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EXPORT WELLINGON BBC and Metra tendering for international contracts Event information What does it take for a Wellington Company to be accepted by a major overseas corporate in the face of stiff local competition? You are invited to hear from the customer’s perspective… why did the BBC take on a (relatively) small NZ provider for their weather graphics software? When: 5.30pm, Thursday 29 November Where: The presenter Andrew Lane, Manager of the BBC Weather Centre provide an overview of the tendering and evaluation processes from the BBC’s perspective, offering insights for Wellington companies looking at tendering for work with UK Corporates. Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce Level 28, The Majestic Centre 100 Willis Street EXPORT WELLINGON Key Messages Introduction / background Metra is a Wellington company that won a tender to provide the BBC with weather graphics. More on Metra: http://www.metra-info.com/ More on the BBC Weather Centre: http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/ The BBC may be a unique and rather different customer to others in the UK, but Andrew believes that other UK companies have the same requirements. [The pre-Metra graphics can be seen in the photo of Andrew, above]: “old symbols, placed somewhat randomly on a map, to show roughly what conditions somewhere in the vast area they covered might be for up to 12 hours at a time!” This was the Weather Centre’s first experience of the tendering process. The existing system had been developed in-house, and there was some debate about whether there was enough expertise internally to develop a new system Summary of Andrew Lane’s Presentation: Overview of the tendering and evaluation processes Project Scope: to develop the next generation of weather graphics devices – with 3D, visualisations and so on – to meet the BBC’s goal of re-asserting itself as the leader in all things Weather. Eventually, the internal signoff was secured and we issued the Invitation to Tender. The BBC website has quite a lot of detail about the tendering process: Supplier selection is based on overall value for money. Whilst price is important, we will always consider quality, reliability, safety, security, design, timely delivery, maintenance and after sales support (for example) before arriving at a decision which is the most economically advantageous to the BBC. the Invitation to Tender, although a bit formal does contain a few clear clues: o “The BBC is seeking to introduce a new 3D Weather Production and Presentation System fully customised for the BBC’s Weather Centre. It is looking for a single comprehensive solution to all its weather presentation requirements, including an overhaul of the data processing and graphic design used to generate BBC branded weather output across the range of existing and future outlets. The aim is to introduce a system which will produce high class graphics across all platforms. It must be easy to use, fast and flexible. It must be robust and reliable. It must be capable of future expansion to cope with new innovations and technological advances.” The tender process for the client goes something like this: o 1. place a carefully-worded ad, to ensure that you get responses from the good people you hope are out there, but don’t get troubled by people who don’t have the skills and experience you’re looking for. o 2. send out more detailed information to the people who request it, again hoping to sort the wheat from the chaff. o 3. you can read quite a lot into the way people respond, whether (for example) they contact you to ask more about your business, how they look and sound – and so on. In the end, you’re looking for a good ‘fit’. There was an exhaustive, and exhausting, process of scoring each potential supplier against a huge list of criteria to get down to a final shortlist of 3 (a UK, EXPORT WELLINGON USA and NZ company). Weightings were applied to the results: Functional Specification, Legal and Contractual, Management and Support, and Pricing. The scores were very close, with each company having wins in different areas. The final decision took awhile longer! There are many nuances around the selection within the client's bureaucracy: as a big organisation, history and internal politics needed to be negotiated. Metra had put in an early effort to get to know people in the Nations and Regions directorate, and this paid dividends. The BBC is subject to the Public Contracts Regulations, so the way we approach a procurement exercise will largely be determined by this legislation - for example the need to advertise our requirements in the European Journal. The competitive tendering process that we followed would be considered 'best practice' by a great many public and private sector organisations - not just in the UK but internationally too Elements that clinched the contract Customer focus: Metra displayed an understanding of the BBC’s needs, and a willingness to bend over backwards to find solutions Good relationships: developing & maintaining relationships with the decisionmakers and project team throughout the tendering process. Metra had a representative on the ground in the UK – there is no substitute for meeting face to face. The product: yes, it was important! Metra offered a very thorough, wellthought-out, technically competent, highly innovative and visually attractive solution for the BBC’s weather graphics Comments around the deal-clinchers: o “Metra are a company that understood what we were about and where we wanted to go; were keen to work with us to help us achieve our goals and aspirations” o “In the end, the company with a pretty good product which probably could become world-beating, and a team that were happy to develop it with us and probably would be OK to work with are the ones that clinched the contract” o “Did we make the right decision? Yes, I believe we did. As in any business relationship, there are ups and downs, but we got value for money, and a damn good product.” What about “the tyranny of distance”? One of the BBC’s senior procurement managers, who was involved in the Storm tender, said this: o The Public Service Contracts regulations prohibit us from discriminating against an organisation on the grounds of geographical location, particularly within the 25 member states of the EU. However, whether we were looking at suppliers in France, USA or New Zealand we would be looking for the supplier to demonstrate to our satisfaction that they are able to meet our needs. Ultimately the deciding factor as to who the BBC will appoint as a successful supplier is their ability to provide the best value for money - indeed this is one of the over-arching BBC values. I’m inclined to think that this is also a major factor for a majority of EXPORT WELLINGON buying organisations across the UK - after all, everyone is responsible to someone whether they be tax payers, licence fee holders, or shareholders. It’s worth pointing out that the BBC does business with a great many organisations across the globe. Depending on the specific requirement, geographical location is no longer the obstacle it once was. The Internet has created a shrinking world and offered huge opportunities for organisations to transact with the BBC online. As an example BBC Procurement now uses etendering for the publication of all its tenders - so the days of couriering an envelope halfway round the world are long gone. [Andrew referred to workshops held during New Thinking Week 2007; for more check out the website: http://www.newthinkingweek.co.nz/] o [the New Thinking Week] presentation points out that the internet and modern telecommunications have levelled the playing field. This is seen as good for New Zealand, in that you can access your customer just as easily as your competitors…and bad for New Zealand in that your customer has many more options than they have ever had. I think, from our point of view, the geographical distance was never seen as an obstacle – especially as Metra had anticipated our concerns – and has never proved to be one. If anything, there can be an advantage to the supplier working on a problem while the customer is asleep, and having an answer waiting for him on his return to work the next day. After the tender… You may have caught the press reaction around the time of the launch? The British people think they own the weather, and know they own the BBC, so any attempts to make changes to either (let alone both!) will raise a reaction, and certainly did. As with any partnership, the hard work began once the job was awarded! We’re halfway through the contract and Metra and BBC Weather are still in partnership, and talking about the future. Key take-aways for NZ companies tendering for international contracts: success for NZ companies breaking into Europe has been attributed to embracing partnerships, follow-up and commitment, and understanding the business culture world-class products can find world-class customers know your customer, solve their problems know about their internal decision-making processes build relationships & work towards long-term partnerships Thank You: The session concluded with a large number of Q&As. Thank you to all attendees for your questions & contributions. Specially big thanks Andrew Lane for his presentation, his generosity with information & advice. Thanks also are due to John Lumsden, President of the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce (and former CEO of Metra) for facilitating this event. This seminar was part of the Export Wellington programme for Export Year 2007.
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