Video projects and public sector procurement; two phrases that shouldn’t ever be heard together in the same sentence.
I’ve done a fair few public sector tenders in my time and so have been subjected to the full force of procurement jargon and endless pages of baffling questions that seem to relate to anything but creative work.
And to be frank I’ve never won a public tender through a formal process.
Mendip Media has, however, worked for many, many public sector organisations without going through the nonsense of a tendering regime designed for multimillion pound deals or technical projects that are as far removed from marketing as I am from the moon.
This week I had a call to let me know Mendip Media had come a ‘very close second’ to another supplier in a bid to create a recruitment video for a Bristol quango’s HR department; this despite the fact we’re the incumbent video production company and we’d been to a very jolly meeting with the team, where there was a lot of nodding and winking that the tender was a formality,
In the same breath I was told that our previous work, although being universally acclaimed within the institution, couldn’t be taken into account because the catch-all ‘public procurement’ rules prevented it.
According to the email I later received this was confirmed in the following way, ‘regrettably, we are unable to consider previous working relationships for this type of procurement. As we are spending public money, our procurement processes have to be as objective as possible.’
Not to pick the bones on this but wasn’t the money we received for the work we’d previously done for them ‘public money’. And surely ‘objectivity’ would mean assessing the ability and conduct of the supplier in the past to judge their capability in the future.
So was this decision based on cost? No. But on the answer to one question that had a score of 10 points in a poorly worded tender document.
To be fair there is no nice way to tell someone on the phone that you don’t want to work with them.
Rolling out the old line, which is reminiscent of a patronising teacher, ‘you did very well with a strong bid and came close second’ is probably the best anyone can do in the situation.
But that’s me done with public sector form filling.
Counting up points based on a subjective (not objective excuse me) response to answers to questions designed for a technical project is no way to ensure that the best company wins.
Pitching, although it has its faults, is a far more dynamic and fairer way to judge whether client/ supplier relationships can be formed, who will perform well under pressure and who really wants the project the most.