How far can you push a Framework?

We all know that a good, wide-ranging framework contract coupled with a supportive relationship with a willing Public Sector client can lead to contract opportunities that may be well beyond the scope of the original framework contract.  However, after a recent court decision, that freedom may well be about to be curtailed.

On 1 December 2015, a UK court used its statutory power to void a public contract that had not been concluded in accordance with the public procurement rules.  This is the first time that a UK court has taken such action and although the judgement will probably be appealed, it signals a shift in the way Public Sector framework bids may have to be handled in the future.


In this case, Amey held a Crown Commercial Service framework contract through a limited company within its group.  In another part of the group, it part-owned a separate company in partnership with North Lanarkshire Council.  In response to a framework Invitation to Tender, this partnership bid for a street lighting contract by Inverclyde Council and was awarded the contract.  The other bidder challenged the decision on the basis that this company was not a party to the framework contract and therefore, that the contract had been directly awarded without proper competition.


The judge agreed with the challenge.  He found that the defendant had broken the Framework Agreement conditions as technically, this was a new public contract which could only be awarded in accordance with a prior advertisement and competitive tender under the procurement rules.  As no such steps had been taken, he declared the contract ineffective.

What this means for framework bids

We cannot say why Amey took such a risk with its bid when there would seem to have been some ways in which this situation could have been avoided, e.g. running the contract through the company on the framework.  However, we think that because of this action, the scope of framework awards will come under increased scrutiny in the future.  As a result, framework suppliers will have to carefully consider their strategy for framework competitions whenever opportunities arise that are not clearly in the centre of the original framework scope.

Author: Andy Haigh PPM APMP Director and Public Sector Bid Consultant, Sixfold International Ltd

If you would like to discuss the strategy for your next framework bid submission, or if you think you have grounds to challenge a framework award please contact the team on 020 8158 3952 /

For more expert advice, industry news and more, visit our bid hub.

Ghosting Survey

Our partners, twentysix2, are researching the industry’s attitude to Ghosting prior to the APMP UK London Event on 23rd May and they would like to ask you a question ahead of the event.

Take Part in the Ghosting Survey

Which of these four statements is most true for your organisation?

  1. We do not understand Ghosting
  2. We understand Ghosting but do not use it in our proposals
  3. We understand Ghosting and use it in selected proposals
  4. Ghosting is an organisational strength which we use in every proposal

Please reply to with the number of the statement that is most true for your organisation. Alternatively, please complete this anonymous and confidential online survey:

The survey will close on Thursday 31st March and the results will be reported at the APMP Meeting on 23rd May.

To view our latest vacancies for bid and proposal professionals, follow this link. To help us connect you with a winner to add to your team, follow this link.

Five secrets of winning more public sector contracts

Winning formal contracts is sometimes considered more of an art than a science. Nowhere is that more evident than when you are seeking to win Public Sector contracts. Our partners at Sixfold have been working in this environment for many years and have an approach to winning, honed by many successes (and some failures).

Winning more Public Sector Contracts

Here we share 5 secrets of winning more public sector contracts:

If you or your team require support to increase your win rate within public sector bidding please contact the team on 020 8158 3952 /

To view our latest vacancies for bid and proposal professionals, follow this link. To help us connect you with a winner to add to your team, follow this link.


Doing Business with Government

Tips from an ex-Home Office Commercial Director

John Fernau was previously Commercial Director at the Home Office and recently joined our partners at Sixfold International to help its clients win public sector contracts.

He draws on his experience to provide an insight into the way Whitehall engages with small business suppliers and shares advice on how to win work from both national and local government.

Here he shares his experience and this is what we learned:

What did you learn about small businesses and public procurement during your time at the Home Office?

