Most construction professionals would agree that the tendering/bidding process has changed significantly over the past 15 years.

The transition from print and posting project documents to electronic distribution has cut costs and increased handling efficiency. With new technology, the shift from email delivery to more advanced construction specific platforms look to automate and collaborate much of the tendering process, and provide greater efficiencies coupled with a drop in project risk for all stakeholders.

A substantial amount of time and resources are needed throughout a project’s procurement to ensure that profit margins are preserved and contractors arrive on the job site in line with the programme. With large multi-million dollar projects, it is easy for the tender management process to become overwhelming without sufficient resources, and resulting errors can be costly. Our client research indicates that the following are the most common frustrations for companies using outdated and manual tendering processes:

  1. Access to a suitable network of contractors to price tenders.
  2. Distributing tender packages and updating documentation via email.
  3. Receiving quotations in the requested scope break-up format.
  4. Recording the process of communication manually via excel spreadsheets.

If you and your colleagues can relate to these challenges, you may be considering to use a software platform to run this process. So, what are some product features that you need to consider before deciding on a software vendor to go with?

Construction networking

When sending out a tender package, do you tend to get the market price for the specific scope of works by sending invitations to the same group of contractors in your network? If you do, it is most likely due to time restraints.

An online software platform can provide you with an additional network of contractors to gather expressions of interest from them, and can also improve the tender response rate dramatically. This will enable you to connect with other strong businesses within your area and to obtain a more accurate market price for the work.

Every company bidding for construction work, whether a main contractor or a subcontractor, can benefit from this type of networking opportunity, and this is something that should be considered when searching for a software product.

Automated document management

Document updates are inevitable for most projects. When new documents are issued, it is crucial that all project stakeholders are notified, including consultants, contractors, the project team and the tendering subcontractors.

In most situations, there are specific company roles to manage and control project documents due to the time required to update all project stakeholders via an email transmittal. When done manually, this process could take hours for each update and can lead to distribution mistakes. Your software should be able to eliminate this manual process entirely.

By choosing a software system that has been built with practical understanding of the construction process, automatic documents updates along with your company’s branded transmittals and download links should form an integral part of the system algorithm. The system should be able to automatically determine which specific project contacts need to be updated and with which documents, as opposed to a mass notification to all contacts for every document update.

Whether you are notifying 10 or 100 contacts, the right software should be able to send relevant updates simultaneously. Automation at this level will not only save weeks of manual efforts during a project’s life cycle, but it will also ensure that all relevant parties are accessing the same latest document versions. A detailed transmittal log should also be available to easily track who has received what and when.

Scope of works

Providing a preset scope of works in order to receive pricing back in a uniform format will allow you to compare apples with apples. If a software system does not provide this ability, it becomes difficult to assess the costs per contractor vs. the allocated budgets per item.

Although construction software can’t “force” a contractor to price work the way that you would like to see it, it can certainly help to highlight the break-up in the tender invitation. It is important to look at the process of setting up the scope of works and bid submission requirements to ensure that there is a simple and clear procedure for all tendering companies to follow.

Another important point to consider is the process a bidding company will need to do follow when submitting a quote through the software? Do they need to register on your system or download additional software?  Or can they work straight from their emails without the need to follow a time-consuming registration process? Providing a streamlined bidding process with minimal software barriers is likely to generate more interest in your project and save you time training and registering your contractors onto a system.

Tender communication and activity lists

Like tracking document updates via transmittals, it is also important to have a log of activities occurring during the tender process and the status of each tendering company. In the absence of a software system, this is generally done by manual entries into Word or Excel template documents.

Unfortunately, such a manual process is only as accurate as the person entering the information and when it was last updated. With a good construction management software, the status of each bidding company from the initial invitation to the final quote submission can be automatically logged to provide a real-time accurate record.

This is achieved by providing a collaborative environment where bidding companies communicate efficiently and update their own status (e.g. I will be Pricing or Not Pricing this tender). Not only does this allow for automated logs to be created, it eliminates the administration time to find out bidders intentions via phone or email.

In the end, while the tendering/bidding process is only one aspect of the overall construction management picture, when searching for a cloud-based or on-premise software it is important to understand if the solution can fit into your company’s processes and provide a solution to your common procedural frustrations.

Software that focuses on collaboration and networking, minimal access barriers, ease of use and automation of manual processes will generate an improved and more streamlined practice for your business, and lead to increased profits and a lower overall project risk.

What kind of frustrations do you see with your procurement or project management process at present? And does your construction software overcome these frustrations?