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Competitive Flexible Procedure for UK Bidders

Written by Thornton & Lowe


May 31, 2024

Could the Competitive Flexible Procedure be the biggest change for bidders?

The Procurement Act 2023 will change the procurement process as we know it. Specifically, through the introduction of the competitive flexible procedure and the opportunity for negotiation. This innovation presents both opportunities and challenges for UK bidders and suppliers aiming to win public sector contracts.

In this article, we look specifically at the commercial and operational implications for UK businesses, as a result of the competitive flexible procedure and its likely impact.

Understanding the Competitive Flexible Procedure

The Competitive Flexible Procedure, means public sector tenders could start to have more variety!

You are likely to be asked for further clarity on your bid submission, even once it is submitted!

Contracting authorities may choose to run a competitive flexible procedure for more complicated procurement activities or where the requirement is quite technical, beyond their knowledge.

Have you ever bid on a tender frustrated by the specification being outdated or just not relevant? This flexible procedure provides public sector buyers the opportunity to put forward an initial tender, then update and refine it based on proposals. This then gives bidders a chance to update their solution and price based on the changes.

This approach is inspired by the Competitive Procedure with Negotiation (CPN) route, an existing and proven strategy in procurement. It lets authorities sit down with bidders, hash out the details, and make sure everyone's on the same page. This way, they can fine-tune proposals and make sure they get the best deal possible.

And it's not just about flexibility, it's about efficiency, transparency, and getting the best value for money. By tailoring the process to fit each contract, authorities can drive innovation, fairness, and quality outcomes.

So, instead of being stuck in one way of doing things, the competitive flexible procedure gives authorities the freedom to adapt and deliver better results for everyone involved.

Adapting to the new rules

If you have public sector customers or sell into the public sector, it is important you start planning for changes to ensure your are ready with an effective bid strategy.

We strongly believe building strong relationships with buyers, demonstrating a real understanding of their requirements, and engaging with key decision-makers is still the key.

Drafting proposals progressively, based on dialogue and negotiation is very different for most bid teams.

Pre-market engagement, another key change in procurement and government tenders, is also essential to fully understand the contracting authority's needs and tailor bids effectively. Proactive participation in these engagements allows bidders to gain valuable information and demonstrate their capabilities, making effective use of procurement documents. This will take more time and investment.

Developing a tender management or bid writing process specifically for competitive flexible procedure procurement opportunities will help your business manage these opportunities more effectively. Bidders must ensure their teams are well-versed in the new rules and tailor their internal processes to meet each procurement's specific demands. Investing in bid management training to ensure your team are ready to respond.

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Competitive Flexible Procedure steps and impact on bidders

Procurement Steps

Contracting Authority

Bidders Perspective


1. Pre-Market Engagement

Develop procurement strategy, prepare tender notice, and associated tender documents.
Understand the client's needs and requirements by thoroughly reviewing the preliminary engagement materials. This is your chance to influence the tender.
Varies, typically several weeks to months

2. Invite Tenders

Publish the tender notice and associated documents.
Ensure you have all the necessary documents and read the tender notice carefully to understand the submission requirements.
At least 30 days for standard procedures

3. Receive Tenders

Collect tenders from interested suppliers.
Have your tender ready in a good time to avoid any last-minute issues. Double-check all submission requirements.
Typically 30-60 days from notice publication

4. Check Exclusions and Assess Suppliers

Verify that suppliers meet the conditions of participation.
Clearly demonstrate your compliance with all mandatory criteria. Provide all required documentation.
Within 10-15 days after tender submission deadline

5. Evaluate Tenders and Invite BAFO

Evaluate tenders against the award criteria and determine those to be invited to submit best and final offers (BAFO).
Highlight your unique value propositions and ensure your bid aligns closely with the evaluation criteria.
Evaluation within 30 days, BAFO invitation within 5-10 days post-evaluation

6. Inform Non-Selected Suppliers

Inform suppliers who will not be invited to submit a BAFO.
Seek feedback to understand why your tender was not selected and improve future bids.
Immediately after BAFO invitations

7. Invite Remaining Suppliers to Submit BAFO

Request best and final offers from selected suppliers.
Use the feedback and insights gained during the process to refine and strengthen your BAFO submission.
Typically 10-15 days for BAFO submission

8. Evaluate Final Tenders

Evaluate final tenders against the award criteria and determine the most advantageous tender.
Ensure your final tender is comprehensive, addressing all evaluation points thoroughly.
Within 10-20 days after BAFO submission

9. Inform Suppliers of Outcome

Notify suppliers of the outcome and issue assessment summaries.
Review the assessment summary carefully and use it to improve future bids.
Within 5-10 days post-evaluation

10. Publish Contract Award Notice

This triggers the mandatory or voluntary standstill where appropriate, with a minimum of 8 working days.
Be prepared for potential standstill period queries and ensure your team is ready for contract commencement.
Contract Award Notice published immediately, Standstill period typically 10 days

11. Standstill Period

Following the completion of the standstill, enter into the contract with the winning supplier.
Use the standstill period to finalise preparations for the project start.
Minimum 10 days standstill period

12. Publish Contract Details Notice

Publish the contract details notice and a copy of the contract if required.
Ensure all contract details are correct and maintain a copy for your records.
Within 30 days of contract award
What is bid planning

Prepare for negotiation - bidders, are you ready?

Drafting proposals based on the competitive flexible procedure with ongoing dialogue and negotiation can be a new and complex task for many bid teams. As a bid writer or bid manager, your role will likely be in ensuring that key information is collated effectively and shared efficiently across the team.

During the pre-market engagement phase, start by collaborating with the procurement and sales teams to understand the client's needs and gather all relevant market intelligence. Hold kickoff meetings to align on objectives and strategy, and make sure all team members have access to key documents and research.

When it comes to drafting the proposal or tender response, it's largely business as usual, leading the writing process by integrating input from subject matter experts, legal, and financial teams. Set clear deadlines for each section of the proposal and use a collaborative approach to facilitate efficient information sharing and document updates.

In the clarification stage, coordinate responses to any questions from the client, ensuring all answers are accurate and align with the win strategy. Disseminate clarification questions quickly to relevant team members and schedule regular check-ins to ensure timely and consistent responses.

For the Best and Final Offer (BAFO), revise the proposal based on feedback and additional information gathered during the dialogue. Highlight any enhancements or adjustments made to improve the offer. Work closely with the tender pricing team to ensure the final offer is competitive and ensure all team members review the final document before submission.

With changes to the solution and pricing, a bid review and sense check is very important.

Effective monitoring of proposal and pricing changes

With the competitive flexible procedure, version control and change logs can provide reassurance and control, detailing which document was changed, why, by whom, when and if it impacts an associated documents. An audit trail is provided as standard in many tools, such as Microsoft 365 and can be an automatic way to monitor changes.

Cross-functional checks by different departments can provide further value, ensuring compliance across all areas of the business.

Competitive flexible procedure - post submission and feedback

After submission, organise a debrief meeting to discuss the outcome of the tender. Collect feedback from the client and internal teams to identify strengths and areas for improvement. Document lessons learned and share them with the entire team, using insights to refine processes and strategies for future bids.

By following this process, a bid writer can ensure effective collation and sharing of key information, facilitate efficient collaboration among team members, and continuously improve the quality of proposals based on feedback and lessons learned. This approach not only improves and future tender response scores, the bid writing process but also strengthens the team’s ability to secure successful outcomes.

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If you still have questions, contact us on or 01204 238046 today

Our bid writing consultants will discuss how your business can adapt to the changes.

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