♫ Chain, Keep Us Together ♫

Home / Bidding Quarterly / ♫ Chain, Keep Us Together ♫


That line from the chorus of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain reminds me of a procuring customer’s remark: “We have to pull the market for solutions that pull us in the right direction.”

I like the notion of the bid process being a value chain keeping the team connected to the customer while also uniting the process steps.

There’s growing recognition in civil engineering of the benefits from adopting a systems approach to infrastructure development: the SAID model. It tasks infrastructure owners and operators to translate their requirements into outcomes around which their assets and networks are to be designed, built and operated as systems instead of separate parts.

With a similar mindset of unity, I visualise a bid as integrated steps instead of silo activities. Imagine the process as an elastic value chain leading to the procuring customer at the end. The customer, as procurement driver, needs the market to help direct its motive power on a course of greatest value to its business. With the work-winning function at the other end, the healthy tension in the value chain guides the customer in response to requirements. The tension keeps bid steps individually and collectively activated. If a step loses elasticity, it slackens to below full potential and the chain sags, so we risk a competitor’s value chain overpowering us.

Take the Capture Phase as an example. Confident messaging of what matters most to the customer starts with understanding the customer analysis, which influences solution development and the proposal strategy. If the Capture Phase slackens, nuances of the customer’s pain points – what we might call reading between the lines – aren’t transmitted along the value chain to the solution and proposal strategies. Both are essential links for writers to demonstrate the bidder’s understanding of customer pain points.

A building refurbishment bid I once led was ostensibly about corrosion remediation but the end user’s driving pain was mortgageability for redevelopment. Knowing this unwritten behind-the-scenes requirement enabled us to propose alternative options addressing funders’ priorities of investment start date and returns timescale. The Capture Phase influenced customer and end user perceptions before ITT, placing us in a well-informed position for writing even before tender launch.

At the writing link of the chain, we must demonstrate deep understanding simply and efficiently, making best use of page collateral. The value chain transmits understanding better when under tension, each process step communicating effectively with its predecessors and successors. Writers’ communications to download knowledge from subject matter experts and business development/customer account managers are essential in answer planning and response drafting. The goal is always to create customer-centric messages of pain points and features and benefits, avoiding ‘all about us’ own-brand proposals.

To paraphrase Fleetwood Mac, let the value chain keep us together in this mission.

This article was written by Holger Garden.

Holger is a bid manager and writer, and a personal/team performance coach. He spends most of his time supporting construction clients bidding for civil infrastructure and building projects, but his transferable skills have led to his work in the medical, charity and security arenas also.

He works with businesses of all sizes to help them win more work

Back to Foreword