Deciphering government language in tenders

Today we welcome Deirdre Diamante, Principal of MIA Consulting Services, to decode the terminology typically used in government tender documents.

At a recent Winning Government Business workshop, an attendee stated that it’s easier to respond to a tender question when you can interpret what government means… But how do you interpret what government means?

And it’s true. The questions in tenders do seem to imply a certain level of understanding of government processes and requirements. They also use government terms such as ‘probity’, ‘governance’ and ‘value for money’. This all needs to be deciphered before the true meaning of the question can be clear.

So how do you interpret what government means?

There are four opportunities here:

1. Download tender and quotation templates from the government procurement website.

Review them and practise preparing responses. Where you don’t understand a question in the template, ask a question of that procurement group. A ‘contact us’ page will always be provided in association with the templates, with an email address starting with ‘info@’ or ‘procurement@’.

2. Practise, practise, practise and practise.

The more you develop tender and quotation responses, the better you will be at deciphering government terms. And, trust me, after you respond to two or three tenders or quotations you will see the same type of question and the same language used.

3. Ask questions during the Q&A period.

During the tender process, ask sensible questions of the project manager nominated in the tender or quotation documentation. In almost all tenders and quotes there should be a stated period of time where questions can be asked by tenderers. Use this to confirm your understanding of government terms used. HOWEVER, to achieve this you must read the tender document early during the tender period. Don’t leave it too late, when the nominated Q&A period may have closed!

4. Go to debriefs.

Government must provide you with a debrief if you request one. So always ask for a debrief and always go to a debrief. A debrief provides a perfect opportunity to confirm your understanding of terms used (for next time), and what a question was really looking for.

Finally, below I have tried to clarify some of the common terms and expressions used in tender questions for the reader:

Term Clarification
Recent No more than three years old, preferably two years old.
Briefly describe “Using up to three examples describe your experience”, for example.
Detail “Using between three and five examples describe your experience, or qualifications, etc”, or“Describe each process you used in providing the service”.
Detail resources/ support to be used ‘Support’ can have a broad meaning, encompassing systems (IT software/hardware and documentation), vehicles, machinery, and human resources (employees or subcontractors). If a tender is asking for the type of support used to provide a service, it could mean: “Identify any subcontractors you may use to support you in providing the services”.It could also mean the IT systems required to deliver a product/service.Based on the requirement in the tender, tenderers should include every resource they need to deliver that requirement.
Governance An approach to overseeing and guaranteeing outcomes in terms of policy, financial, timeliness and risk. It includes all aspects of risk and issue management, escalation procedures, reporting, etc.
Probity An approach that ensures actions are conducted with integrity, ensuring openness, competition and accountability.
Customer Service Initiative (CSI) vs Value-Add CSIs should be free and should directly support the provision of the goods or services being procured. A Value-Add initiative may be costed and, while related, is in addition to the goods or services being procured.
Provide experience in your industry, market and sector Using examples, demonstrate what a ‘market’, ‘industry’ and/or a ‘sector’ encompasses for that particular tender.
Value-for-money A concept that is much broader than straight cost; it’s a ratio where the price reflects the value provided in the tender response. For government it also addresses whole of life costs (including maintenance and support, transition, etc).Finally, it’s a concept against which everything is assessed. For example, innovation. Innovation in itself is great, but it’s better if it’s linked to value-for-money outcomes, i.e. greater efficiencies, greater reach of delivery, etc.

Please leave a comment if you have any other terms in need of explanation. We’re always happy to answer questions!

About Deirdre Diamante

Deirdre_news_SQDeirdre Diamante is the founder and principal of MIA Consulting Services. Based on 15 years of experience in procurement and governance roles, Deirdre’s intimate knowledge of public sector procurement environments makes her a sought-after advisor by commercial and public sector organisations alike. Her various educational programs are recognised by Business

Victoria and Swinburne University; while her consulting expertise helps companies of all sizes engage effectively with government and win business. Deirdre also works closely with government to implement industry and procurement programs, and serves as Deputy Chair for the Victorian

 Council of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).

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