(love me) Tender

I’ve just spent a couple of weeks at work helping put together a response to a big tender.

For the lucky people who are blissfully unaware of all this, here’s the background:

When the Government wants a new computer system writing they aren’t allowed to just ask their mate who runs a big software company to help them out.

What they do is publish an ‘invitation to tender’ which is a description of what they want building and suppliers then fill those in and submit them. The winner then gets the work.

This all sounds very sensible, and I’ve seen presentations by the CEO of the Crown Commercial Service (Government department in charge of buying things) where she explained how it’s supposed to be sensible and straightforward.

Now, I’m not a businessman. I’m a techie who owns a suit and helps our company sell stuff. So when I see this tender process in action I can’t help but look at it from a logical point of view and when I do, I see very little logic on show.

What I *think* has happened is that someone high up in Government said something like ‘we need some rules about how we buy stuff so it’s fair and doesn’t look dodgy’. This diktat was passed down through many, many bureaucratic layers with each one adding their own spin on it to suit them and we ended up with a mess.

There are now thousands of government departments called ‘procurement’, whose role (as far as I can tell) is to stop Government organisations from buying what they need from people they know who can supply it. Ok, that may be a bit harsh. What they are actually doing (at the expense of *everything* else) is making 100% sure that they cannot in any way be blamed for purchases that turn out to be anything other than a headline-worthy success.

At the end of the day business is about people. People buy things from other people and that involves all kind of human aspects in arriving at a deal where both parties are happy.

And sorry to say, but no process will ever fully govern that.