I learned a lot about it! As well as being the Commercial Director I was also the Home Office’s SME champion so I was very heavily involved in setting out the direction for the department’s strategy for small business engagement. My strong view was that the only way to really increase SME spend was to make changes on the buy-side, rather than just having lots of SME market engagement which looks good but doesn’t deliver much. This meant that the Home Office’s SME strategy focussed on breaking down large ICT packages into smaller chunks which SMEs could contract for, mainly using the SME friendly GCloud framework where the Home Office is still the biggest user.

SME success is seen as excellent news by civil servants and ministers (including the prime minister) and they like to see new and innovative SME suppliers breaking through. Sometimes, unfortunately, the machinery of government can impede small businesses. My sense was that complex public tenders favour the big established firms as they already understand how government decisions are made and who makes them, and also they have dedicated bid teams who have developed strong techniques and know how to ‘play the game’.

I wanted to personally work to change this beyond what I could do as a civil servant, so I left the Home Office to set up Fernau Solutions and help to ‘level the playing field’ for SMEs and give them some of the understanding and bidding acumen that the established suppliers have.

What are the key things business owners need to bear in mind when pitching for public sector contracts?

There are a lot of things to consider: in strategic terms about which bodies within the public sector to aim for and in what order, through to tactical bid skills such as understanding what is important to the buyer (as shown in the evaluation weighting) and making sure your bid effort reflects this.

I think it is really important that businesses think hard about which areas of the public sector their offerings are most relevant and to target those public bodies. There is a balance here though, as although government is increasingly encouraged to buy ‘off the shelf’ solutions rather than bespoke ones, public sector bodies are parochial and smaller businesses must tailor their marketing and language to be specifically relevant to the those they are targeting.

Although small businesses want to grow and may want to present themselves as bigger and perhaps more credible operators, it is important that they play to their strengths. If you are a UK based SME, then say so very clearly. Small businesses are perceived as being flexible, disruptive and innovative; and these are rare and required qualities in government, especially given the unprecedented efficiency challenges which will emerge over the next five years. Although public buyers can’t formally favour small suppliers why not take advantage of this positive perception?

What are the common mistakes small business owners make when pitching for public sector contracts?

Firstly, I think small businesses often decide not to bid for opportunities as their turnover doesn’t meet the minimum required, meaning they are too small. However, especially in competitions for framework agreements, the turnover requirement is often excessive compared to the resulting contracts, meaning that smaller businesses could have delivered them. To meet the requirement on turnover, small businesses often forget that they can partner with, or sub-contract other small businesses and count all of their attributes, including turnover in their bid and the government likes to see this collaboration.

Successful bid technique is like good exam technique; you have to answer the question. Too often, bidders provide answers that are easy for them to put together, as perhaps they can recycle a response or policy, rather than submitting the right answer. Given their limited bid resources, it is vital that small businesses are disciplined and honest with themselves in making their bid / no bid decisions and preparing their bids. There is nothing to be gained in submitting a weak bid.

I think small businesses can also get a lot more out of debriefing sessions with government buyers. If a small business is unsuccessful in a tender I would recommend insisting on a debriefing meeting and clearly stating that this is about improving your next bid and certainly isn’t about disgruntlement or challenging the decision. This will help the buyer to open up and give a candid steer on how to bid better and small businesses will find this feedback ‘from the horse’s mouth’ invaluable.

How can business owners who win government contracts ensure that they deliver on them and maintain a good relationship with their client so that they get more work?

This is really important as having gone through all the hurdles of winning a contract, small businesses need to deliver really strongly to build their reputation in government and capitalise on the effort they have made. However, I have seen even major multinationals come unstuck once they get into a contract with the government for the first time!

I think the most important thing to understand is the need to build confidence with your new client by setting out very realistic plans on how and when you will deliver. It is more important to the government that you reliably keep your promises than to aim for very quick delivery and fail. This requires self-discipline, as naturally small businesses will be keen to please their demanding new client.

The media loves a bad news story about the government and this drives the government to be very risk averse with its programmes. Ministers and officials need to believe that you will deliver and this trust is built by steady and on-time delivery. Proposing to ‘throw everything at it’ and ‘it will be alright in the end’ simply aren’t acceptable. Especially in a new relationship, it is important to start building trust and credibility by delivering as promised from the outset.

