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Responding to an approach to market

My business is interested in responding to an ATM. What do I have to do?

You will need to prepare a response that complies with the ATM documentation. You will find some information about the typical contents of an ATM in the section below.

You must prepare and submit your response by the specified date and time, to the specified location and in the specified format (for example electronically or a certain number of printed copies) that will be outlined in the ATM documentation.

A short checklist to assist you to prepare and submit your response has also been included.

What is typically contained in an ATM?

Approach to market documents will usually include some, if not all, of the following elements:

ATM content What does that mean?
A description of the procurement The request document describes the goods or services being procured. The description should include:<
  • the nature and scope of work Statement of Requirement
  • the ‘deliverables’ or expected outcomes
  • any technical specifications, eg. performance and functional requirements
  • any need for installation, training, support or maintenance
  • timeframes for delivery of the goods or services.
Conditions for participation The conditions for participation are the minimum requirements you must meet to be considered for the work. (If you do not meet these minimum standards, your tender will not be considered.) Agencies include these to make sure you have the legal, financial, technical and/or commercial capabilities to perform the contract. Some examples are:<
  • relevant licenses or professional accreditations
  • ability to meet security requirements
  • minimum occupational health and safety standards
  • minimum levels of insurance or financial resources
  • prior experience or a specfic capability.
Evaluation criteria and methodology Your submission will be assessed against the evaluation criteria.<

The evaluation criteria will provide critical guidance on what you need to demonstrate to win the business.Evaluation criteria are often weighted according to their relative importance, and of course will vary from tender to tender.Some examples are:

  • demonstrated ability to provide the goods or services
  • ability to manage risk
  • pricing
  • compliance with stated contract conditions.

The request document should also describe the evaluation methodology including, for example, whether tenders will be short listed before a successful supplier is chosen.

Minimum content and format requirements

Minimum content and format requirements explain what information your tender response should contain and the format that you need to use. For example:

  • in terms of content, you may need to provide certificates of insurance or evidence of a particular licence to support your submission
  • in relation to format, you may need to use specific schedules, or submit your response electronically.
Process rules

Process rules relate to how the tender will be run. For example:

  • the deadline and location for lodging your response
  • protocols for answering your questions and distributing answers to all tenderers
  • procedures to be followed if amendments to the tender documents are needed during the tender open period
  • how your confidential information will be treated both during the tender process and after contract award.
The draft contract

A draft contract is usually included in tender documents to allow you to clearly understand the requirements of the agency:

  • you may be required to indicate your willingness to comply with the clauses of the draft contract in your tender response
  • where you wish to negotiate alternative clauses, you must note these and provide justification.

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Tip

If you would like to see what a typical pack of ATM documentation looks like, visit the AusTender website and download a current ATM for the type of goods or services that you are interested in supplying to the Government. This is good preparation so that you see what it looks like, what you will be asked to provide and you get a sense of how long it might take to complete, before you are caught up in the pressure of responding.

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Can I ask questions before I respond?

Yes. Most ATMs will nominate a contact officer who will receive questions and provide responses. The question you ask and the response you receive will also be provided to all other potential suppliers. This will be done anonymously: you will not be identified in the process. You will also be provided any answers to questions asked by other respondents.

Why is the statement of requirements so important?

The statement of requirement ,or statement of work, is the document by which the buyer identifies the details of the goods and/or services that it wishes to buy. It is important because it will be used in the tender evaluation process to assess the extent to which each potential supplier’s response addresses the requirements. It will ultimately become part of the contract by which the delivery of the goods and services is managed. This makes it a very important document and you should pay careful attention to the contents of the statement of requirement.

Why do they send the draft contract with the ATM?

This gives you the chance to see the terms and conditions under which your business would be contracted if you are successful. It allows time for you to receive legal advice about the terms and conditions. It also allows you to build your pricing schedule in the knowledge of exactly what is expected of you contractually.

You may be asked to confirm in your response whether your business complies with the terms and conditions of the draft contract.

Australian government organisations are increasingly using the Commonwealth Contract Terms for contracts under $200,000. It would be useful to familiarise yourself with these terms.

For higher value contracts, you may negotiate terms and conditions in the draft contract. However, you should be aware that a Government organisation will usually regard an ATM response that departs from the standard terms and conditions as higher risk and a higher cost than one which complies. This may make your response less competitive in terms of achieving value for money.

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Quick Tip: Contract issues

Entities will typically provide a draft contract as part of the tender documents. Draft contracts may include a number of requirements relating to public liability and professional indemnity insurance, confidentiality of both contractor and organisation information, auditor access to contractor records, conflicts of interest, and the use of sub-contractors (where applicable).

For lower value contracts, generally no negotiations will be involved. It is not cost effective to negotiate contract clauses for low value contracts and consequently your offer is unlikely to represent the best value for money if you require special terms and conditions in the contract.

For higher value contracts, organisations will ask that you indicate your preparedness to accept the offered contract and to state any clauses that you want to negotiate. Generally you will not be able to negotiate about any contractual issues you have not flagged in your tender.

