It was an issue that united most of the companies we talked to - clients and main contractors need to make competing for work less of a nightmare.
Many thought the problem had got worse in the past couple of years - either because the perpetrators were shorthanded and trying to pass on work, or because less experienced people were involved. As Nick Baster says, “There are people in main contractors who just don’t understand the process any more.”
Our poll of smaller construction companies shows that a whopping two-thirds spend more than a day a month working on tenders, supplier accreditation schemes
and PQQs. For some companies in our debates, the downturn meant they had gone from working with a relatively small number of consistent clients to tendering for
more work - with a massive paperwork explosion resulting.
The sheer number of supplier accreditation schemes was a common complaint. Some companies had tried to get better at navigating the PQQ process, some had
had a bit of success in convincing clients to cut the paperwork and some had opted out completely. Nick Taylor “We have two people full time involved in bidding. We
have to send six copies of everything and there’s just so much photocopying and that takes time.”
Tom O’Mahony “The information you get from clients is poor and you spend your life after a bid comes back working on it.”
Francis Keenan “There is the perception that more people are desperate for work - although actually I don’t think that’s true - and so clients can put more
people on the tender list and everyone will just accept the hassle.”
Kevin Ellis “When we worked for health authorities they had inhouse work specifiers who didn’t know what they were doing. We put information in and then didn’t
win the contracts, only for that detail to get used by the client for someone else’s tender.”
Steve Medhurst “It’s got worse because of computers, it’s so easy for companies to send you loads of documents - you end up having to print out huge amounts of paper just to find out what they’re talking about. The big companies have got staff that don’t know what they’re doing. They send you every drawing for the job - and
I’m just a tiler.”
Stuart Scott “It’s a numbers game. Three or four years ago we might have had 20 clients. Now we’re getting 20 discs for each of the jobs we’re tendering for.”
There were plenty of ideas about how to make the situation better - some supported moves to a common accreditation process like PAS. Others had had good feedback from clients, so that the effort was more likely to win them work.
Some also argued that too much standardisation would stop companies being able to differentiate themselves - after all, what’s the point of a process that is too easy. But does it have to be so hard?
Russell Smith “Paul Morrell’s idea is to have one process and surely that’s a better way of doing it, rather than rewording everything for lots of different PQQ process.”
Mark Pitcher “I think educating clients would be the thing to help them realise how to get more out of their supply chain, but people build walls around everything.”
Alan Proto “Every further education college has a different PQQ. But I wonder if that’s not the point - they might actually want to see if there is a brain at the
other end who can do more than fill in a standard form.”
Grant Jefferies “For a while we weren’t enthusiastic about doing PQQs and that didn’t help, so we had to get better at them and that’s helped. Generally we were
pushy on getting feedback - we genuinely wanted to know what we were doing wrong.”
David Le Lohe “We’re trying to work through CECA for public sector jobs, on references from clients for instance. Why can’t we have a standard form of reference
that goes onto a system once we’ve finished a job?”
Martin Chambers “There are examples around of good clients. We’ve got an enlightened one right now. Their documents look big but if you are registered with
Constructionline, you skip six pages, registered with the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme, another six pages, and so on.”
Steve Medhurst “I don’t bother filling in PQQs unless there’s a job definitely on the table. They say you’ve got to do it upfront but it’s not true.”