WHO APPROVED THIS . . ?!

If you are wondering - why do I need a bid approval system - read on .. for a story from the trenches.

“Who approved this . . ?!” This email landed in my mail box one morning from my boss, who was then based in Australia. And even though it was not a voice call, the email’s tone was not lost on me. I scrambled to go back in time and search for the multi-year deal we had done 3 years ago. I could not find any email approval. My pricing manager’s laptop had since crashed, and my local manager had moved on. As you would guess I was left to fend for myself.

Isn’t this all too common. In the mad rush of RFP/Tender submissions and deal making many a times the details go missing. And almost always it permeates harmful downstream implications for the organisation as a whole.

Why does this happen? Do we have a way?

Any organisation who is submitting more than 50 bids a year, with an average bid value of $ 4+ mn (Rs 25+ Cr) has experienced this. As if the super-human, Excel-led effort to bring together the pricing from 10s of different suppliers was not grand enough, the approval process presents its own set of challenges. Often the approval process is a combination of “emails + calls”. The larger the deal value, more likely that the approval is on call. The approvers are generally presented with swaths of Excel sheets which they are expected to decipher at a short-notice and make the multi-million-dollar decision! Any new query/scenario request is met with total silence or instant fidgetiness. Well .. it is alone at the top!

The approval has to be followed thru by capturing all the points/justifications/deviations/minutes, not just the value. But what happens is mostly the reverse. And once the bid is decided, rarely are the details recorded.

Of course, you are lucky, if the same bid manager or the approver or the sales person stays on with you when an upgrade/renewal opportunity arises. But this is less than likely. Even if he is around, it is more likely that he has not maintained the data efficiently, his role has changed, or (God forbid) his laptop has crashed. Inevitably the follow-thru decisions are taken based on gut feel and the negotiation power, resulting in money being left on the table.

How would this work in a system-led environment? First and foremost, it should be simple and intuitive enough for the Bid Manager to quickly and efficiently capture the requirements, preferably with minimal efforts. The pre-sales person should be able to develop the BOM/BOQ and also integrate the 3rd party/OEM/Sub-con components easily. Only the technical approval leads to the pricing process. Once the pricing is brought together, the Approval processes will be guided by corporate baselines – product, territories, value, etc. Intelligent analysis should appear promptly to assist the approvers make the right pricing decisions.

Lastly, the approval should close only when the deal is closed – won or lost. Ensuring lost deal details are not just stored in someone’s diary or memory .. and can be leveraged for the next bid!

No more fending for self or anyone else!

Comments and observations welcome at hello@pricebid.co.