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What is a Variant Bid?

Aug 30, 2017

A Variant Bid is defined as one which is different from that specifically required by the contracting authority in the tender documentation. Some examples of Variant Bids include those offering new or innovative ways of delivering a service, or those proposing alternative pricing structures.

What are the Pros and Cons of Variant Bids?

There are pros and cons for both the contracting authority and those bidding for the contract. For a buyer, a Variant Bid could offer better value for money, encourage innovation and offer solutions to issues from those who already specialise in the field – the ones who carry out the work and are already specialists in the subject matter.

It may encourage smaller businesses or those who may not consider bidding as they do not fulfil the requirements, to respond. For businesses, the option of a Variant Bid may allow them to present themselves in a more favourable light to buyers, being better able to focus on their strengths without being limited to a tighter structure, and by attracting more attention to their bid as opposed to compliant bids.

Providing an innovative, alternative way of delivering the contract specifications that the buyer or competitors have not already considered can allow a business to stand out in a competitive market.

On the other hand, there are difficulties in evaluating Variant Bids for buyers, who may be wary of legal challenges over contract awards. Thus, contracting authorities may limit Variant Bids to only parts of the criteria which are easier to evaluate, such as how the pay mechanism is structured.

There may be extra work for them, to compose the tender documentation to clearly demonstrate which types of Variant Bids are permitted and define specifically how they will be evaluated. At the same time, more work may be required from those bidding, as the buyer may have extra clarification questions once bids have been submitted.

In addition, bidders may be permitted or even required, to submit a compliant bid as well as a Variant Bid, meaning more bids to be written and submitted, thus more bids to be evaluated.

Should I submit a Variant Bid?

Firstly, only submit a Variant Bid if permitted to do so. Examine the tender documentation carefully for the correct information. Examine carefully the criteria regarding a Variant Bid, and think carefully as to whether your business can actually deliver what the client requires.

Be prepared to answer additional clarification questions and argue your case convincingly. Remember, if you are submitting both compliant and Variant Bids, you may increase your chances of success – after all, if your Variant Bid proves unsuccessful for whatever reason, your compliant bid may still allow you the chance to win the contract, and vice versa – your Variant Bid may provide an alternative solution which offers better value for money and win you the contract.

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