If your business could benefit from the experience of John and the Sixfold team, please contact us on 020 8158 3952 or

For more expert advice, industry news and more, visit our Bid Hub.

Take the lead from British Cycling

Cycling team (002)

British Cycling has become one of the most celebrated UK sporting success stories from the last fifteen years and now Britain is considered to be one of the top cycling nations.

The enormous successes in the Olympics in Beijing and London and the Tour de France were due to what Performance Director Dave Brailsford described as ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. This article asks what lessons we can learn from Brailsford’s approach in transforming our own proposal management capability.

Brailsford did not look for one or two big changes but rather dozens of smaller changes that, when combined, would produce the required step change in performance.

They looked at the obvious and not so obvious.

They looked at the design of the bikes to reduce weight and drag factors.

They looked at training schedules and nutrition of the athletes.

And they looked further; they looked at which seats to sit on in the plane, which pillow provided the best night’s sleep, and how to avoid infections during competition time with effective hand-washing. Brailsford and his team searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.

And the results speak for themselves as British Cycling has become the best in the world.

But the aggregation of marginal gains was only part of the story. An equally powerful strategy was deployed in parallel; the strategy of focusing on and improving lead measures.

Lead measures are an important component in improving performance. They provide useful predictors of future performance. Unlike most backward-looking goals – win the race, improve win rates, increase capture ratios – lead measures provide indicators to outcomes that can be influenced by the performance of the team. The rationale is simple; get the lead measures right and the outcome takes care of itself.

So, rather than focusing on winning medals or a certain number of races (outcomes), Brailsford used lead measures to track progress; the speed of the first 100m, the first lap time and, in the team events, who went to the front first and who led in the final lap.

These factors, all within the control and influence of the cyclists, were highly predictive of final results and provided the focus for feedback and improvements. Cyclists could be selected to perform specific jobs – quick start, pacesetter, step-up-the-pace, fast finish – so that if lead measures weren’t being achieved, the right person would take over the lead and get the team back on track.

How does that help us with improving lead measures?

Rather than focusing on win rates and capture ratios (which are lag measures / outcome goals) focus instead on the factors that are considered most predictive of improved performance.

Losing too much? Tighten up the qualification process, pay more attention to kick-off meetings and reviews, and increase the skill level within the team; all these factors are highly predictive of the final outcome and can be influenced by the bid leadership team and so are worthy of consideration as lag measures.

The hard bit is making the change stick. Identifying the one or two changes that will make the biggest difference and then holding each other accountable until the changes are embedded and become ‘the way things are done around here’.

Focusing on one lead measure at a time, holding the team accountable until the change is embedded and then, and only then, identifying the next lead measure that you consider will make the biggest difference.

It worked for British Cycling; it will work for you. Get pedaling!

Author: Ian Sherwood PPM.APMP  Bid & Proposals Director, twentysix2

Performance benchmarking is a way of establishing lead measures by identifying the one or two changes that will make the biggest difference to performance. To discuss benchmarking and find out how we can help your business, please contact us on 020 8158 3952 or

To view our latest vacancies for bid and proposal professionals, follow this link. To help us connect you with a winner to add to your team, follow this link.

Bid Leadership at its best

With continuous pressure and emphasis on technical competence, delivery and deadline, attention to the “softer sides” of leadership can seem a luxury or optional extra.

There can be a perception there’s no time for this sort of stuff, or that it’s not important, or that it belongs to someone else, or can wait until another day.

In my twenty years of supporting some fantastic bid, sales, and leadership teams to develop a winning mentality and achieve their goals, I’ve come to the conclusion that effective bid leadership is very much about your skills, attitudes, and courage.

