You may think that 178 Questions seems like a random title for a blog, BUT that is the number of questions which were posed in a current Q&A portal for a Government led procurement exercise. Yes really 178… all contained within a multicoloured excel spreadsheet which had 11 columns and looked crazy both in colour, but also when you have an online portal isn’t the point to keep everything online (not separate in an excel spreadsheet?)
It begs the following questions though…
– Why did it need 178 questions asking, was it too complicated, or was the specification particularly poor?
– 178 Questions = how many potential suppliers are looking at this, and why wasn’t there a PQQ stage?
– The questions were categorised, but how long had someone spent putting a myriad of text answers into boxes and spending forever in excel with the “format painter” function
This is what the real problem looks like to us (as outsiders)
It can’t have been clear enough in the communication with the suppliers, otherwise you simply wouldn’t get that many questions
The portal itself is flawed in the fact that it needs to be able to show the questions online as it is “live” rather than a manual update on excel spreadsheets
The specification wasn’t in any way “bolted down” and by that we mean, specified well enough to be able to answer the questions
So how do we solve this problem, well the obvious answers of training, clearer specification, better communications but ultimately we need procurement to start by giving the portal a thorough working on, give it to someone from outside of the industry and ask them to work on it. They will tell you how they found it (easy / difficult) but they will also say things like “if it did this… it would be much better”
Only by testing, reviewing and listening can improvements be made, so listen up all you portal and IT companies out there!