One of the biggest challenges a business owner will face when bidding on a government contract is taking the time to learn all of the different platforms where bids need to be responded to. There are the official government sites where all tenders are publicly advertised and platforms for downloading documents and submitting bids. If you are thinking about bidding on a government contract, this is a useful list to help you understand all the different places you will need to spend time:
Official Government Sites
- Federal - Buy and Sell (https://canadabuys.canada.ca) – This is the Federal site for posting new tenders and awards, there is no cost to browse or register.
- Bid submissions can either be via email or SAP Ariba.
- Fun fact, it’s imagery and graphic design were inspired by the symbols found on Canadian money.
- MERX (https://www.merx.com) – This is the #1 amalgamator for public postings in North America. it is also the selected platform for Defense Construction Canada, Canada Post, the Government of Manitoba and many other major organizations. Their headquarters are in Ontario and their parent company is mdf Commerce. It is a good platform but sometimes misses Federal postings and can be a few days delayed catching items from BC Bid and won’t have the documents for any bid not exclusively hosted on their platform. It is free to create an account and between $360 to $960 a year to subscribe and access documents.
- Bonfire (https://gobonfire.com/) – A bidding solution that many public entities use (e.g. UBC, UVic, City of Victoria) – it is a place to download documents, ask questions and submit bids. Bids submitted through Bonfire are usually through multiple PDFs, an in-website table for pricing and/or excel questionnaires. It is free to register as a vendor and they offer a premium subscription to get notifications at $399 US a year.
- Bidsandtenders (https://www.bidsandtenders.com/) – A bidding solution that many public entities use – it is free to register to download documents, they do have a paid version but my experience is that most entities in BC do agency-sponsored bids and you do not need to pay to submit. It’s cost is $399 US a year or $119.76 per bid.
- Biddingo (https://www.biddingo.com / https://www.BiddingoWest.com ) – A bidding platform similar to MERX that is extremely popular in Ontario, I find that their filtering through categories is better than MERX but that it suffers some of the same issues with missing items and still needing to go back to the provincial site to find the scope of the tender. It sometimes will send you to the wrong location (e.g. directs you to MERX for more information when it is actually posted in Bonfire). It costs $250 a year.
- Bid Central (https://www.bidcentral.ca/) – BC’s largest construction bidding market place. It is free to create an account and $875 a year to access project information and tender awards.
- Oracle – Some entities (e.g. WorkSafeBC) have had custom bidding platforms created for them with Oracle, they are typically free to register.
- SAP – The Federal government is having many of its platforms migrate to being powered by SAP, including bid submissions. SAP is built with a series of question and answer and individual PDF’s being uploaded for each question. It’s servers are hosted outside of Canada so you may need to sign a consent form if you are applying to a tender through SAP.
The majority of these platforms were created with the procurement departments in mind and are meant to make the bidding evaluation process faster, easier and fulfill legal requirements for a bid to be posted publicly. The one item these all lack is helping connect small business owners with capable bid writers who will take on the 10-20 hours it requires to prepare a bid response. Many of these platforms are similar but have their own nuances that is important to learn if you will be responding to a government RFP. Just like each RFP must be read through thoroughly to make sure you meet all mandatory criteria, assuming a bid submitted through Bonfire will look the same as a bid submitted through SAP is a way to make critical errors that will result in your bid being non-compliant. Of course, if you hate browsing these sites and don’t have time to learn one or eight new platforms, please email me at Allison@jametec.com 😊.