I wrote the below post on 10th Sep 2011 for my now defunct personal blog post.
During the last week of June’10, was called by my location director that we have won an ERP Advisory project in the power sector. Since this is going to be my first project on ‘Advisory’ role, was very excited and tensed. Till then all my consulting experiences have been specific to product implementation and related services. My last advisory work was in ’98 and that too in process re-engineering. Now you can understand my excitement and tension.
Here I’m meeting a customer without knowing any details, except their name and location. Abruptly my director pointed at me and mentioned that Rajesh is going to be the Project Manager. As soon as she said this; I felt like 1000 butterflies in my tummy… forget the answers, was not even sure about clients business. Gave a smile and immediately kept my head down, for the fear of taking questions. There were arguments between my director and client team. Thought this is going to be a nasty engagement. And my director has already prepared a scapegoat.
Initial days were cat and mouse between me and the customer. Was trying to avoid as much as possible… but how long this can happen. The D-Day came. Customer called for a status meeting.
During these initial days of cat and mouse, studied the RFP proposal and made notes, the reply from all the vendors were also studied. I need to fight my way out. It’s not going to be easy. So my usual target of finding fault with the RFP was done. Submit it for clarification from the client. Having kept the client busy for a few days, was busy preparing the ‘Finding fault with bid response’ document. This was not an easy task.
I was lost, is an understatement. Didn’t know where to start? Went through the bid responses, needless to say – zero understanding. Once again went through the bid responses…few things made sense. Remember, it made sense, not that I have understood. Third time when the reading started, I also started documenting the key points. In such a state, started preparing bid evaluation criteria based on the ‘gut feeling’. Prepared evaluation criteria for ‘Pre-Qualification’, documented the findings and presented it to my location director. Director gave me the green signal to proceed in the same direction
Meanwhile, the company appointed a senior person to help in the evaluation, a seasoned campaigner and a complete professional”. Client meanwhile started sending emails and calls to seniors, and as usual, the heat was on us. We found four similar layout designs provided by the system integrators, we discussed this with the customer. Stating it has to be cleared by them before proceeding with the evaluation. This got us some more time. The award of contract points out that the financial bid would be opened for those fulfilling the pre-bid qualification and are found to be having the technical capabilities. Hence we were evaluating the bidders on the technical capabilities covering the floor designs/layouts, single line diagram, cooling systems, power load calculation etc.., During this technical evaluation of individual bids, we found many discrepancies in the original bid document and the corrigendum’s issued thereafter. These were bought to the attention of the customer.
By this time, the customer had confidence in us; he gave full credit for the work that was being carried out. We started a clarification session with bidders who had identical designs. The work done by them is similar to the kids copying in the exams. They were given two choices, (a) One of them has to accept that the bid has been copied and wants to withdraw from the bidding process, else (b) Get a confirmation from the OEM that the designs provided by them are original. This action was necessitated because they insisted that there are no qualification criteria mentioned in the bid, that the designs have to be original and hence they take full responsibility for its implementation. Meanwhile, the client issued an office note and got clearance from the top management for the identical designs. This was a wise move because the bidding department did not want to take the risk of being singled out, in case any problem is raised in the future.
After this clarification session, the focus was on SLD, power calculation and cooling systems. Informally informed the client that with the original bid responses none of the bidders would be eligible since all of them had done wrong power calculation [peak power load and ups efficiency]. Again we have two options to the customer, a) call off this tender since all of them have deviated on the technical qualification and thereby getting rejected, b) call for a technical presentation and ask them to make modification on the designs, calculation etc..,. We once again reiterated that the bid was not clear in giving the load requirement, and also few of the bidder’s single line designs were inappropriate and to give equal and fair opportunity to all, it was decided to call for a technical presentation on the bid response and give the bidders a chance to clarify their deficiencies. We decided to minute the presentation and take formal sign-off from all bidders and protect us from the bid discrepancies.
We started documenting our recommendations and shared the templates with the customer. During the presentation, we asked questions in such a form that protects us, and the answers were documented as part of MOM. We thought we had outsmarted the bidders, didn’t expect a foolish backlash from one of the bidders. That particular bidder didn’t read the complete list of pre-bid queries and clarification provided or read the queries and clarification raised by them alone. How gross the mistake? In one of the clarification to the queries raised by other bidders, the purchaser had given the choice to the bidder to select the “best suitable solution”. This resulted in giving fair and equal chance to all OEM. This resulted in other bidders quoting the best and lowest price with alternate systems. They realized it after completion of the bidding and evaluation process. They wrote an ‘objection letter’ to all the members of the tender committee and to the managing director. This led us furious. We wrote a reply which exposed their lack of reading replies and their non-conformance and deviation in the technical bid.
Following on the technical presentations, few of the design drawbacks/discrepancies pointed out by us, resulted in an increase to their submitted financial bid and the bidders were not sure of reacting to this. One bidder wanted an increase in the financial bid to be documented as part of MOM. Once again to be fair, we asked all the bidders to revise the financial bid, and at this point, the ‘objection letter’ was sent out to the committee and MD.
The most difficult part of this engagement was convincing all the authorities on the tendering process followed by us, and getting permission to open the financial bid. We had to give presentations to all the members individually, convince the auditors and provide office note to all the queries. Finally, after lots of notes and presentations, our report along with the other inputs was accepted and the financial bid is going to be opened.
This is my first consulting report on DC-DR technical evaluation. I was happy because most of the core contents of the report were accepted on ‘as-is’ basis. Cool. It goes to show that to succeed in consulting, all you need is sheer perseverance and the willingness to learn. Rest of the things will fall automatically.