I’ve noticed these things are always present when bid leadership is at its best:

  • A vision and direction that engages hearts as well as minds. Your people get excited about how their task supports an overall purpose as well as organisational profit.
  • Inspiring communication. You communicate every which way so that all your team members can see bid opportunity, bid progress, and make an emotional connection with their work, inspiring effort, and action.
  • A commitment to bid type people. You already know that bid professionals are intelligent and motivated and accept this. They want their talents to be used, stretched and aligned with bid priorities every day. You offer this and demand it of them.
  • Understanding that it’s a team sport. You know that only a team can win a bid. You know it’s essential (although often hard) to model being the team member you want. You are courageous in conversation – to build relationships – to enable interdependency – to create a winning bid.
  • Respect for pressure. You bring a skilled and sensitive approach to managing workload, energy, and conflict between your bid professionals. You pay attention to how each person responds and changes their perspective as pressure increases during the bid. You give them a little slack when they need it.
  • Honest people management. You haven’t liked it, but you have learned to tackle non or unhelpful performance early, providing feedback and treating people with respect. You know that if you don’t, others have to work even harder to catch up on bid progress, sometimes permanently damaging outcomes and relationships.
  • Aiming high and a focus on synergy. You have outrageously high standards, have an improvement focus and never accept second best. (You also recognise this is different from demanding perfection.) You ask how different threads of the bid can fit together to create something much more innovative and interesting than the parts. You insist on it.
  • A balance of creativity and commercial reality. You use your judgement and are willing to take a calculated risk, engage with and challenge your stakeholders, to balance price and quality to offer the winning combination.
  • A commitment to win. You hang on in there, your persistence, resilience and tenacity continuously pushing for quality as you take your team, stakeholders and self the full distance to bid submission and the finish line.

What do you think? Does this resonate? What have I missed? What would you add?

I love to help leadership in bid teams go faster – where we develop the leadership of key people, meet bid requirements in real time and deliver a winning result, within high-pressure time-frames, one small step at a time.

But is it worth it? Does it improve the outcome? If not, I’ve written a nice list and nothing more.

Here’s how one bid team took the plunge to develop their leaders as part of a hugely important bid critical to their success.

I’m curious – how important is it for the leadership of your bid or tender to go faster, to increase your chances of winning? How much difference would it make?

Author: Gill How, Director Buonacorsi Consulting

Looking to recruit a winning team? Let us help.

How Assuring Am I?

We are all convinced that we have the best solution out there!  All we have to do is describe what we have, properly and the client will immediately pick our bid as the best – won’t they?

How assuring am IWell, unfortunately, life is not that simple in the world of Public Sector bids.  We always have to provide answers to a series of questions, then those questions are evaluated and the best answers will win.

So, because we have the very best solution and price, we must still come out on top, mustn’t we?

Regrettably, the answer is still uncertain and possibly, unlikely. This is all to do with the evaluation process, which is not about the best solution and value-for-money.

The evaluation process is based upon awarding marks for each answer against a scoring sheet.  The best solution and value-for-money are worked out after this main part of the evaluation is complete.

A typical scoring sheet lays out what marks the evaluators can give for each answer they scrutinise.  They will range from “0” for no answer to top marks for an answer which meets every part of their criteria.

Their criteria are mostly described in their questions and tend to be technical queries from technical people requiring technical answers.  Your practitioners and technocrats will have great fun describing your superb products and services, leaving no part of your capability unexplained, whether or not it was asked for as part of the specification.  However, with the best products and service in the world, that will only get you half the possible marks!

In the scoring process, excellent and complete technical descriptions are usually required, just to allow the evaluators to score in the middle band of available marks.  To go further, the proof is needed for your assertions of excellence.

A recent Public Sector scoring template required the evaluators to satisfy themselves that the following points were all made if they were considering recording maximum scores:

“Excellent response with very few or no weaknesses exceeds requirements and provides comprehensive, detailed, and convincing assurance that the Tenderer will deliver to an excellent standard.”

