How to conduct a tender process and create a website brief


Finding the right agency to work with on your website project can be time consuming and stressful but given the right preparation and planning it doesn’t have to be.

Finding the right agency to work on your website project can be time consuming and stressful but given the right preparation and planning it doesn’t have to be. 

Quba's been established for over 18 years so we've been involved in hundreds of digital pitches and tenders. This gives us a unique perspective to advise in creating a tender process that will ensure you appoint the best possible partner to deliver your project.

This blog will help you get started! 

Have a clear plan and a good brief 

Plan out your process from start to finish. You should clearly set out the structure of the tender process, understanding exactly what's required of the agencies and your team. It's always beneficial to create a scoring matrix as it’s good practice to ensure a consistent and fair scoring method is in place throughout this process.  

Provide those tendering with as much background information as possible as this will result in better quality submissions that are easier for you and your team to compare. 

A good brief should cover the following areas: 

  • Project budget. 
  • Desired completion date. 
  • Introduction to your organisation. 
  • Information on your brand look & feel and tone of voice. 
  • Background to your existing website and why it needs replacing. 
  • Overview of what you want to achieve and specific objectives. 
  • Your target users and any persona or segmentation work you already have. 
  • Whether you need help with content creation or population. 
  • Details of any web applications, databases, or other tech integrations required. 
  • Overview of the assessment criteria. 
  • Key contacts and stakeholders from your side. 

Organising your team 

Ensuring the right people are onboard at your end is incredibly important. A good mix of marketing and technical knowledge is ideal, so as a group you're able to thoroughly assess responses from all perspectives.

Marketing and IT Directors are ideal but make sure you have representation from employees that will manage and use the site when it's complete. There's no point building something based only on the views of people that won't touch the site after it's live! 

Setting an appropriate budget  

Budget is key. There is always more than one way to solve a problem in the world of Digital, and they all take different amounts or time, use different skills and tech, and therefore cost different amounts of money.

Without a budget, you'll get responses all over the place on price, as the agencies haven't had the opportunity to tailor the best possible solution to the budget you have available.

It may even be that what you're asking for in the brief can't be done on the budget you have, and it's best to find that out early rather than weeks down the line when you've got lots of agencies recommendations you can't afford. Also don't forget to factor in a budget for costs such as hosting, software licenses and ongoing support where appropriate.

Decide how to tender and shortlist agencies 

Is your tender going to be completely open and posted online or will you be doing research up front and shortlisting appropriate agencies? The latter option is likely to be more manageable, as open tenders can lead to a long list of agencies of all shapes and sizes that are hard to make sense of.

If you plan on making your own shortlist, try asking your professional network for referrals and recommendations and when researching keep an eye out for case studies of a similar scale and type.

If you do have a CMS in mind, check the agency can work with it and has the appropriate accreditations and partnerships with the platform holder. 

Inviting proposals 

This stage is where you send out your full brief and request proposals from your agency shortlist, typically consisting of up to 5 companies maximum. Most agencies worth their salt will want to meet at this point, so decide if you’re open to that and if you’re going to meet one, you really should meet them all at the same stage in the name of fairness.

An early meeting is a good way to identify those agencies willing to put in the effort in to get to know you and your requirements in more detail, and those that are just chancing their arm. 

As well as addressing questions about the end product, you should be sure to ask about how the project as a whole will be managed and profiles of the team members involved. A good project manager and a clearly defined process are as valuable as talented dev team! 

Once all of the proposals have been gathered then it's time to start assessing them. It's important to take a methodical approach at this stage applying the scoring matrix methodology and making notes until a further final shortlist is made.  

Should you ask for designs? 

Asking for design work at this stage often has little value. Most experienced agencies will be cautious of submitting designs without deeper insight and understanding than your initial brief can provide, so you’re likely to get anything particularly meaningful this early on.  

There's also a risk that a strong tender response can be overlooked because some members of your team are swayed by pretty pictures and overlook another more well-rounded response. 

Asking the agency to explain how they would approach the design challenges of the brief using examples of their past work would be a better approach, proving their worth without turning your tender into a beauty contest. 

Your on-going support needs 

What’s going to happen to your site after it’s live? Are you taking it back in-house to look after or do you need an on-going support agreement with your new agency? If it’s the latter, make sure you investigate what they offer and if it’s a good fit for your requirements. 

For example, at Quba we offer our support and performance service Quba Care. This comes with a host of benefits including a dedicated account manager, ring fenced development resource and simple, transparent process for everything from the smallest niggles to proactive updates, keeping your website performing better for longer rather than just reactively patching up problems when they happen. 

Decision or pitch?  

If you’ve met your shortlisted agencies earlier in the process you might feel you have enough to go on to make your decision based on the proposal alone. If that’s the case, all the best! 

If not, it’s pitch time! 

When pitching, you should filter down your shortlist to 3 agencies maximum. Decide if you want them to come in, present their proposal and answer your questions, or whether you want to set them another task relating to the project to demonstrate their thinking and process.

If you do the latter, make sure it’s a genuine challenge, the answer to which will help deliver on the brief rather than being a disposable time waster for competition purposes. 

Make sure you have representation from your project team, as the chemistry and confidence between them and the agency is key. Also, be sure to tell the agency who they’re meeting up front, so they can bring appropriate representation from their end. 

Some things to consider during the pitch: 

  • How well do they understand you, your company and your sector? 
  • Do they make you feel confident they’ll deliver the project? Do you like them? 
  • Are you meeting the people who you’ll be working with, or have they just wheeled out the big guns for show? 
  • Does the agency ask insightful questions, and are they genuinely enthusiastic about wanting to work with you?

Appoint someone! 

All things considered who on balance offers the total package of technical proficiency, clever thinking, passion for your project, a friendly collaborative team, and great commercial value? If you’ve worked to a scoring system, evaluate who come out on top and use your team's consensus to decide. 

Don’t just pick the cheapest. They’re the cheapest for a reason.

If you fancy a chat about anything in or related to this article email Matt at hello@quba.co.uk or call 0114 279 7779

26 Jun

2018
Matt Jones
Listed in:  Strategy Support
Estimated read time:
 words,  minutes

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