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Using Criteria Thresholds? Ensure they help not hinder

For any procuring Authority there is now a real drive to spend significant time on the planning and preparation stages at the outset of a complex procurement. Proper planning will help to ensure that the procurement runs smoothly, and that competitive bids are not only received, but most critically, they are compliant and deliver the right outcome for the Authority.

Criteria Thresholds are a method used by the Authority in order to ensure that the bids received are not only competitive and compliant, but also that the winning bidder delivers the best possible outcome,  By building compliance-based rules into the procurement, the Authority is effectively outlining their expectations of the minimum standards a bidder must meet in order to be eligible to win.

Whilst this has become routine, there are some best practice principles that should be remembered, to help avoid the common pitfalls:

  • Rigorously test the need for thresholds up front to check whether you really need each one. Otherwise you risk setting the bar too high, resulting in non-compliant bids for the wrong reasons.
  • Be realistic – testing thresholds with industry will help achieve the right outcome, but only if they are tested in a fair and demonstrably unbiased manner. Without any testing there is a real risk of creating a threshold that eliminates every potential bidder, resulting in the procurement having to be restarted or even worse, cancelled!
  • Set thresholds both at the top level and on the most important individual questions. For instance, set a minimum compliance of 60% for the overall technical score AND define compliance on some more granular criteria questions. Only setting them at the top level could mean you end up with compliant bids that have some significant issues hidden away. 
  • Take care in applying Criteria Thresholds to questions that are subjective in nature. The use of a compliance rule on a question that is open to different interpretation by different evaluators is asking for trouble, so proceed with caution.
  • Be prepared to clarify with bidders any information received in the bid that indicates it may be below the minimum threshold for a criteria. It is unlikely that bidders will knowingly and deliberately submit below-threshold bids. The assumptions and information being used to determine the non-compliance should be clarified early in the process in order to avoid difficulties later on during the debrief and standstill period.

Here at Commerce Decisions, we believe that if used well, Criteria Thresholds can be invaluable in ensuring the procurement meets its minimum objectives. As such, a key part of the planning and preparation stage should be ensuring Thresholds are used correctly, to minimise risk.

Our expertise in designing competition and criteria schemes, in conjunction with Criteria Thresholds as an optional feature in AWARD®, means that we can help create the ideal foundation for your procurement.

For more information on how we can support you with successfully implementing Thresholds and upfront planning, get in touch with the team