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Yet again I find myself “discussing” with a potential Public Sector client the importance of allocating sufficient time and resource to develop the evaluation criteria they will have to publish with their ITT, but this time I’ve finally realised why clients think they can afford to give this short thrift up front: they mistakenly believe they are going to decide who wins their competition after the bids have come in!

We all know that under Public Sector procurement rules we have to publish the criteria we will apply when selecting and awarding contracts. We also know that case law has firmly established that this needs to encompass the whole decision making process – not just the top level criteria. I suspect however, that few of us take the time to think – and realise – that if done according to the law this means we are making the decision as to who is going to win at the time we develop and publish the criteria.

Think of it designing a “decision making machine”. We have to design the machine up front and publish all the workings. When the bids come in we will simply feed them into the machine, turn the handle, and out pops the answer. So, at the time the bids are submitted we have already chosen the winner by designing the machine, we just don’t know the winner’s name yet.

Why is this important? Because I work with client after client who are more than content to spend large numbers of person-months (maybe even years) of effort evaluating bids – simply turning the handle of what ought to be their well-oiled, sleek and shiny, perfect decision-making machine. But these same clients are all-too-often unwilling to spend even a couple of person-weeks designing the machine in the first place so, somewhat unsurprisingly, by the time it’s fired up in anger after the bids have arrived it ends up being a little rusty and – ahem – maybe needs a little “adjustment” here and there.

So, that’s sorted then. In my future pleas to potential clients to allocate just a little more time and resource to the preparation of the evaluation criteria, I know what analogy I will be using.

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