What is procurement?

The quick answer people give is “it’s buying”. That is only one part of what procurement is…


…enables an organisation to operate by ensuring that the right goods and services are available to fulfil the objectives of the organisation.

Direct procurement

… deals with goods and services directly related to what the organisation sells. For example, windscreens for a car manufacturer or flour to a bread manufacturer.

Indirect procurement

…relates to all goods and services required by the business which do not directly relate to what their core business is. For example, computers or office supplies to both the car and bread manufacturers.

When we say “it’s not simply buying”, consider that it would typically be a procurement-led decision whether or not to outsource management of the IT service desk in an organisation. Procurement’s role is to establish what the particular need is and to work with the organisation to ensure that the need is fulfilled in the best possible way.

Procurement is very important to a successful organisation. Sales and marketing can only do so much to increase revenue whereas the procurement department gives an organisation control of its costs and therefore directly impacts profit.

evaluation criteria

Common Proposal Mistakes: 4 of 10 – Not relating your response to the evaluation criteria

A simple enough mistake to fix going forward. You’re answering the questions but are you making sure you’re notching up points against each of the evaluation criteria?

Buyers don’t have to include the evaluation criteria or their weightings but often they do.

While you’re putting your responses together, repeatedly test them against the evaluation criteria. See that each response to each tender question is in some way proving that you are meeting and exceeding the criteria.

For example (see previous article for context) “Understanding of our organisation” may be a heavily weighted evaluation criterion. Wherever you can, include information that shows that you know the buying organisation. This can be done by spending time doing extensive research on their company website.

One Final Check Against Evaluation Criteria…

Once you’re done, go through the evaluation criteria again and reconcile your responses to them. Make sure that you have addressed all of them.


Extract from the eBook HOW TO PREPARE A WINNING TENDER… From the Procurement Marker’s Perspective


Other posts in this series:

proposal writing

Common Proposal Mistakes: 3 of 10 – Not writing with the reader in mind

Building Rapport

To build rapport with someone in a physical meeting, you can mimic their body stances and posture (subtly). This helps to gain their trust.

You may not have the opportunity to do this in a tender process. What you can do is carefully look at the language that is used in their RFT documents and repeat it back to them. They’ve likely spent a lot of time getting information to include in the documents from their colleagues internally. If you can use the same language, particularly if it’s about a technical aspect of the requirements, then it will feel to them like you’re involved in the ongoing conversation about their requirements and will help to build virtual rapport.


Extract from the eBook HOW TO PREPARE A WINNING TENDER… From the Procurement Marker’s Perspective


Common Proposal Mistakes: 2 of 10 – Not including clear additional value

When the numbers person (financial reviewer) is adding up the cost of each offer, there’s a good chance that they’ll include any responses to “value-add” questions.

Responding to the Value-Add Questions

Value-add questions tend to be open ended and the best way to respond is with as many suggestions as you can think of and, importantly, equate them to a monetary value.

For example, you might have offices with additional space that could be used for training and you could equate this to the cost of them having to rent this space elsewhere to give a dollar figure. Spend some time thinking about things you can offer over and above your direct response to their requirements – even if there’s a chance that they won’t take you up on them.

Extract from the eBook HOW TO PREPARE A WINNING TENDER… From the Procurement Marker’s Perspective



how to win a tender

Common Proposal Mistakes: 1 of 10 – Responding with a “No”

An example: an RFT asks whether the supplier has in place any sort of benefits tracking reporting for other clients. Rather than a flat-out no, a supplier could quickly integrate some sort of benefits tracking in an existing client’s report and then ask at the next reporting meeting whether they find it useful. Whether or not they do, you as a supplier can answer “yes”.

Industry Bodies

Another very frequently seen example of this is the response to “does your organisation have any relevant memberships to industry bodies?” with the response just being “no” from the tenderer. Know how to get maximum points for your answer instead? Just do a Google search for memberships and subscriptions and some words about your industry. There are so many out there and membership might be $100 or less (and may even be useful to you in future). Sign up and you can now answer “yes” to this question and potentially get full marks, and then get into the shortlist, and then charm them in the presentations and then… win the big contract.

