Helping the third sector get creative about approaching bids


After being named as the Procurement Team of the Year at the recent GO Excellence in Public Procurement Awards for Scotland, Aberlour's Jim Wallace uses this experience to talk about how the third sector can add creativity to contract bids. 

19th December 2017 by TFN 0 Comments

Procurement can present a lot of opportunity. To get under the bonnet of the practice, Aberlour started to approach it differently.

There is inevitably going to be range of reasons why a service is being put out to tender and sometimes this isn't clearly outlined in the formal documentation.

By working backwards to assess the underlying challenge which the organisation is trying to overcome, a lot more value can be added to a submission.

We knew The Highland Council found themselves accommodating children away from the normal provision if they proved to be too challenging or vulnerable - at extra cost.

By being able to demonstrate our specialism in challenging behaviour we were automatically generating a potential saving.

Jim Wallace

Jim Wallace

While it definitely shouldn't be a solo exercise, a collection of little silos is also counterproductive

During this process, effective team working is vital to making everything run smoothly and while it definitely shouldn't be a solo exercise, a collection of little silos is also counterproductive.

We assembled our team before the ITT was issued after effective horizon-scanning, which comprised 13 colleagues from right across the organisation garnering a wide range of skillsets and specialisms.

An early formation of a varied team ensured we weren't restricted while allowing for immediate capture planning.

Whether it was service-delivery, marketing, HR or finance, each individual offered a wealth of insight, which was restricted to their own areas. Creativity is extremely important but easy to overlook.

Many organisations simply submit a written response and show up for a presentation with a bank of PowerPoint slides.

We not only used the services of a design agency to help create something which stands out, but also commissioned Bafta winning film-maker, Garry Fraser to use video to support our case.

He filmed our children presenting their thoughts on what it felt like to live in a residential children's house.

This really piqued the interest of the procurement panel, not only because of the interesting method of delivery, but because we made an active effort to involve service users.

While your senior people should still play an important role, if making recommendations on behalf of service users, it's vital to include them in the process.

Never assume what they want based on previous experience when you could easily just ask the question.

Not only will this make the case more convincing, it will validate your approach while possibly even helping to discover some things which weren't already known.

All too often I've heard of organisations which place too much focus on their past experience and reputation, not actually addressing the matters at hand - failing to win the contract or ultimately, not being able to deliver.

Our task was to provide loving homes for 15 vulnerable children and all of the places were filled within weeks of contract announcement.

Not only this but we received external recognition by winning a GO Award - an incredible badge of honour but also complete validation of approaching the process a bit differently, boosting the team's moral in the process.

It takes pride of place in our headquarters. None of this would have been possible without a creative and innovative approach to procurement which involved understanding the client's needs, picking the right team, thinking creatively and having the confidence we could deliver. 

Jim Wallace is director of children and families at Aberlour.