If your organization has never managed a construction project RFP or tender through an electronic procurement system, now is the time to consider this process.

Electronic procurement (also called e-procurement or e-bidding) offers capital project owners multiple benefits, including the ability to receive and evaluate submissions faster and more cost-effectively. Many commercial and government organizations in the Middle East have established portals and are using them as a proven, secure alternative to work more sustainably.

Equally important, as current COVID-19 mitigation measures require most of us to work remotely, electronic procurement enables owners to keep RFPs and construction tenders moving forward while maintaining physical distancing practices.

How e-procurement works

Similar to traditional procurement methods, owners using an e-procurement system must clearly identify deadlines and all required procedures. Once prospective bidders register, they are able to download the bid documents and submit their final proposal documents or forms securely (sometimes using a unique access key for additional authentication).

A two ‘envelope’ system is also quite common with e-procurement, enabling owners to receive technical submissions electronically along with separate, password-protected pricing submissions. Once all evaluations are complete, pricing for submissions are opened for all those that have achieved the minimum technical scoring, while the rest remain unopened and are returned electronically.

The benefits of moving online

The benefits of electronic procurement are numerous, and more compelling than ever in our current COVID-19 pandemic state.

Most obviously, electronic bidding eliminates the need for service providers to deliver hardcopy submissions to project owners, and for owners to distribute those physical submissions to all required evaluators. It allows everyone involved in an RFP or tendering process to continue working effectively – and safely – from their home to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In this respect, electronic procurement supports owners’ continuing efforts to protect the health and safety of their employees and business partners while continuing to advance critical capital projects, many of which are essential to communities across the region.

Receiving RFP and tender submissions is also a more efficient use of owners’ time and resources. Project managers can track and manage submissions more easily and provide access to evaluators working in any location via a secure link. The process benefits bidders as well, saving them the time and cost of printing (often multiple copies) and delivering their proposals to project owners.

E-procurement can also encourage more service providers to participate in a bid process by removing perceived barriers. The less time a service provider has to allocate to printing and delivering their hardcopy bid response, for example, the more time they have to work on developing a winning submission on a tight deadline. The result can be a more competitive bid process for owners, with a broader range of potential partners to consider.

Finally, e-procurement is ultimately more sustainable for project owners. A growing number are adapting to the online process each year, as the benefits become increasingly apparent and the process itself more familiar. With electronic procurement, owners can free up resources from tedious file management, extend the reach of their RFP or tender, and avoid process delays caused by extreme weather events or the unprecedented circumstances we are currently experiencing with COVID-19.

Next steps

To position your organization for future procurement success, start researching your online options now. Speak to your peers and service providers about their experiences with e-bidding and work with your project management team to identify the best process to get you there.