In making a decision on whether or not to accept the offered contract without negotiations, you should consider that the organisation’s costs of negotiating any changes you have nominated will be included in the organisation’s value for money assessment of your tender. These additional costs may be a deciding factor in your tender being unsuccessful if other suppliers are prepared to accept the contract offered.

It is your responsibility to negotiate any variations to contract clauses before you sign.

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Is there a particular format for my response?

Most Approaches to Market (ATMs) will included a template response for you to complete. You will simply need to answer each of the criteria.

If a template response document is not included with the ATM package you will need to ensure you have included all the mandatory requirements specified in the ATM. If specific formatting is required, this should be clearly stated in the ATM.

Be sure that your response addresses all the requirements and evaluation criteria, completes any mandatory forms and contains enough information to assist the Government buyer in understanding your offer.

Be sure that your response:

  • directly addresses the requirements as laid out in the statement of requirement
  • completes any mandatory forms provided in the ATM documentation, for example a declaration that you are authorised to submit the response, or a listing of proposed subcontractors
  • pays attention to addressing the evaluation criteria, particularly any mandatory or essential evaluation criteria
  • provides enough information and enough detail to allow the procurement staff to understand what your business is offering to supply to the Government
  • meets any format and content requirements laid down in the ATM documentation

Is it true that the Government won’t accept late tenders, even if I have a good reason for being late?

Entities cannot accept your offer if it is submitted after the deadline, unless the delay is due solely to mishandling by the organisation. It is therefore vital that your offer is submitted by the deadline contained in the ATM documents. If it is late for any other reason, by even a few minutes, it will NOT be accepted. The AusTender system automatically closes at the designated time.

How can I give my response the best chance of success?

The following quick checklist presents some key points to consider when preparing your tender submission.

Is this the right opportunity for your business?

Participating in tender processes can involve substantial costs for your business with no guarantee of success. Take the time to determine whether each opportunity is potentially rewarding and cost-effective to pursue, based on its match with your competitive advantage, your demonstrable business history and experience, your business capacity, and the size of the size of the market.

Do you understand all the requirements?

It may sound simple, but be sure to read the tender documents carefully, highlight key points, and seek clarification from the organisation if you are uncertain about any issue.

Have you attended any briefing offered?

Be sure to attend an industry briefing if its is offered,. Industry briefings provide an efficient opportunity to ask questions and hear what competitors may ask.   Attending these sessions will give you a better idea if this business opportunity is right for you.

Have you planned your tender preparation and allowed plenty of time to meet the deadline?

Late tenders cannot be accepted, so make sure you know where and when your tender must be lodged. If you need to form a consortium or engage sub-contractors to complete the work, be sure to allow others enough time to provide input into the tender submission.

Is your response straightforward and to the point?

There is no standard format for tender responses—they vary depending on the nature and complexity of the procurement. However, you will always need to complete any mandatory forms and follow formatting style or templates and schedules provided. Your tender will be evaluated on content, not extravagant presentation. It is also a good idea to use simple, straightforward language and keep to the point. Put your response into the same order as the information in the request documents so that it is easy to follow for the people evaluating the tender. Use headings and lists to make your content clear. Do not include merchandising material unless it is permitted AND addresses the evaluation criteria directly.

Have you addressed all mandatory conditions for participation and evaluation criteria?

It is extremely important to demonstrate that you comply with all specified conditions for participation, and that you address all the evaluation criteria and any other specified requirements. Make sure you can comply with the terms and conditions of the draft contract. Remember, if you do not address the evaluation criteria, you response will be rejected. Check that you have addressed every evaluation criterion, and that your response fully demonstrates your ability to deliver the work required. Ensure you sign any declarations required.

Have you demonstrated value for money?

Value for money is the key consideration of Government organisations. Price is obviously important, but even more important are service standards, quality, performance and whole-of-life costs. Always bid competitively the first time; you will probably not be given a chance to improve your offer later in the process. Equally, do not underprice to win the work assuming you will be able to extend the value of the contract or increase your price once the contract is signed—you will be required to hold to the price you have quoted. Be sure not to over-promise as this could cause trouble for you later on if you can’t deliver.

Have you emphasised what sets you apart from your competitors?

Think about how you would evaluate your tender against the evaluation criteria if you were the official responsible for assessing tender responses. You may wish to emphasise areas where you exceed the requirements, and where you feel you can add value for the organisation. Your tender will usually be competing against several alternative proposals, so be sure to clearly identify potential points of difference from your competitors.

Have you clearly explained why you should be selected?

Don’t assume that the Government organisation knows you and your business, even if you have worked for them before. The people for whom you have worked in the past may not be a part of this tender process, so you cannot assume that the Government organisation will know anything about your previous work for them. Be sure to fully explain what you do and how your product or service will meet the requirements. Your offer will be judged on the information contained in your tender, so be sure to provide enough detail to demonstrate why your business should be the preferred supplier. Do not pad your tender unnecessarily or fill it with marketing waffle - just stick to the facts and give good examples of what you can do to meet the requirements.

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