Project bidders conferences are part of the process of selecting vendors/sellers who provide goods or services to the project. That process begins during planning when the project manager and team formulate the request for proposal (RFP). At the same time, they create the vendor/seller selection and evaluation criteria they’ll use to rank the proposals. During procurement planning, the project manager should also secure or draft the contract he/she will use with the winning vendor/seller. These documents become part of the approved project management plan. The vendor/seller evaluation process is protected from political influence because any changes to those documents have to go through change control.
The request for proposal (RFP) that is sent to potential vendors/sellers contains information about a meeting, a bidders conference, held prior to the submission of the bid or proposal. All prospective bidders are invited to this public meeting. Here the project manager and other stakeholders from the organization describe what they want and how they will select a vendor/seller to provide it. Prospective bidders can ask questions and receive answers from the project manager and procurement officials. Meeting minutes are taken and distributed to all prospective vendors/sellers, including those who did not attend the bidders conference. The intent of the bidders conference is to ensure that all prospective vendors/sellers have the same information to use in preparing their proposals.
Project Bidders Conference – Procurement Process
In terms used by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the bidders conference is a tool and technique of the “Conduct Procurements” process. Project managers make the decision to have a bidders conference and develop the procurement documents during the “Plan Procurement Management” process. T
he purpose of the bidders conference is to solicit proposals where the vendors/sellers will develop much of the statement of work (SOW) detail and their approach. It is often advantageous to give potential vendors/sellers the opportunity to ask questions in a forum where all of them can hear the answers.
Project Bidders Conference – Format and Information
The bidders conference is described in the RFP but the exact date and time are often announced later. While there are no set standards for the bidder conference, many organizations have a consistent format they use. 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. They also use these conferences to encourage vendors/sellers to offer creative and novel approaches in the proposals they make.
Prospective vendors/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.
Project Bidders Conference – Rules
In order to ensure a professional environment at the bidders conference, a few rules are implemented before the conference begins. Depending on your organization and its legal and regulatory environment, the rules of your bidders conference may be well documented and exacting, or they may be casual and informal.
Most importantly, the selection process should be fair and meet ethical standards so that no one can accuse your organization of favoring a particular vendor/seller or divulging more information to one than the others. So it is critical to avoid any private conversations between the potential vendors/sellers and the project manager and/or project stakeholders. It is necessary to give every potential vendor/seller the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered at the conference. All questions and answers must happen in front of all of the potential vendors/sellers. The questions and answers are recorded and distribute to everyone who received the RFP, whether or not they came to the bidders conference. If a vendor/seller asks a question after the bidders conference, the question and its answer must be documented and as an update to all potential vendors/sellers.