Assessing Tenders to Build an NHS Website

12/01/2016 by Phil Shackleton

In the last post, we examined how to commission an NHS website by compiling a brief which is thorough, clear and which lays out the problems that you want the new website to solve. The next step – trying to work out which agency is the right one – is the most crucial part of the website procurement process.

Firstly, you’ll need to assemble a team of people to assess the tenders. The aims of this group should be to ensure that whichever tender is selected is the one that best meets the needs of the NHS while achieving value for money.

Choose your criteria for selection

Before you open the bids, you should establish what the evaluation criteria will be. These criteria will need to be weighted in order of which elements are most important to your team. You could decide that past expertise is the most important factor, technical skills, methodology or price.

Run through the evaluation to identify any issues before you start. Once the evaluations begin, the criteria must be adhered to; otherwise the process will become longer and overly complex. Keep track of why you award points to each tender so that you can refer back to them if it comes down to a shortlist.

If it is the lowest priced bid that you choose, there’s no need to go through the rigmarole of assessing tenders, however, remember that it may be a decision which you could come to regret later on as often with web design, you get what you pay for.

You will most likely want to choose the most economically advantageous tender – one that balances quality and costs. A good tender submission that meets and exceeds all of your requirements needs to be weighed against the build and running costs. The most economically advantageous tender will be the one that reflects all of your website requirements. The bids should be assessed not just on price, but also on the technical experience of the agency building your website.

The selection process

Comparing like with like isn’t always possible when assessing tenders. If you draw up a clear brief before you send out the invitation to tender, then your team can more easily compare solutions to be certain that the tenders are being treated equally.

The technical aspect of the proposal should be assessed by the technical members of your team. This way, any acronyms or specialised language used in the bid can be understood and ensures that all of the requirements laid out in the brief by the IT department are dealt with in a way that seems practical. It is also useful to understand the difference between Best Practice and legal requirements, so that you can assess the agency’s approach to each.

Once the technical side has been clarified, the financial aspect can be accounted for. Are all costs covered in the price suggested? Make sure that all of the aspects of the website costing have been accounted for. This can include costings for alternative methods suggested by the agency. Any additional costs should be clarified and explained in the bid. Payment terms should also be laid out in the tender.

Find out if any costs include regular maintenance and support for the site. A warranty should be included in case of defects that are not discovered during the initial testing period which need rectifying.

Looking at an agency’s previous experience can be a keen identifier as to which of the bids you should select. Experience of delivering large complex websites on time and on budget is essential. You and your team need to be sure that the agency can complete the task they have laid out for themselves.

Every agency’s bid should add value to your brief, perhaps by coming up with an innovative solution or through challenging your assumptions about what your new website should look like or do, based on their own experience.

Based on your brief, you should get a clear picture of how the agency intends to meet your expectations with a web design solution that encompasses all of your requirements. If you or your team have any questions, you can speak to the agency to ask them to clarify them.

Personality fit is also important, and whether the agency understand the NHS’s values and wider communications aims. It can take months to deliver a website in a large, complex organisation and as such you need to know that you’ll feel comfortable working with the chosen supplier in the months and years to come.

This is not a complete list of what you need to consider, but does give you some idea of what you’ll need to have in mind when assessing the tender bid. The best tender will be the one that reflects all of your website and organisational requirements. The bids should be assessed not just on price, but also on the method proposed and the technical experience of the agency building your website. The process can take some months, so it’s important to feel you can work with the agency to complete a successful project.

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