Project management bidders conferences are part of the process of selecting vendors provide goods or services to the project. The request for proposal (RFP) that is sent out to potential sellers/ vendors contains information about a meeting to be held prior to the submission of the seller bid/proposal. All prospective bidders are invited to this public meeting where the project manager and other stakeholders from the organization will describe what they want and how they will select a vendor to provide it. Prospective sellers can ask questions and receive answers from the project manager and procurement officials. Meeting minutes are taken and distributed to all prospective sellers, including those who did not attend. The intent of the bidders conference meeting is to ensure that all prospective sellers have the same information to use in preparing their proposals.
In terms used by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the bidders’ conference is a tool and technique of the “Conduct Procurements” process. It helps us achieve the goal of receiving proposals from potential sellers. We make the decision to have a bidders conference along with the development of the procurement documents, during the “Plan Procurement Management” process. We conduct a bidder conference when we are soliciting proposals where the sellers will develop much of the statement of work (SOW) detail and approach. Often, it is advantageous to give the potential sellers the opportunity to ask questions in a forum where they can all hear the answers.
We describe the bidder conference in the RFP but often announce the exact date and time later. While there are no set standards for the bidder conference, many organizations have a format they use consistently. This format may include presenting information such as the overview of the organization, the project, bidder qualifications, minimum requirements, deliverables, time frame and the SOW for the project. We also use these conferences to encourage sellers to offer creative and novel approaches in the proposals they will make.
Prospective sellers often attend the bidder conference in order to fill in these details by asking questions regarding the product of the project. These questions often focus on issues such as the legal and financial requirements, the technical specifications of the product and the time frame for the project. They also attend bidder conferences to assess the competition and their odds of success.
In order to ensure a professional environment at the bidder conference, we implement a few rules before the conference begins. Depending on your organization and its legal and regulatory environment, the rules of your bidder conference may be well documented and exacting, or they may be casual and informal.
Most importantly, we want the selection process to be fair and meet ethical standards so that no one can accuse us of favoring a particular seller or divulging more information to one seller than the others. So we avoid any private conversations between the potential sellers and the project manager and/or project stakeholders. We make it a priority to give every potential vendor the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered at the conference. All questions and answers happen in front of all of the potential sellers. We record the questions and answers and distribute them to everyone who received the RFP, whether or not they came to the bidders conference. In the instance that a vendor asks a question after the bidders conference, we document the question and its answer and send it as an update distributed to all potential sellers.