In the world of public tenders, especially for ambiguous topics, such as design, this appears to be common practice. Often these tenders expect participants to do a lot of the creative work, for free, just to see if the buyer likes it. “The tenderer submits a concept of the creative solution, which includes five creative examples and visualisations”, “the task of the test is to create a new design for an existing voter application” while “the payment for a fee [for the work] is not justified.” These are real quotes in response to payment queries held in the Public Procurement Register during the past few weeks.
Firstly, it is unethical. You cannot ask someone to do a job for free in the hope that, if you like it, you’ll pay them. In any case, all the other participants will be left with incurred costs and nothing to show for it. A lot of effort is just wasted. In the current crisis situation, where governments have promised to support companies and professionals, who because of the lock-down may not even be able to exercise their profession, asking for free spec work is plain cynical.
Secondly, there are no winners in this game. How can you compare the quality between paid and free work? Often, public procurements tend to be very bureaucratic and full of demands, that are neither negotiable nor very clear. The result is that participants are required to invest even more time to read between the lines and find additional information, to understand the actual needs and goals of the procurement. If this is unpaid work, the motivation to really get it right is limited.
Thirdly, the “let’s see what we like” approach to judging just the visualised drafts combined with the least expensive bid, often finally leads to a poor solution. What looks “wow” often doesn’t work very well and is a recipe for bad results. Designers will invest as little effort as possible to win the tender, not to do the work right. The customer will end up with a mediocre solution that was bought by ticking all the right boxes, but doesn’t compare at all to having done things the right way. At the end, everyone loses. The buyer loses. The tenderer loses. And the tax payer loses. Which is all of us.
During the Global Hack a small team from Brand Manual worked on a solution for this and created Tenderly. Tenderly helps procurers (whether they be public or private sector) to really think through the whole tender. With the support of helpful questions, they describe the actual problem to be solved and the context, in which it exists, the needs and pains of the target group and tangible deliverables they expect.
Based on this, Tenderly helps them set up the right requirements, the design team competencies they need to have for the project, relevant references of the team and the previous experience to look for. Tenderly also guides them through setting up the evaluation criteria so that they can have confidence in the results, that the best proposal wins and that the team behind it really can do the job. No more evaluations on price alone.
For the tenderers, Tenderly provides them a detailed design brief that includes relevant background and contextual information, describes the actual problem to be solved, the needs, pains and what they are expected to deliver, in the end. It helps them “tick the boxes” so that they know, whether they even qualify without making them do unnecessary spec work.
By making tenders transparent with the help of clear evaluation criteria, basing them on team competencies and methodology, Tenderly helps both procurers and tenderers get the right job done right. With fair compensation.