European tendering: 5 common pitfalls to avoid

By Cleo van Engelen

Many organizations struggle with European Tendering. It's a complex process that consumes time and energy, often leaving you with the knowledge of what you could have done better in hindsight. In my experience, these lessons learned are often not carried over to the next project. In my upcoming three blogs, I will provide a brief overview of the most common lessons learned to equip organizations better for entering into a European Tender.

Veel organisaties worstelen ermee: Europees Aanbesteden. Een ingewikkeld traject dat tijd en energie in beslag neemt en waarbij je vaak achteraf precies weet wat je de volgende keer beter zou kunnen doen.

This first blog focuses on the preparation process preceding a European Tender. This process is perhaps the most crucial for achieving a successful outcome: a service or product with the desired quality, within budget, and meeting the organization's expectations. A tender is successful not only when it acquires something that doesn't cost too much and meets the functionality requirements but also aligns with the organization's strategy and operates within existing processes. Below are the top 5 lessons learned for this process.

1. Lack of Tendering Strategy

If your organization doesn't have a tendering strategy in place, create one. A tender for a new service or product can be of much greater value to an organization when it aligns with its objectives, expectations, and long-term vision. Address why you are doing something and, equally important, why you are not. A strategy can also be useful for market validation.

2. Focus on Expectation Management

Expectations regarding the outcome of a tender can vary greatly. Beforehand, it should be clear to all stakeholders:

  • Why the tender is being conducted.
  • What is being tendered.
  • Who is responsible for each part of the tender.
  • How the tendering process will unfold.
  • How much time participants need to dedicate and the extent of their involvement.

3. Lack of Market Knowledge

Before starting a tendering process, it's crucial to understand what the market can offer. Experience shows that a good understanding of the market can lead to a sharper tender. Through market research (informal) or market consultations (formal), you can question the market effectively. Conducting desk research or seeking information from other involved parties can also yield valuable insights. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of what you want to learn from the market before starting this process, and allocate sufficient time for it.

4. Starting Too Late

Allocate ample time for a tender. Experience indicates that preparing for a European Tender can take months. Keep the following questions in mind during preparation:

  • When does the current contract expire?
  • What is the lead time for the tendering process?
  • Are there vacation periods to consider?
  • Are all stakeholders aware of this timeline and have they reserved the necessary time for it?

5. Insufficient Stakeholder Management

Engage key stakeholders well in advance of a tendering process. A successful tender relies on information from all involved disciplines or departments (a multidisciplinary team). This includes individuals who will be using the service or product, those responsible for it, those involved in the procurement process, those responsible for managing the contract, and those dependent on the service or product being tendered.

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