Try googling “online bidding”. It is several pages deep that you find the first reference to anything relating to construction bidding. Try “construction online bidding” or “online bidding construction”. Again, several pages deep (except for the references to our company or clients) before there are any results related to the actual submission of bids online. My point … there is clearly a general lack of clarity around what “online bidding” actually is.
I follow several blogs and a number of industry publications and for the most part the phrase online bidding is used in reference to the ability to access a planroom (plansroom, plan room) or a bid opportunity notification service. The reality is that technology has advanced significantly and it is now possible to consider online bidding in the full context of its meaning including the complete bid submission process.
There are ten key elements to a complete online bidding system including:
1. Bid Advertisement – If the project is not by invitation only it is important to be able to notify interested bidders that there is an opportunity to bid on.
2. Invitation to bid – For when there are bidders who are to be proactively advised of the opportunity.
3. Prequalification – For some projects the bidders must demonstrate their competence and ability to complete the work prior to being invited to submit a bid.
4. Document Distribution – Distributing the drawings, specifications and any supplementary information is an essential element of the process. When properly integrated into the system there is no possibility of missing or incomplete information being used in the formulation of a bid submission.
5. Addenda Notification and Distribution – All bidders must be quickly notified of any new addenda and be provided quick and easy access to the information to avoid delays or errors in the submission of bids.
6. Creation of the Bid Form – The system must provide the ability to securely create the bid form including all the varied elements that make up a construction bid at a minimum including; base bid, separate prices, alternate prices, unit prices, cash allowances, stipulated sums, tax clauses, bond requirements, time to completion, labour units and other required schedules.
7. Submission of Bid Security – The bid bond when specified is an integral and essential element of a complete bid submission and must be able to be included as part of the bid package.
8. Submission of the Bid – The ability for bidders to follow their normal practices when preparing the complete submission is essential. It must be a fully secure environment that offers the ability to; apply for and receive a bid bond, allow others in the bidding company to work on the submission if required, withdraw the bid prior to closing time if required and of course enter all required elements of the bid call.
9. Bid Tabulation – Once the bid closing time had been reached the recipient must be able to easily compare and evaluate the information using a tabulated set of bid responses.
10. An Audit Trail – A complete and accurate log of all the activities required to complete this process is essential to assist in avoiding and resolving issues of non-compliance or claims arising from missing or incomplete information.
These 10 elements when enabled within a secure and reliable IT infrastructure combine to form a complete bidding system that provides every participant in the process the tools and information they need to successfully complete the aspect of the bidding process that they are responsible for.
So … as you might have already guessed, I think it is time to reframe the references to online bidding. It is much more than just the ability to view a document online or send out invitations to bid. When viewed as a system it is a more efficient and effective way to deliver online bid submissions that are complete, compliant and easily evaluated.