by Joey Myer
Business Development Manager
Info Tech Products
While there are many specifics to research when a public agency is selecting an Internet bidding system, three questions can be the real differentiators. They are:
1. Does the system employ digital signatures and public-key encryption?
2. Does the system largely rely on uploads or use intelligent forms?
3. Is it simple?
These questions really hit at the core of what you want an Internet bidding system to be: secure, flexible and easy to use. Let’s look at each one.
Security: Does the system employ digital signatures and public-key encryption?
Security is arguably the most important factor in an Internet bidding process, and encryption is at the core. There are two types of encryption: symmetric/secret key encryption and asymmetric/public key encryption.
Symmetric encryption involves distributing a shared key online and is open to vulnerabilities of the key either being intercepted externally or used internally (by the bidding solution or agency) to access and alter bids before being opened. Asymmetric encryption uses two keys, public and private, to solve the shared key distribution problem and the misuse problem that requires trusting the agency and bidding solution. If you are wondering if this type of security is really vital, just remember that bidding is mission-critical for both your agency and your vendors.
Our team believes the most responsible form of security for the bidding process is end-to-end, asymmetric encryption with a digital signature algorithm. You should ask all providers what type of encryption technology they use.
Flexibility: Does the system largely rely on uploads or use intelligent forms?
One of the most important advantages of an Internet bidding system is the ability to minimize bidder mistakes and omissions when submitting bids/proposals. When a bidding system largely relies on bidders/vendors to upload responses as attachments, there is no way that system can ensure completeness of those uploaded documents. Conversely, when you use simple online forms within the Internet bidding system, you can help bidders by noting fields as required and eliminating the need for them to calculate figures. Fields can also be designated as alpha or numeric to further avoid simple errors. Using an intelligent online form helps bidders achieve completeness and accuracy in their bids, which helps agencies avoid the dreaded situation of throwing away the low/best value bidder due to a technicality. This can literally cost your agency thousands on a single bid, and perhaps even millions over time.
Simplicity: Is it simple?
When complexity increases, adoption times increase as well. In short, you want your system to be as easy as possible. Simplicity is difficult to discern from a written explanation in a proposal. Even the most well-written proposal can describe a system that is ultimately complex and confusing. Why not schedule a few demos prior to issuing an RFP and even include some frequent bidders in the audience? This can help the team gather what aspects are important to both the agency bidding team and the vendors. Features may sound great on paper, but seeing a system in action is where you can really assess what functionality is key to your agency’s success and how easily the system will be adapted by bidders.
As you move forward with selecting a vendor for Internet bidding and online solicitation management, keep these key points in mind. To learn more about Info Tech’s Bid Express service, visit www.bidexpress.com.