23.8.2018

Five tips for tendering a printing environment

You should put an effort into tendering when procuring or updating a printing environment is topical. When you start the competitive tendering process in good time and execute it professionally, it will create additional value and pay for itself many times.

In the ICT sector, good tips for procuring information systems and online services have been given out for years. However, there is little to no help available when it comes to procuring printing solutions, MFPs and connected services. At Toshiba, we decided to fill this void. We recommend taking these pointers into account in your tendering process

1. Map the current situation and needs, start early

Tendering MFPs and printing environments does not start by listing the requirements in the request for tenders, as one might think. Neither does it start by looking for potential service providers from Google or by filling in a procurement notification in HILMA.

According to Päivi Kähönen, Senior Project Manager at Pasaati, a common challenge faced by tendering is identifying actual needs, as ’customers often have no clue about them’. ’The first thing, before creating specifications, is to map the current situation,’ specifies Kähönen.1)

Printers and MFPs develop in leaps and bounds in the course of only a few years. During the contract period, you probably will not make the effort to get to know the latest updates, but we recommend diving into the matter some months before the end of the current contract because of the fast development pace. You should also spend a sufficient amount of time creating the request for tenders and in the required background work. For some, a few months is enough, for others, not even a year suffices.

Start by investigating your current situation. What works, what doesn’t work, what do people think is great, what are the challenges and what kinds of new devices or features are needed? Try to take into account the future needs of your changing business

2. Do the background work and create the specifications carefully

The second tip is a close relative of the first one. Creating the specifications is a subtle art of estimating and combining the current situation and the future:
• Be aware of what you are tendering. If you don’t know your environment, ask for help in the mapping!
• Include real information of the current device fleet and current printing volumes in the request for tenders.
• Tender what you need, not what you have used so far.
• Ensure meeting your needs but keep in mind that every additional feature will increase the price.

3. Be reasonable when drawing up the request for proposal – don’t add too many specs

Creating a request for proposal is a form of art. The more carefully you have specified your needs and wishes on the printing and MFP environment and services, the more high-quality responses you can expect from the service providers.

When a request for tenders has been drawn up with sufficient specifications, the price alone can be used as the selection criterion without compromising the content of the tendering. Defining the weight of the section can give space for comparing quality and an opportunity for scoring the descriptions.

A checklist for defining the specifications for a request for proposals:
• Define the specifications unambiguously.
• Each specification should include only one requirement.
• It should be possible to test and verify each requirement.
• Define the weights and selection criteria clearly.
• Don’t create specification requirements based on the characteristics of one supplier in order to have a successful, true tendering process.
• Prepare a price appendix where all prices are reported in the same way. Otherwise comparing prices may be difficult and biased.
• Prepare a list of the appendices you require in the tender.
• Ask for sensible references that are approximately the same size. The current clients of your service provider can tell how the provider has succeeded.

And what’s most important, always require a secure printing system that is open to all device manufacturers! Never select a closed system of only one manufacturer as otherwise you will be in trouble at the end of the contract period.

4. Be open and impartial, remember interaction

If the request for tenders doesn’t allow genuine competition, you will not receive good tenders. That is why it is essential to keep the following in mind:
• organise an undiscriminating and impartial tendering,
• keep in mind that the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts regulates public tenderings,
• do not favour the current supplier,
• do not underestimate any supplier, and
• do not exclude suppliers using the specifications (you will receive poorer tenders).

The significance of openness and interaction cannot be emphasised too much. This is important as the most critical discussions are held even before the final request for tenders is sent forward.

These discussions are held in many ways and among many actors. Already in the first phase, when mapping the current situation, it’s good to carefully select people from your own team. The users of the devices and services are the best experts in the current situation and regarding change needs. We recommend committing them to the project for the duration of the entire process.

It’s good to engage in market and technical dialogues with the suppliers. It’s worth sending the request for tenders draft to the suppliers for comments to ensure that there aren’t too many specifications.

Above all, be prepared to give more details of the specifications and provide clear answers. Also keep in mind that you have the power to boldly assess what you want, such as the references provided by the suppliers.

5. Enjoy a successful outcome

You will reach a successful outcome when you don’t try to take the easy way out. In-depth background work and a genuinely-fair tendering create cost savings and many kinds of additional value.

A printing environment with printers and MFPs is part of every company’s basic infrastructure. It has to be reliable. But would it be possible to also financially benefit from selecting the right kinds of devices and services for your company? For instance, could they help target your marketing, promote achieving your environmental goals or raise the value of your company in the eyes of your employees by presenting opportunities for remote work?

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to hear more!

Harri Salokangas
Toshiba Tec Nordic Ab

1) Päivi Kähönen: “Vinkkejä onnistuneeseen vaatimusmäärittelyyn”. Pasaati.com 21 December 2017.

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