1. Transitioning To Online Solicitations

    by Joey Myer
    Business Development Manager

    Owner-agencies today are aware that online solicitation management can be a big time saver and an economical choice for procuring goods and services. Implementing an online solicitation management system does not have to be a mystery. If you are wondering how it works and how to make a quick and easy transition, read on. Our customers say that these are the keys to a quick and successful implementation:

    Get the right people in the room for training

    It’s important that all of your agency’s team members involved in the bidding process are present at the training sessions and committed to learning the system. This is pivotal to success. For systems that are user friendly and intuitive, training on an Internet bidding service likely can be broken into two-to-four short webinars, ideally scheduled closely together. The steps should be familiar to your staff if they are patterned after existing paper-based processes. We also recommend that your agency assign an internal project manager to the implementation so that there is a main point of contact for the process. If this person is engaged in scheduling, oversees the progress and keeps the project on track, the implementation will likely be smooth.

    Availability of support

    You should expect to have access to support specialists available by phone to guide your bidding team through the first few advertisements, including issuing addenda or conducting live bid openings. We call this ‘training on demand,’ and it is a key factor in getting your first solicitations successfully posted. Like others in the industry, our trainers are realistic. Our team knows that no one is going to absorb everything in the scheduled training sessions. Training is not designed to make all users experts. The real learning comes by continued practice and production use of the system. Your Internet bidding service provider should have a training demonstration space that provides for multiple practice bids to allow your team to become comfortable with the electronic bidding process.

    Phased roll out

    Owner-agencies can go live with Internet bidding either by requiring Internet bidding as the sole method of submission, or can roll out the process in phases. Which is better? In our experience, both have been done successfully, so it is really up to you. You know your bidding team and your vendor community best. If your vendors are bidding online to other agencies, you can likely go directly to requiring Internet bids. If not, a phased approach may work better. For a phased approach, this is a typical progression:

    • Initial implementation: Offer Internet bidding as an option
    • Three months later: Establish a dollar value threshold for Internet-only bids
    • Three-to-six months later: Require Internet bidding for all bids

    Vendor awareness

    Engaging your vendor community early and keeping them engaged is important. Your provider should assist with a plan outlining the vital times for vendor communications and be willing to assist with outreach to your vendor community. This typically includes:

    • Announcement of Internet bidding vendor selection
    • Announcement of first posted solicitation
    • Communication of vendor training webinar dates/times
    • Inserts in paper bid packages
    • Flyers at pre-bid meetings providing information on online submission
    • Email outreach to vendor list/pre-bid meeting attendees

    Info Tech has implemented the Bid Express service at more than 100 public agencies over the past 18 years. You can put that experience to work for you to ensure a smooth transition to Internet bidding.