Friday, 13 December 2019

Sweet Bird Of Truth

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Good to see the back of that recent election campaign, with so many questions of trust.

It made me think this week as I was writing a guide to scoring tender ITT questions. Its human nature to give people the benefit of the doubt I guess, but its always so for suppliers wanting higher scores to game the system.

Higher scores always means a greater chance of being chosen, snagging the deal, making the sale. Sometimes suppliers don’t help themselves. They don’t perhaps know their solutions as well as they should, or use imagination when answering. Not that I am advocating suppliers to be dishonest, just that they show solutions in the right light. Suppliers should know their solutions and its advantageous that they also know something of how their customers use them too.

Demonstrations too are places where questions need to be accurately answered. Its not like at a general election when pretty much anything can be promised. Your project which will most likely cost you hundred thousands of pounds, will rely on getting straight answers. Fail in this and you will no doubt encounter expensive change control later or disappointment.

So how do you ask a good question?

Well in a lot of cases, make it closed and needing a Yes or No answer. There’s many ways to divert a question, but if its not answered, ask it again and again. For me, I would rather a supplier fess up and say ‘sorry we don’t currently do that’, than try to bluff it out. There’s no shame in saying no and just moving on.

Where it needs to be a bit more open, ensure the answer relates to the original question asked. Where a supplier is on shaky ground they can use a few avenues, just like politicians spookily enough.

First of all is ‘Whataboutism’. If the answer is more of the ilk of ‘Don’t think about that’, ‘Think about this other (unrelated) thing’, you are suffering ‘Whataboutism’. In politician speak, a question about the last administrations 9 year record would be responded to with, “Yes but what about, what that lot did in 2008?”. When answered in this way, your attention is diverted and you don’t get a satisfactory answer. 

Second, beware of repetitive slogans. This election was dominated by ‘Oven ready’, ‘Get Brexit Done’, which people find easy to swallow and remember, but who can tell you what the detail is behind either of those? I have sat through demos where multiple times, suppliers have said “Everyone is buying our solution” or “It’s the most modern out there” or "but its Microsoft Dynamics CRM 365" etc. That still wont tell me if the solution will adequately handle homeless provision, IOT connections or secure two factor authentication, (or whatever you really need).

Third, beware getting answers to other questions other than the one(s) you asked. The political equivalent is when asked about “Why NHS performance is so poor?”, someone answers, “We will build 40 hospitals”. Now that doesn’t help answer the original question, but how many staff on your evaluation panel might think that was ok. If you ask for instance, “Do you have an interface with Mobysoft RentSense or replace it” and the answer is “We are writing our own predictive reports module for arrears”, you have suffered this little gem.

Fourthly, beware exaggeration.

Ask for examples or reference sites you can speak to who back up claims. They can be as illusive to obtain as the proverbial ’Rocking Horse Shit’ at times. Remember too, it’s not wrong or bad, to doubt. Was the supplier mistaken? Maybe they misheard your question. Its always in your gift to give them the benefit of the doubt....

So when assessing candidates, to supply your new solutions, think carefully about their answers. Your project may rely on it. I have helped over seventy organisations, pick their way through getting the right solutions from suppliers. If you need help from a sensitive and no nonsense Critical Friend, for your project, just get in touch.

Related Post: What are the key procurement questions to ask?  


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

The The – Sweet Bird Of TruthThe The – Sweet Bird Of Truth.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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