Five pleas to procurement

posted by Ron Finlay
21 October 2016

Why, oh why, do procurement people insist on so many bureaucratic hoops? And why, oh why, don’t they stick to their side of the bargain?

 What I am about to say is probably not true for all people in procurement, so if you’re not guilty, you can ignore this rant. But you may want to check first whether the following applies to you.

Do you require hard copies of tenders, rather than allowing electronic delivery?

Do you insist on tenders being sent in a plain envelope with no external marking to disclose the identity of the sender?

Do you claim that you’ll follow a specific timetable and then ignore it?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then this rant is meant for you.

I run a small business and have long been on the receiving end of demands such as these. In my opinion, they are unreasonable for modern procuring organisations and give the sector a bad image. They impose unnecessary burdens on potential suppliers, increasing costs for everyone and creating stress.

As hopeful recipients of your business, we can’t complain directly. But this is what I would have liked to have said to those to whom I have tendered and who have failed to adhere to good practice.


  1. Don’t make rules for their own sake. Question whether you need suppliers to go through the hoops you set. ‘You must supply your tender on a USB memory stick.’ Why not just allow delivery by email?
  2. Be proportionate. ‘You must provide sets of accounts for the last three years’. Does the contract size and length really merit an onerous proof of financial stability? I’ve had this sort of request for a three-month contract worth under £10,000.
  3. Get your own technology up to date. ‘Your document must be supplied in Word format.’ Why? Do you realise you can convert PDFs to Word with the right software upgrade? And a Word document with images can have such a large file size that it may be rejected by your email server!
  4. Don’t set unrealistic timetables. If you promise to respond by Monday, it’s unfair to us if you keep us hanging on for two further weeks. Yes, you may have received a higher volume of tenders than you expected, or someone critical is off sick. But things change, so allow for that.
  5. Communicate. Have the courtesy to tell us whether our bid has been rejected - if you really can’t do that, make it clear in the tender notice, but how much effort is it really? And if we get down to the final shortlist but not award of contract, be prepared to feed back on why.

All these rules represent good professional practice – but a lot of you are not following them. If you are, thank you. And if you’re not, please have a hard look in the mirror and make some changes – both for your own sake and for the good name of the procurement industry.

☛ Ron Finlay is principal of Ron Finlay Communications. 

Central London and Cheltenham
Salaries: Central London: £38,656 - £43,186/Cheltenham: £35,736 - £40,011
Central London and Cheltenham
Salaries: Central London: £48,305 - £56,163/Cheltenham: £45,341 - £53,023
CIPS Knowledge
Find out more with CIPS Knowledge:
  • best practice insights
  • guidance
  • tools and templates