In this blog we explore 3 risks that can occur in bidding, when version control is not agreed and managed at the outset…

One of many heart-pounding moments for a bid writer during a tender process, is when they have to ask ‘What version are you working on?’

Version control is critical in bid management. As well as ensuring that files don’t get corrupted (potentially destroying single or multiple bid documents), get deleted or lost during the writing process, or some other external factor (for example, a power cut whilst writing with a deadline approaching), understanding the importance and reasons for maintaining version control is important for any bid team. Good version control practices ensure that all the little details that need to be included, changed, revised or updated are done in a methodical and stress free manner so the bid can be the best it can be.

Version control processes should be applied however big or small your bid team; even if a single bid writer is working with one client contact on a bid, Tender Victory bid writers still work to the same process. The simplest approach is to ensure that the bid has a master document owner/manager, who directs the team and client in the process of developing the bid document. This usually means working on a single version of the document at any one time, with clear timeframes for amendments and transfer and an appropriate labelling system (this can be as simple as ‘v1’, ‘v2’ and ‘v3’).

Periodically saving each document as new versions are created ensures the file integrity is maintained. This means that, should a file become compromised (corrupted, lost or deleted), the bid does not have to be rewritten from scratch, it can be recreated from the most recent version. The bigger the file and the more changes that are made, the more this should be factored in.

Risk 1 – IT or software issues such as corrupted or lost files

In a previous position within a larger organisation, one of our writers had a multi-million pound bid in final draft stages. The main document had been designed and created in a software package that was used for bids and proposals. The file was large and there were multiple pages, complete with images, graphs and tables, fully designed. The deadline was close but one of the team needed to make some changes to the bid. In doing this, the file became corrupted and she couldn’t open it, a stressful situation when so much effort has been put into a bid and the deadline is looming. Our writer acted as ‘emergency IT support’ to the team, in that moment (as the actual IT support had gone home!) because she had been involved at the earlier stages and understood the bid structure and version control process. Having worked on earlier versions of the document, our writer suggested she make the last round of changes using the earlier version which had been previously saved (happily this was clearly indicated with the version number). The older version of the file had not been corrupted so minimal work was required to create a new version and adopt the most recent changes again. The bid went in on time and they won the contract!

Had it not been for the clear labelling of the previous versions, this recovery may not have taken place and the whole bid would have been at risk.

Risk 2 – conflicting versions

Another key issue that will send a shiver of fear down the spine of any bid manager is finding out that multiple client contacts are reviewing the same (or even different!) versions of the bid…simultaneously. Why is this such a challenge? Because this means that the bid manager will have to combine sets of revisions, from different documents. If those revisions conflict the bid manager will then be burdened with additional work – seeking out both parties and requesting clarification on which revision takes priority – and then having to ensure the draft is updated to reflect this. Where multiple reviews take place, the project timetable should allow for single revisions at a time, wherever possible. These can be layered, using tracking and comment tools, so the reviewers can see the suggestions of the other team members. But consolidating the reviews in a single document, facilitates the amendment and update process, with much greater accuracy and understanding for the bid manager / lead writer.

Risk 3 –updates to the “final” review

Finally, the most frustrating version control challenge of all; revisions and amendments being made, after you have been provided with the supposed “final review”. This happens where a team member continues to send you revisions to the bid after the agreed final review had already taken place. In this situation, the bid manager has diligently added final amends into bid creating the submission document, only for another version to arrive, with more updates (sometimes without identifying where the additional changes are). This requires the writer to compare the various versions to see what’s different. When you’re under pressure to create a final version, this is not a task that is relished!

Points to note

  • Good version control does require a clear process communicated from the document manager (often, but not always, the lead writer or bid manager) but, if in doubt about which version you should be working from, it’s always best to double check.
  • Agree an easy to use version control file naming system, such as v2, v3, or use dates or initials. Make sure the whole team understands the stages for reviews and amends and applies these file names to their work.
  • Your bid writer wants to create the best bid they can for you and lack of version control can derail the process. Get clear on what’s needed within the specific bid process your bid writer is following, follow the labelling system, save new versions regularly and if in doubt, double check your understanding. Your bid writer will thank you for it!

Follow these points to turn your version control nightmares into dreams!

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