The first part is the bit you have already done well.  However, the second element is all about the assurance you can give.  Assurance is the ability to tell someone something positively or confidently to dispel any doubts they may have.  So, following your technical description, if you want maximum marks you must show:

  • What choices there were and why you picked the solution you did
  • Where it has been done before and why that was similar to the proposed requirement
  • How successful it was and how that success was measured

Your challenge is to get your practitioners and technocrats to build this into the descriptions they are working on.  Do this and your success in Public Sector bidding is assured too.

Author: Andy Haigh PPM APMP Director and Public Sector Bid Consultant, Sixfold International Ltd

If you or your team could benefit from more information on this technique please contact us on 020 8158 3952 or to find out how we can help.

For more expert advice, industry news and more, visit our Bid Hub.

Rail, Construction and Infrastructure Update

Rail, Construction, and Infrastructure

This week’s big news for the Rail, Construction, and Infrastructure industry was the Budget 2016. The industry welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s announcements for new money for Flood Defences, Crossrail 2, High Speed 3 and upgrades to the M62, A66 and A69. He also announced that the government will spend £50m on Norwich’s world-leading centre for food and health research and £5m support to the Shakespeare North project for a new theatre.

Other news this week included Bouygues and Cimolai working on the joint venture for London’s Garden Bridge (inspired by TV’s Joanna Lumley) with hopes to start construction this summer. They are responsible for the design and construction of the bridge as well as planting the trees and shrubbery.

Ballymore has secured funding for the £200m Three Snowhill development, which is reported to become the UK’s largest city centre office scheme outside of London. Haringey Council revealed the list of bidders for the delivery of their £2bn development for new homes and a new town centre. The bidders are: Lend Lease, Places for People, Urban & Civic, Pinnacle with Starwood Capital and Catalyst Capital, Galliford Try with Home Group, Morgan Sindall with Circle Housing and Affinity Sutton. The chosen bidder will start with phase 1, which is to regenerate the Wood Green and Tottenham areas.

To view our latest vacancies for bid and proposal professionals, follow this link. To help us connect you with a winner to add to your team, follow this link.

Bid & Proposal Apprenticeship Update

This week is National Apprenticeship Week and we’ve even more reason to celebrate this year. The Bid and Proposal Coordinator apprenticeship standard has now been approved and published.

This is a fantastic achievement made possible by the dedication of Amanda Nuttall and her team, of which Bid Solutions is proud to be part of.

With this major milestone reached, the team will continue to work on the endpoint assessment and costing in order for the apprenticeship to be delivery-ready, and to prepare individuals for successful careers in the industry.

If you are interested in contributing you can contact the team on You can view the standard here.

To view our latest vacancies for bid and proposal professionals, follow this link. To help us connect you with a winner to add to your team, follow this link.

Rail, Construction and Infrastructure round-up

This week’s Rail, Construction and Infrastructure news:

Architects working on London’s Olympicopolis application for the Stratford Waterfront district submission has revealed the first images this week. The 145,000 square metre site next to Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre will include two residential towers, cultural and educational institutions and a new campus for UCL. Market consultations will start in April 2016 with a view to start building in 2018 for a 2020 finish.


JV CH2M Hill, Atkins, and Sener have been reported to be in line for the key engineering delivery partner role for the first phase of High Speed 2. The chosen partner will help to manage and coordinate design and support management of the major ECI contract programme for civils work packages worth up to £500m.


Manchester Airport has achieved planning consent for a £1bn transformation programme. Key elements of the project will include the expansion and reconfiguring of Terminal 2, improving Terminal 3, introduce direct linkage between Terminals 2 and 3 and the introduction of new stands and piers, offering better departure gate facilities.


It has been announced that Galliford Try’s Morrison Construction division has won a £10.8m design and build contract to build a primary school for East Ayrshire Council. They will start by demolishing a community centre and then build a two-storey primary school for 550 primary school children and 105 infants. The school is expected to be finished mid-2017.

To view our latest vacancies for bid and proposal professionals, follow this link. To help us connect you with a winner to add to your team, follow this link.