There has been a noticeable increase in commissioners requesting details of how bidders would respond to certain scenarios.  Although it is certainly not the case that these are more common than more standard questions, the increase in scenario-based questions points to the tender process maturing into a new phase.

For example, a previously awarded contract may be coming to an end and commissioners must retender.  In mature markets such as IT or language services it is likely that the same organisations will be bidding so what can a commissioner learn if they ask the same or similar questions?  Possibly not a lot.  They can cover off what changes to service delivery an organisation has implemented in the previous 3, 4 or 5 years etc. in one question around innovation while all other questions will be along a similar theme.  Indeed, I have worked on tenders with identical questions from previous tenders which are not necessarily useful if the same responses are repackaged and submitted.

As a result, scenario-based questions are a way for commissioners to develop a fresh perspective on an organisation whilst also addressing real world problems which may have been experienced.  A scenario-based question may ask about an organisations response to a very specific scenario which is not easily duplicated and this will force bidders to consider their response in greater depth. This is a useful way to assess how an organisation works and the processes and/or infrastructure in place to handle difficult situations.

Scenario-based questions will also provide assurance to commissioners.  It might be the case that their existing service provider experienced this scenario and dealt with it either well or poorly.

In response to these questions it is important to relate your response to similar issues you may have faced and resolved to demonstrate you both understand the issue and also responded flexibly and in a manner satisfactory to all stakeholders (e.g. commissioners, staff and residents/patients/carers).  Remember to detail how you will record the issue and how you will learn from an incident, whether you are at fault or not.  If the scenario suggests that you as a service provider might be at fault, highlight how you have already identified the issue as a potential risk and detail existing mitigation strategies to prevent the incident occurring.

It is worth noting that responses to scenario-based questions should be developed within the principles of more standard questions: detail your experience and use evidence, ensure you respond to the question and detail how your organisation will use the scenario as an opportunity to learn and improve. Crucially, be credible.  Commissioners are looking for absolute assurance that you can deliver the service therefore using examples from your experience is the best way of providing that assurance.

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Kiran Johnson – Director 
Damian Johnson – Director


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