Extract from the eBook HOW TO PREPARE A WINNING TENDER… From the Procurement Marker’s Perspective



How a Good Request for Tender (RFT) Process is Run

To win tenders you should understand what goes on behind the scenes from the buyer’s side. This post follows on from our previous one entitled How a good Request for Tender (RFT) Document is Designed

Once the RFT has been approved by internal parties it can either be released publicly (e.g. on a government tender site or newspaper announcement) or specific organisations are invited to participate which is also known as a select tender. There may be a process of elimination before the RFT is released where suppliers are requested to submit a subset of information to ascertain their suitability to take part in the RFT process. To suppliers who’ve made it past that process (refer to blog article on “getting in the door”) the RFT documents are sent out. Confirmation of suppliers’ intention to participate is usually requested within a number of days of the documents being released.

A supplier briefing is not an uncommon next step when the requirements are large and complex. This gives suppliers an initial chance to review the RFT documents and to come armed with their questions (see blog article on “how to behave at the briefing”) and gives the buying organisation the chance to clearly explain their requirements.

Whether or not there’s a briefing, suppliers will then have a set amount of time to ask their questions. Questions are compiled and those whose answers aren’t specific to the asking supplier are anonymised and the responses sent to all. This is so that no suppliers are unfairly disadvantaged as a result of not having pertinent information.

Proposals are then received and opened after the submission deadline. Often the pricing section is removed and the remainder distributed to the evaluation team. The rationale behind doing this is that often opinions are influenced by proposed cost and it is a very real temptation for procurement folks to just flick right to the pricing section to see what sort of savings they could achieve as a result of the proposals given that their performance is in part measured by savings.

Using an evaluation template, each of the evaluators scores the responses to each of the questions numerically (on a scale of 1 to 5 for example where 1 is terrible and 5 is excellent. Most RFTs include some minimum criteria which, if a supplier fails to meet, their response is discarded. Some examples are financial stability, adherence to certain quality standards or agreement to our proposed contract.

These scores are then tallied up to show each supplier’s total score against each of the weighted evaluation criteria. The weightings are important – here’s an illustrative example to show why:

Evaluation Criteria Weighting (Scenario 1) Weighting (Scenario 2)
Experience in providing the goods/services 10% 40%
Understanding of our organisation 10% 40%
Geographic coverage 20% 1%
Implementation planning 5% 1%
Value add 5% 8%
Cost effectiveness of the offer 50% 10%
Total 100% 100%


Scenario 1 might be something like office supplies – we care about cost the most because the products are pretty standard across the big suppliers.

Scenario 2 could be for a marketing contract where it is really about their understanding of our organisation and their relevant experience.

So the same type of responses wouldn’t achieve similar scores in these two RFTs because if, for example, you had really good geographic coverage, it would matter a lot to your score in scenario 1 but hardly at all in scenario 2.

During evaluation of responses, often evaluators will compile a list of questions for each participating supplier where clarification is required on your responses. With the answers to these questions evaluators will then assign an aggregate score to each supplier and then rank them. They may choose to then short-list which is when suppliers with a lower total ranking are eliminated from the process and discussions continue with a few high-scoring participants. The simplest continuation of this discussion is a request for a final pricing offer but negotiations can be more holistic whereby, across the table the buying and selling parties discuss options for give-and-take to arrive at a contract and solution which suits both parties best.

The successful supplier(s) then sign the contract and that is where the competitive bidding process ends, normally until the contract ends.

Extract from the eBook HOW TO PREPARE A WINNING TENDER… From the Procurement Marker’s Perspective

Next up: How best to respond to a tender



How a good Request for Tender (RFT) Document is Designed

Best practice RFT design starts with a meeting of representative stakeholders in the buying organisation to determine what they want. Typically, their requirements will include some goods and/or services which they’ll get the experts within their organisations involved in to put the specifications together. For example, if they’re buying food it may need to be cut to certain dimensions, frozen, have a specific country of origin etc. With input from their colleagues, they’ll also get a list of things that are important to them which might look something like:

• Experience in providing the goods/services
• Understanding of our organisation
• Geographic coverage
• Implementation planning
• Value add
• Cost effectiveness of the offer

These will form the evaluation criteria which will be the basis of the RFT and against which suppliers’ responses will be measured. The stakeholders will then decide how these criteria should be weighted based on what is most important to the organisation. How they are weighted really depends on the buying organisation and whether they let suppliers know what the weightings are is typically at their discretion. It’s a great help if they do publish the weightings in the RFT as it gives suppliers an idea of where to really focus their efforts.

The Sections

Most RFTs I’ve seen start with some RFT terms and conditions which are informational. The terms and conditions serve to protect the buying organisation (e.g. clauses to say that they don’t need to appoint any one supplier, that costs of putting together responses are solely to be borne by the participating suppliers etc.) and to inform the suppliers (e.g. when the responses are due, the process for asking questions).

