1 July 2024

Time is the enemy of all bids. Here’s how to make the most of it…

BidVault’s Director of AI Strategy, David Haslewood, discusses how using AI to redress the balance between producing first drafts and response refinement can lead to increased win rates for bidders. 

If you’ve had the time to read through the forthcoming changes to the public procurement regime embodied in the Procurement Act 2023, you’ll understand that competitive procurement will continue to be utilised as the principal mechanism to ensure that the Public Sector achieves best value for contracts. As such, you’ll appreciate that bidding will remain a fundamental capability for any organisation seeking to compete for these contracts!

Any organisation that has been involved in bidding for contracts understands that it is both hard, particularly in terms of the associated organisational disruption, and costly in terms of resource and time; all of which could be invested to benefit your organisation in other ways.  I’ve therefore always encouraged clients to qualify potential bid opportunities based on three criteria – Winnability, Deliverability, and Profitability (or at least being sustainable for Public Sector clients). Whilst all three criteria are equally important, if you are not bidding to win then you are essentially gambling with your resources – there are no prizes for second place!

Successful bidding is more than just putting words and pictures onto a page to create standard ‘blurb’ to submit a ‘compliant’ tender. It’s about maximising competitive advantage in relation to the customer and opportunity. The emphasis is not on trying to convince a buyer to ‘choose’ your tender above everybody else’s, but instead trying to give the buyer no option than to select your organisation as the ‘preferred bidder’. This is done by convincing their evaluators to award maximum points to each individual response – ultimately, points mean prizes!

Fundamentally, this means articulating your value proposition in such a way that it can be easily understood in reference to the customer and opportunity. To do this, I always tell clients to ask themselves:

Additionally, as well as identifying and communicating specific value adds that you offer as a bidder, you must also ensure that your value proposition differentiates your products and services in relation to the competition.

When I’m facilitating a bid for a client, I always tell them that the winning bid is in their minds; my job is to facilitate a process and use my skills as a bid professional to articulate that on paper. I therefore do this using the following mechanisms:

Despite the advances in AI technology, I don’t believe it can (as yet at least) match the human brain in terms of emotional intelligence, particularly when trying to understand the buyer’s perspective, challenges, and aspirations. I therefore believe that the bid mechanisms above need to be implemented by a trained bid professional in consultation with the wider Bid Team featuring representatives from various functions within the organisation – Operations, HR, Finance, Sales, etc. However, the final part of the bid process is to generate content based on the storyboards that achieve the highest possible scores for each response, and this is what I believe presents somewhat of a ‘Kodak moment’ in the bidding industry.

I’ll acknowledge that in my experience of using AI solutions currently in the market to generate bid responses, a human can word for word most likely produce superior content. However, in any bid THE most critical factor is time; that deadline is always looming and so you are always limited on the amount of time you have available to maximise the quality of responses. This is where AI comes into its own and why in my view it must be embraced if you want to remain competitive.

AI is a tool, and like any tool can in the hands of a skilled user not only save time, but also improve the quality of outputs. In bidding terms, it means maximising your Probability of Win (PWin) by redressing the balance of time between initial drafting of responses and their subsequent refinement to maximise scores awarded to each response.

A traditional non-AI approach to generating responses may have meant I would have had to spend up to 70% of my time available to get to first draft, leaving only 30% of time available for refinement in iterative drafts. Utilising AI means I am now spending much less time getting to first draft (down to even 30% of the time available). As such, I now have more time available to refine a client’s bid responses through iterative drafting, building in focussed elements that best describe their value proposition capitalising on their strengths and mitigating their weakness in relation to the buyer, the specific opportunity, competitors, and the client’s internal capabilities.  In doing so I am maximising their PWin by achieving superior quality scores awarded for each of their bid responses.

We here at Bidding Limited believe that AI is here to stay, and it will continue to evolve in the world of procurement – a view that is further recognised in the Procurement Policy Note (PPN 02/24 Improving Transparency of AI use in Procurement) issued by the Cabinet Office in March 2024. On that basis, we are doing everything we can to capitalise on this technological revolution on behalf of our clients to help maximise their PWin by using AI to redress the balance of time between initial drafting and response refinement.