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Running your first electronic bid solicitation with Bonfire

June 18, 2020 | Negin Safdari

Procurement professional using Bonfire to run their first bid solicitation

We get it. Your first electronic bid solicitation (e-solicitation) is nerve-racking. Will vendors be able to submit? Will your evaluation run smoothly? Will you miss your paper process?

Yes. Yes. And absolutely not, to be frank.

But nerves are normal—implementing new tools and processes can be challenging without a plan. At Bonfire, we’ve helped hundreds of public agencies navigate the transition from paper-based procurement to Bonfire (and we learned some tips ‘n tricks along the way!).

While some organizations jump right into the deep end and immerse themselves in eProcurement, others dip their toe in, hesitant to take the plunge. Maybe you’re ready to get up and running right away, but your vendors and evaluators aren’t. We’re here to help.

The Bonfire Client Experience team customizes implementation for each client. From our experience conducting hundreds of custom implementations, we developed the following strategies to help organizations move procurement online, no matter where they are in their technology-adoption journey.

Notify vendors of your transition before your first e-solicitation

Before your first electronic bid solicitation, we recommend sending vendors an email explaining your transition to an online system. This email should include the link to register for your online portal and explain that registration is free and easy, clearing them from challenges associated with paper submissions, such as printing and shipping costs. Not to mention, most suppliers have experience with online submissions, maybe at another agency or in another state. 

Transparent and proactive communication will ease vendors into eProcurement with fewer hiccups.

If you’re getting started with Bonfire, ask your Implementation Specialist to learn more. 

Keep vendor registration simple

Vendor registration fields are a great way to capture critical information before your vendor submits a proposal or bid. Sometimes, however, complicated or lengthy registration setups can deter vendors from joining your database. 

By making it easy for vendors to register on your portal, you can receive all critical information about your suppliers (i.e. DBE status) without making the registration process tedious.

Mimic your paper-bid process for the first few e-solicitations

Bonfire lets you create a “checklist” for vendor submissions, ensuring you receive required documentation (the less vendor rectification, the better!). These checklists, called Requested Information, are where vendors submit their files.

While your vendors get familiar with Bonfire, mimic your Requested Information to how you accepted documents in a paper process. For example, if you requested vendors to split their submission into a “Technical” envelope and a “Pricing” envelope, create two requested information slots: One for the technical files, one for pricing. 

By keeping your requested information similar to your paper process, vendors can adjust to their new submission process while following familiar concepts.

Take advantage of Bonfire’s resources

Concerned about your evaluation committee learning how to use Bonfire? Have no fear, instead, your evaluators will cheer.

For example, in May 2020, only about 1 percent of our support tickets came from evaluators. That’s because Bonfire’s evaluation tool is intuitive and easy to use! When you invite your reviewers to a project, they’ll receive an invitation with a 3-minute training video that summarizes the entire evaluation process. 

But there’s more.

Every week we host drop-in training sessions (you can check out the schedule and register here). If your evaluators want a refresher, they can sign up for this live training, available for free.

But there’s still more.

Our clients love our Bonfire User Guides, available on-demand and accessed directly from Bonfire. For example, this guide walks your evaluation committee through creating their account, accessing vendor documents, and completing their evaluation, whereas this guide reviews how to score a questionnaire. With screenshots, text-walkthroughs, and videos, we’ve got it all. 

Prepare for ravin’ reviews

After your vendors and evaluators get the hang of this new “electronic submission” thing, you’ll be pleased (and not surprised) with how much they love Bonfire. Here are examples of the great feedback we receive daily from vendors, thrilled about online submissions through Bonfire:

“Honestly I was terrified to be forced to do the online bid, but after going through it I totally changed my perception of the whole process. Positive experience for me.”

“Bonfire is probably the easiest and most straightforward of all the online sites we submit to. Keep up the good work.”

“This is one of the easiest digital submission processes I have ever used.”

“This process was the best experience yet!”

“This is how the proposal process should be. Thank you, keep up the good work!”

“Actually, the entire process was excellent. Reduces costs for submissions. Helps to manage timelines vs. trying to manage around riskier logistics for paper submissions. Technology is smooth. Communication, including notification of successful submission, is strong. I am very pleased with the tools.”

“The Bonfire portal is by far the best procurement site I have ever worked with. It is intuitive to use. I wish all utilities issuing RFPs used Bonfire. It is a million times better than the other sites.”

Rest easy knowing the team is here to support you, your vendors, and your evaluators. Whether it’s through vendor invitations, our Bonfire User Guides or our Training Program, our resources, tips ‘n tricks will ensure a smooth transition to electronic submissions.

About the author

Bonfire Blog Author Negin Safdari

Negin Safdari

As an Implementation Specialist at Bonfire, Negin enables government agencies, municipalities, healthcare, and higher education organizations to transform their purchasing practices through eProcurement. She trains new clients on how to use Bonfire to ensure compliance through competitive bids and RFPs.