10th Oct 2010 AUTHOR: Robert Machin

Project Management: The Key to a Successful Tender Response

Project Management is a tool; not a vocation! A tender response is the perfect example of a project; the discipline of project management is a vital tool for a successful Tender response.


  • Senior management commitment and involvement is critical to success
  • A Proposal (Project) Management Plan is essential for all successful responses
  • A Project Manager will be worth the investment

Project management is a vital tool behind successful tender responses

It's an old adage but a relevant one: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail!

For many, tender or proposal writing is considered difficult, thankless work and is often relegated to sales support staff or at worst, the MD's personal assistant. After all, she (or he) writes the boss's letters so she must be good at it. Besides, sales people and business developers see their roles as customer-facing, not filling in forms.

So, how do we elevate the function of responding to a tender or proposal to its proper place? After all, if someone's taken the trouble to develop a tender document they must be serious about finding the right business partner. Moreover, if someone has developed a Tender document it usually indicates the value of the potential business is substantial.

The establishment of a Project Plan, Project Team and Steering Group to manage an important tender response is vital if you are serious about winning business. More and more businesses, like government, are turning to Tenders as the means to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Your ability, or otherwise, to respond to a Tender in a professional manner will tell your prospect a lot about you.

In short, if you don't have a clearly defined plan in place and a team to implement it, you are planning to fail!

So What Is Project Management, and Why Use It?

Simply defined project management enables you to:

  • focus on priorities
  • track performance
  • address difficulties and manage risks
  • adapt to change

Project management gives you proven tools and techniques to help you lead your team to reach objectives on time and within budget.

Organising activities in this way may appear time-consuming initially; however, in the long run a well-established Project (Proposal) Management Plan will save you time and effort and more importantly will dramatically reduce your risk of failure.

To ensure success, the project must have defined and approved goals, a committed team, and a flexible plan of action. The essentials of an effective plan are:

  • clear goals
  • senior management commitment and involvement
  • planning and communication - keeping all stakeholders apprised of the plan and any updates
  • flexibility - re-evaluating plans as the project unfolds

Tackling the tender response as a project will also provide the framework to ensure that all tasks are documented and all stakeholders are identified and consulted. Do not underestimate the work involved in bringing all the elements of a complex tender to completion. I have spent many days working around the clock trying to make up for lost time due to poorly managed tender response projects. Editing documents at 3am is not conducive to quality output!

Sadly, many excellent suppliers have been disqualified for failing to meet a technical requirement in the Tender document. A sound Project Plan, properly implemented, will ensure this doesn't happen.

The appointment of a Project Manager, whether internal or external, will ensure there is a central point of control and management for the entire tender response process. This will keep stakeholders, whether board members, subject matter experts (SMEs) or number-crunchers, on track. The project manager needs to assess, as a matter of urgency, if additional resources are needed to ensure deadlines are met.

Regular meetings and project updates are essential to ensure everyone is able play their part in creating an outstanding tender response. Why would you aim for anything less?

Like all important projects a Tender Response deserves a professional approach that optimises your chance of getting on to the short list. A tender response by definition is a project and what better way to manage a project than using a project management approach. Project Management gives you proven tools and techniques to help you lead your team to reach objectives on time and within budget.

robRob Machin is a principal consultant for Tender Success. For more than 25 years he has successfully project managed tender responses for projects >6 billion dollars for a single contract. Contact Rob to ensure your next response is a success.