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21st century bidding – it’s all gone a little bit Jetsons

Technology is constantly evolving and changing the way we undertake our work. Certainly this has been the case on site and now also in the production of bids.

Were The Jetsons, the cartoon family living in 2062, actually accurate in their portrayal of robots and gadgets doing their work for them?

Things have undoubtedly changed in a number of ways.

Style

Up until the mid 90s, bids were basic, completed mostly by hand or typewriter, stapled together and posted. Computers then became more commonly used and as we grew more computer literate we started to use word processing and desktop publishing.

As we entered the noughties some construction firms began to use professional graphic design software. Bids were becoming more demanding and competition was increasing, meaning that an eye-catching document was essential.

“We can produce the best-looking bids in the industry, but without the substance they are pointless”

Graphics packages led to the use of external print companies for cost-effective and professional paper-over-board binders and hardback book submissions.

The latest advance has been to electronic submissions. This means learning new ways of assembling documents, using tools such as hyperlinks and buttons to make them interactive and simple to navigate, as well as graphics to make them attractive. Adobe Acrobat is definitely the bid professional’s best friend at the moment.

Content

Style and content are not mutually exclusive and must complement each other. As film director Jean-Luc Goddard said: “Style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style.” We can produce the best-looking bids in the industry, but without the substance they are pointless.

Within the past 10 years, we have seen PQQs go from being a collation of very standard company information and marketing spiel to mini-tenders. They must be tailored not only to the client and the project but also to the local community.

Bid professionals have to be familiar with current affairs, the economy, the construction industry, corporate social responsibility, marketing and technology to name but a few! They must be highly literate, with an artistic flair and influential – with no-nonsense organisational skills.

Presentation

The way in which we actually present our final bid is probably the area that has faced the most technological advancement. We have moved swiftly in the last couple of years from paper submissions to electronic ones, cutting down production costs and time.

“We are even moving towards submitting iPads and video brochures containing interactive presentations”

Where hard copies are required, the simple presentation binder just doesn’t cut it. Now we create a suite of identically branded items for each bid – often displayed in a presentation box with compartments for each element.

These elements can be everything from custom-made binders and hardback books to USB memory sticks and CDs. We can host secure web pages and hyperlink from the electronic submission to the webpage.

We are even moving towards submitting iPads and video brochures containing interactive presentations, specially created apps, videos, voxpops and 3D animations. The list is endless, all relatively cost-effective, yet impressive.

The Jetsons era

So, with the speed at which technology is progressing, in 50 years’ time we may have robots and machines that will automatically produce compliant, bespoke, commercially viable, well-written and well-designed bids in a matter of seconds…but until then where are my chocolates and espresso?!

Jennifer Harrison is a marketing and proposals professional with more than 13 years’ experience in the construction industry, having worked for a number of major international contractors. She has been a member of the CIMCIG northern committee since 2008 and the national committee since 2011. She is also co-managing the re-launch of National Association of Women in Construction in the North-west.

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