Public sector web design tendering methods - The web designers view
If you, like us are frustrated with the current public sector tendering method, then you make take solace in the fact that you're certainly not the only web design agency with these views.
Over the years our new business development team have spent invaluable hours putting together tenders and pre-qualification questionnaires for pre-pitches for web design jobs for the public sector. Some have been successful but there has been much wasted time, so we sometimes ask ourselves, is worth tendering for web design anymore?
Every few days we receive a similar email such as “KD Web has been shortlisted and are invited to tender for our upcoming ‘public sector’ web design project to be completed no later than so and so date”, and that's about all the information that's given to us together with a massive document that needs filling out, and that frankly has nothing to do with the project itself. Time and time again we have to ask ourselves the same question; is it worth filling in 30 pages worth of forms, giving examples and writing case studies for similar types of website (when we don’t know what similar actually is), what technology they need, whether any integration will be required with current systems, how many other companies have also been invited to tender, and of course, what the budget will be.
From start to finish the whole process lacks streamlining and the provision of vital information is never forthcoming no matter how many questions we ask, many of these questions are necessary in order to even fill their questionnaire. In comparison to private sector jobs it's like one big guessing game. In general we find we are not provided with enough information to put together a comprehensive quote, which under normal circumstances would be streamlined to each individual customer and their business objectives.
No budget is given for starters, which puts a huge strain on our team, meaning we have to submit a number of different options in order to cover all bases. Knowing the budget allows us to see if they are realistic prospects for our valuable time or not.
It is also almost impossible to gauge what the client wants from the very brief description given. How can we know we're quoting for what the customer needs instead of wasting our time and theirs quoting for something totally different.
Now I'm normally not one to begrudge another fellow web designer, but on occasion it has become apparent that the tender winner has been already decided before the tender process has even begun, this is disheartening to say the least. Because of the procedures warranted by the public sector, they have an obligation to offer all web design jobs to tender as per the rules of competition every few years. In some cases this is just red tape and the full brief has already been given to an existing supplier together with the budget for this year.
As the public sector looks for specific information in each tender, but for some strange reason always insist on a different format each time, the man hours spent compiling all the information requested can verge on ridiculous at times. We can't help but think that this time could be best spent elsewhere; after all we are a team of creative designers and technical developers, and not a team of form fillers. This begs the question: do web design companies now have to hire extra admin people who just know how to deal with government red tape rather than experienced web projects managers who can really help them find the correct solution? If so, don't you agree with us that the budget for employing the web best design talent may be diminished?
All we really want is some vital information so that the public sector gets the best possible proposal for their actual needs, and not gets a bunch of useless information and meaningless quotes from 10 or more companies. Do they even bother reading anything apart from the “pricing” page anyways before throwing our hard work in the bin?
It would be extremely useful if the invitation to tender included at least the following information;
Quality of site
Size of siteTechnology needed
How many other companies have been invited to tender
Now how hard would that be? I'm sure it would save the public sector much time sorting through tenders and I'm certain it would give them more quality suppliers with tailored proposals that address their own web development needs. The client would no doubt end up with a top quality site as the designers would be the perfect ones for them, and they will have more time to concentrate on design and development and not sales or admin.