses, it must learn from every pursuit. The best companies always seek a debrief for customer feedback and they loop this information back into their continuous improvement process and Capture Plan. This might also mean reviewing and updating qualification criteria, the Bid/No Bid Decision process, and Risk Assessment factors.
After a loss it’s important to focus on why the customer selected the competitor and how the winning company positioned itself. During this process you can assess your capture plan and revisit your discriminators and win themes. Were these addressed in your gate reviews? How could you have improved? By identifying changes in the opportunity qualification and review processes you can continuously analyse your performance and feed results back into your process to make it more effective.
When you are advised of the outcome of your bid, this is the time you can respond to their offer of the debrief. A quick and simple email is all you need to write. For example:
We thank you for your communication of (INSERT DATE) advising us of our successful / unsuccessful tender in relation to (SPECIFY) for the (PROJECT NAME).
So that we can continually improve our service offerings, we would appreciate a few moments of your time to provide feedback on the quality of our submission. Your debrief s will be used to improve our services, the quality of our bids, as well as to develop a better understanding of your needs.
We appreciate you taking the time to evaluate our Offer.
What to cover in the debrief
Depending on the buyer’s process, a debrief may automatically be supplied to you with your evaluation score breakdown compared to other bidders; while others may provide feedback verbally against the evaluation criteria. If there is no structure or agenda provided, you might consider any or all of the following discussion points to gather your feedback:
Decision making process
- Who was involved in the decision making process?
- How many bid submissions were received?
- What was the evaluation procedure? (ie. divided up; blind evaluation)?
- Which suppliers(s) were awarded the contract? What were the strengths of their submission?
- Which company was incumbent? (if a re-bid)
- Which selection/evaluation criteria did we do well in?
- Which selection/evaluation criteria didn’t we meet (or didn’t do well in) and why?
- What weighting did each of the criteria have in the selection process (if unknown)?
Understanding of your needs
- Do you feel we understand your objectives?
- Did we have the level of service and expertise required to fulfil the contract obligations?
- Were there any aspects of the submission that did not meet your expectations?
- Where did we exceed your expectations?
- Were you confident in the team nominated in the (INSERT BUYER) submission?
- What is your overall impression of our company from our submission?
- How would you rate overall content, presentation and format of the RFx submission?
- How effectively did the submission communicate our ability to add value to your organisation?
- How effective was our pricing or other approaches in communicating “value for money”?
- How would you rate the team’s presentation skills in general?
- How would you rate the team’s effectiveness in answering your questions?
- How was our presentation compared to other bidders?
- What set the successful bidder apart in terms of their submission?
- What do you look for overall in your service providers?
- Does your organisation do any other types of off-panel work or are there other relevant procurement opportunities coming up?
- Post-bid Presentation, Clarification & Negotiation
- Lessons Learned & Debrief
- Win/Loss Analysis