Electronic Tenders – The Future?

Article Business Practice Data Management Senate by

A survey of Members in January/February 2003 revealed that a majority have some experience of tendering based on information provided electronically.   Responses were received from approximately one third of the AGS Member Firms.  Of these 20% had tendered for a contract over the internet; 38% had bought (construction related) products and services over the internet; 5% had sold products and services on the web; and 74% had tenders on information provided in an electronic format.

E-Procurement Survey of AGS Members experience

Tendering on the WWW (electronic auctions)                       20%

Buying products and services on WWW                                  38%

Selling products and services on WWW                                  5 %

Tendering based on electronic information                            74%

Of those that had tendered using electronic information 68% had experienced difficulties typical of e-tendering:  poor indexing; irrelevant information (ie information overload); and data that couldn’t be manipulated.  Leaving 76% of those with experience with the overall impression that electronic data did not save time.

This is particularly important when it comes to ground investigation data in AGS format which is intended to deliver efficiencies in both time and cost by eliminating the need to re-key information.  To achieve these efficiencies, data providers must address the need to supply data in a manipulable format (perhaps in addition to a *.pdf file) and to make routine use of the AGS Format logo (supplied to all registered users of Edition 3) to alert the data user that electronic data is available.

How can IT help the tender process?

Saving time?

Theoretically, yes.

  • Information can be efficiently shared internally and with bid partners
  • re-keying of data can be avoided
  • re-drafting (eg existing survey information sections, etc) can be avoided

Save printing costs?

Not really.  Cost is just passed down the chain to the user.

Reduce the tender period?

Not really.  Design development, commercial assessment, technical considerations and health and safety risk assessments are still necessary, and these are undertaken by people.

Summary

AGS Members appear to be increasingly comfortable with web technology and with conducting business transactions on the www.  However they are cautious about bidding for complex projects through electronic auctions, although this might be a suitable route for small, straightforward contracts, using standard terms and conditions. Certainly, Clients are showing increasing enthusiasm for this method of procurement and believe that it brings price savings.  Many people, however, recognise that it is contrary to the industry agenda for best value and partnering – and ultimately that quality might be affected.

Tendering based upon electronic information is widespread; but many of the intended benefits are lost because data is poorly indexed and insufficient thought has been given to the format in which it is made available. SI data, in particular, needs to be in AGS Format and transmitted in a way that the recipient can use it without re-keying.

The AGS Business Practice WG, in co-operation with other interested bodies, is working to improve this situation and is preparing a standard information protocol for geotechnical contracts to assist those preparing enquiry documents.

The AGS would like to thank those Members who took part in the e-procurement survey and contributed valuable information about the use and usefulness of this method of procurement.