Next, typically comes a bunch of questions which suppliers are to respond to. These questions are linked to the evaluation criteria. Relating to our above example criteria they may ask you to provide examples of similar clients that you’ve got or had. The marks assigned to this question would likely be attributed to the “Experience in providing the goods/services” criterion.
Usually at the end there’ll be a place for you to enter your pricing (may be spreadsheet if there’s a list of commodities/services) along with some attachments which may or not include the buying organisation’s standard contract.

Extract from the eBook HOW TO PREPARE A WINNING TENDER… From the Procurement Marker’s Perspective

Next up… How a good RFT process is run

supply market analysis

How to do supply market analysis well

The aim of supply market analysis is to feed into category planning and sourcing strategy development. There are a number of tools that you can use to do the analysis but at the end of the day you should be looking to show at a minimum:

The position of the suppliers in the market relative to each other

  • The potential for change in the supply market (and causes)
  • The balance of power between suppliers and customers

An in depth supply market analysis may make use of the following models which are useful to structure the information:

  • Porter’s 5 forces
  • PESTEL analysis
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Kraljic Portfolio Purchasing Model

Porter’s 5 forces are:

1. Competition / rivalry within the industry

2. Barriers to entry into the industry

3. Impact / power of suppliers in the industry

4. Impact / power of customers in the industry

5. Threat of substitute products


PESTEL analyses the following six factors:

P – Political

E – Economic

S – Social

T – Technological

E – Environmental

L – Legal


SWOT analyses the following four factors (from a business perspective):

S – Strengths

W – Weaknesses

O – Opportunities

T – Threats


Kraljic Portfolio Purchasing model involves positioning (potentially using inputs from above models) a commodity / service based on:


Supplier risk & complexity

Category business impact


We are developing a template which will include examples of each of the above types of analysis to help you. Stay tuned!


Sourcing strategy options

Sourcing strategies determine how your company will ensure supply of a particular product or service. Typically development of a sourcing strategy includes consideration for where to purchase, considering demand and supply situations, while minimising risk and costs.

Potential sourcing strategies include:

  • Direct negotiations,
  • Insourcing,
  • Outsourcing,
  • Competitive bidding (RFx, Reverse Auction),
  • Panel contracts (having a restricted number of suppliers signed up to your terms for one procurement category),
  • Volume aggregation (using fewer suppliers), and
  • Global sourcing (also low cost country sourcing).

Several factors go into selecting a sourcing strategy such as:

  • What the supply market looks like,
  • Volatility of supply/prices, and
  • How important the product/service is to our company. (Often there are four groups in which products are divided; critical, routine, leverage and bottleneck products).

Got feedback? Please send it through!

category plan

How to build a good procurement category plan

The purpose of a category plan is to define the category and the planned strategies to maximise value and reduce risk for your company.

A category plan should include:

  • A profile of the category as it stands, and
  • The strategy to effectively ensure and manage the ongoing supply of goods and/or services.

Development of the category plan should be led by the procurement category manager and should involve the key business stakeholders to ensure its relevance. Once developed it should be reviewed (and refreshed if necessary) on a regular basis ,annually in most cases.

The plan should extend past the length of a typical contract in that category (for example, many indirect categories have a 3 year average contract length in which case the plan should extend to at least 5 years in the future).

Category Profile

  • Definition of what the category includes
    (e.g. Travel category plan could include Hotels, Air Travel, Car Hire and Travel Booking Companies)
  • Name of category manager
  • Name of contract manager
  • Historical spend and current contracts
    (if possible spend mapped to contracts, for example spend in Hotels was $50M of which only $30M was with contracted hotel providers)
  • Future demand and requirements
    (in particular the potential changes in future demand and the rationale for them)
  • Supply market analysis
    (who are the major suppliers, what are the changes happening in the industry, substitute products etc)

Category Strategy

  • Opportunity areas (demand & supply)
  • Sourcing strategies
    (e.g. “tender for hotel accommodation”, “renegotiate air travel contracts”, “implement panel for car hire providers”)
  • Implementation timeline

A few notes about category plans

A category plan should have a page at the front with a space for the physical signature of the head of procurement / senior finance stakeholders to ensure accountability.

Category plans can be used to measure the performance of category managers at the end of each year.

A well designed category plan should be used in daily / weekly planning by a category manager to ensure relevance of tactical activities.

Here is a category plan template for you to use as well as an example for you to see what one looks like once populated. Your feedback is very welcome and will help us to continue to refine these!

Category Plan Template