What it takes to win Technology Tenders in Kenya.

I recently had the opportunity to sit on a tender selection committee for an organization where I am involved at the board level. This is an organization that has an outstanding operational model and works in a professional manner. Therefore, it was an exciting opportunity to be involved in the selection process from the start to the end.

It was an eye opener being on the opposite side of the table for a change – selecting from a range of bidders rather than being a bidder for a change. The tender in question was for a range of technology services from the marketplace. We had a good number of bidders comprised of companies that ranged from the one man show variety to the very large multi-million shilling enterprise – it ran the whole gamut.

So, here is the thing, when looking at all the tenders submitted and spending a good number of hours drilling down to the short-list and seeing their presentations, it occured to me that there are several steps that can either make you win or lose a lucrative technology tender bid.

Contrary to popular belief, tender selection processes are more often than not completely transparent and impartial. Its a shame how many good firms lose out by not following tender bidding procedure when they stand to make millions of shillings, and possibly, permanently transform their business prospects.

In nutshell, these are the 5 steps I see as being critical to winning lucrative technology tenders in Kenya, from my perspective:

  • Compliance to bidding requirements – These are the basics. There are typically explicitly stated requirements for a tender before even a technical or financial proposals are reviewed. This can be as simple as labelling your envelopes correctly as per instructions to ensuring that you have a tax compliance certificate in your bid as well as a bid bond. If you do NOT have these compliance items in your bid you are immediately disqualified meaning that your proposal is not even reviewed – its as simple as that. You don’t even get to the party, let alone have a chance to dance.
  • Responsiveness to the terms of reference – In this scenario, assuming you have passed the basic bidding requirements, the next step is to elaborate on the proposed technology solution. More often than not, the responsiveness to the terms of reference needs to be as detailed and as accurate as possible. A one line sentence describing how the security of an online system would be guaranteed safe simply will not cut it. The devil really is in the detail. At the end of the day, when all the numbers are tallied, the total will be based on these factors and will determine whether or not you win the bid for your firm.
  • Team credentials and case studies – Another major factor to winning technology tenders is the quality and size of the team that will execute the project should it be awarded. The depth in terms of years of experience as well as qualified credentials for similarly scoped work will tip the balance. For this reason, more often than not, larger technology firms simply tend to win all the work because they have the best teams who have the “been there and done that” background with case studies. Most organizations are unlikely to give an unproven firm a technology assignment if they are not satisfied with the team credentials and work record.
  • Financial proposals – Assuming that your firm makes it through the technical proposal evaluation process, and meets the minimum score to qualify, the next step of the tender proposal is to review the financial proposals. This process can be tricky since there can be massive disparities in pricing. Its not uncommon for smaller firms to overprice their offerings whereas larger firms can tend to bid much lower. Whatever the case, the tender will be won by the firm that has a combination of the highest technical score as well as the most competitive financial proposal for the assignment.
  • Final presentations – If you firm makes the cut through the financial part of evaluation and has a good combined score with the technical proposal, it is possible you will be called in for a final presentation to the tender committee. This is the last step and a specific agenda for the presentations will normally be communicated to bidders. In this respect, this is where even the largest and most successful firms can stumble. It is vital that your presentation is as comprehensive as it is compelling. It must cover all the bases and essentially “close” the business.
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  1. March 13, 2011 at 7:45 am — Reply

    Well, i like the comprehensiveness of the article, informing to those of us who have not been to a bid process. I may be behind, but whats a bond bid?

    • March 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm — Reply

      @martin a bid bond is a security of usually 2.5% to 5% of the total bid value that you normally get from the bank. Its a requirement in lots of Government tenders.

  2. Bankelele
    March 13, 2011 at 8:27 am — Reply

    Note that in following the procedures, the financial portion may have to be submitted separately or after – which emphasizes the technical proposal should be flawless.
    – Agree that in the scope, similar work done at other companies should stand out – but I’d advise companise to summarise their staff expertise in a paragraph instead of giving 3-page CVs of their managers.
    – Emphasize again – read the bid instructions details e.g. time and mode of delivery, VAT pricing

    • March 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm — Reply

      @bankelele thanks for pointing out the other additional factors.

  3. Chuani
    March 14, 2011 at 12:21 am — Reply

    article is on point. i’ve been on several tender committees, and its frustrating and unfortunate to witness a highly technically qualified company’s tender thrown out due to basic non-compliance on bidding requirements

  4. Jaffar mohammed
    March 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    interesting article but one always wonders. take a look at some of the work done by various firms after winning tenders. a good example is govt. websites, there is hardly any worth mentioning. a tendering process that leads to a website which is simply a free downloaded template @200k must be extremely flawed to say the least.

  5. steve nguru
    March 22, 2011 at 11:40 am — Reply

    Your article is good, but nothng new there. Just like you Moses, I have sat on “both sides” of lots of tenders. However I choose to think creatively or “fresh” if you like. I am happy to award a tender to someone who is bright, quick on their feet and “with it”. An entrepreneur, a Richard Branson, a Steve Jobs, a James Mwangi. Such persons breath lots of life into the project and deliver in numerous creative ways. The big firms are lethargic and set in their ways – recipe for stagnation.

    • March 23, 2011 at 4:33 am — Reply

      @steve I was hoping to provide some perspectives that may not be known to all. Its surprising how even the most creative firms can fail to follow the basic requirements for a tender bid. Can you therefore really blame the larger firms for winning bids when the basics are not adhered to by the “creative” or “fresh” firms? Its really sad to be honest.

  6. Lewis Muchiri
    September 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm — Reply

    Hi Moses, came across this article rather late but is an eye-opener especially in conforming to requirements. I have been doing this internationally for 10 plus years now and the more attention you pay to detail and offering superior, cost effective yet widely supported solutions will definitely get you to the next stage of evaluation. May I add that, sizing up your competition – market intelligence broadly put, is a key factor. The cost of compiling a super document shouldn’t be prohibitive if proper ground work is done before the closing date. GOOD POST!

  7. Mweha
    November 29, 2011 at 8:02 pm — Reply

    Wat are the qualifications if any, to obtain a tax compliance certificate if you are new in public bids?

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