One of the most tedious aspects of tendering is searching for suitable tenders. There are many tender alert services available, some free to use, some pay-by-subscription and some that are specifically tailored to your particular company.
I’m not going to knock any of these services as they certainly do have their benefits – the biggest being time saving. However, it’s worth knowing that for the majority of public sector tenders, information about them is legally required to be freely and publically available. It’s just a case of knowing where to look. One place is TED.
What is TED?
‘TED’ – Tenders Electronic Daily – is the online supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union. Waaaay back in the day, one of my jobs as a fledgling bid writer was to trawl through the printed version of this journal with a highlighter pen and a stack of post-its, looking for possible tender opportunities that might suit the company I was working for at the time. Thank the gods for the invention of the internet then, as – while it’s still a proper pain in the, uh, mouse hand – it’s been simplified somewhat by the ability to search electronically. Phew.
TED is updated five times a week ‘with approximately 1500 public procurement notices from the European Union, the European Economic Area and beyond’.
You can register with TED and set up a number of search profiles that are tailored specifically to your requirements, or you can simply bob in and out as and when you feel and see what’s up. I recommend registering, as you can then re-run your search at any time without having to re-complete numerous fields every visit.
TED allows you to search using a number of methods, including:
Business Opportunities: Here you can select the country or countries you are interested in supplying to as well as define whether you are looking for a ‘contract notice’ (published tender notice) or Prior Information Notice (PIN – basically a ‘head’s up’ that a contract notice is likely to be published fairly soon). This will return absolutely everything that’s been published in the last issue, but don’t worry, I’ll be explaining more about how to refine your search a bit later on.
Business Sector: Using CPV ‘Common Procurement Vocabulary’ codes can help you narrow down your search to the types of service you wish to tender for. Each code relates to an overarching category, with sub categories each having their own code. This allows you to either search for an overarching category, e.g. ‘construction’, which would deliver many results and may be too broad and time consuming to trawl through, or be more specific, e.g. ‘Sanitary fixture installation’, which sits under construction (a few layers of codes under, actually).
Place of Delivery: NUTS codes (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) allow you to narrow down your search to the country or region you are interested in tendering for. This is useful if you generally provide services locally, or even nationally, and you want to avoid results for every other EU country. Conversely, if you are actively looking for contracts in other EU countries, you can do so easily.
Heading: This gives you the option to search by a type of authority (sort of), e.g. by European Economic Area, Government Procurement Agreement, Member State and more. I don’t use this option very often but it may be useful to you depending on your type of business.
Refining your search
Here’s where you can really start to make good use of the TED site. The default search result will be the last edition (e.g. this week’s) but you can choose to search the last five editions, all current notices, or even the archive.
Using the archive may be helpful if you are new to tendering and want to get an idea of what kinds of opportunities are out there (and who won them!) – old tenders can also help you develop a ‘bid/no bid’ strategy.
You can refine the search to show only contract notices (‘live’ opportunities), prior information notices (potential upcoming tenders), calls for expressions of interest, prequalification notices, contract awards and more. You can also search by type of authority, place, publication date, deadline – the list goes on!
A very useful way to search is by using the free text option to enter whatever you want. This does come in handy particularly as CPV codes aren’t updated terribly regularly – new types of services may not yet have been given their own code and may be sitting under something that’s not entirely appropriate.
Saving your searches
Once registered, you can save up to five search profiles. These can be set to alert you with an email whenever new published documents match your saved profile and you can modify any of these profiles at any time, should you need to. Alerts can also be delivered to you via RSS.
Saving interesting opportunities
You can save each document as a PDF to your own computer. TED also provides a ‘clipping list’, which allows you to save individual notices within your TED profile, as well as set reminders to follow up on opportunities.
Reminders can be useful in general but, given the relatively short timescale between publication of a contract notice and the submission deadline, it probably won’t be far from your mind in any case! Where I can see a benefit is for Prior Information Notices, to remind you to check in and see if they’ve been issued around the time they should have been or have been delayed for any reason – sometimes, contract notices don’t accurately reflect the PINs originally issued (e.g. different CPV codes, change of services etc.) so setting a reminder may help if the contract notice isn’t flagged on your search alert.
How to read a contract notice
Once you’ve searched for and found what looks like a potential opportunity, how do you wade through the legalese and procurement jargon to find out if it really is something worth tendering for?
The first things to look for are the contracting authority, the total quantity or scope and the time limit for receipt of tenders. These will immediately tell you:
- Who the contract is for
- How much it’s worth
- What the general scope of work is
- When it needs to be submitted by
If all of those match the type of contract(s) you want, the next thing to do is look for the method for accessing the full tender documentation, which could be in one of several forms, e.g.:
- Downloading it from an individual authority procurement site
- Sending an email directly to the named procurement official
- Registering on a procurement portal
- By fulfilling a quest to rid the kingdom of the dragon and winning the princesses hand (not really, but sometimes it can feel that epic)
Don’t rely on the Contract Notice
The contract notice is just that – a notice. While it may also tell you various other things, such as whether it is a framework, or what individual lots consist of, you should always refer to the full tender documents for any official information and to confirm any other details.
The official tender documents will also tell you far more than the contract notice ever could, so you should always request the tender as early as possible – only then will you be able to decide if it is right for your company You can then also determine what you might need to do or put in place before you submit it, such as getting your policies up to date, discuss with your team how you would deliver the contract…… or perhaps even hire a bid writer 😉
If you get the tender documents and you decide it’s not for you, that’s ok. Even if you’ve submitted an expression of interest, you can retract it. But it is vital to get hold of and look over those documents as soon as you can, so you can make that decision swiftly.
So that’s how to use TED, I hope it’s useful. TED is not the only place to find opportunities – you can also register as a supplier on most local authority websites and there are other public sites where tenders of all varieties can be found – but that’s another post for another day!
As ever, if you have any questions do drop me a message – it’s even easier to contact me now, using the mini form on the right hand side of every page.