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Handling Construction Bid Management Mistakes & Errors

Navigating the labyrinth of a construction project without faltering on the pitfalls of construction bid management is a high-stakes endeavor. From the initial solicitations through to the meticulous analysis, the bidding process demands not just time, but also the strategic allocation of resources. Each step requires complex documentation that can quickly sweep away efficiency and productivity.

With more than 25 years of experience, Trimble aims to help capital program managers with proven strategies and solutions to deliver successful projects. We’ve identified seven tips to help you ensure your bidding process is efficient, collaborative, and cost-effective. These proven practices help you reduce construction bid management risks, enabling you to get more value from your project resources and deliver better outcomes.

Common Bid Management Mistakes to Avoid When Using Traditional Methods

Traditional, paper-based bid management processes—and even those incorporating basic digital tools such as email and flash drives—are often unduly cumbersome and costly, as they rely on manual workflows that are difficult to scale and track. In addition, traditional processes carry a much higher risk of human error, which can lead to schedule delays, process failures, and—in some cases—litigation and other negative impacts on the project’s budget, timeline, and outcomes.

The seven practices outlined below solve many of the problems associated with traditional bid management by using project management techniques that are supported and enhanced by digital technologies. Even if your organization is not in a position to apply all seven practices, even implementing just a few of the tips below can help reduce bidding mistakes and errors.

7 Tips to Fix Construction Project Bid Processes and Outcomes

1. Streamline Workflows by Consolidating Bid Management Tasks 

If you use mostly paper-based processes or even online tools such as web pages, spreadsheets, and forms, you know how frustrating it can be to switch from one application to another for different tasks in the same project. For example, you may be using one system to issue bids, another method to share bid documents, and yet another application to track bid-related communication.Concept of a streamlined workflow for construction bid management

The biggest problem with this approach is that valuable information often gets lost in the transition from one system to another—or you need to manually re-enter data that you’ve already captured elsewhere. Either way, juggling multiple systems costs you more time and resources than necessary and increases the tendering bid mistakes.

Using one system for multiple tasks in a workflow–such as posting bids, distributing bid documents, and tracking all related communications—saves considerable time. Add up the time you spend compiling bid information, responses, questions, and answers, from multiple sources or systems. The total will give you an indication of the potential time savings you can gain by consolidating these tasks in one integrated system.

2. Centralize Bid Data for Better Construction Project Collaboration 

If you use digital spreadsheets to keep track of potential and active bidders, you already have the ability to search bidder lists quickly—which can be a big time saver. The problem with spreadsheets, however, is that they still require manual processes for data entry and data updates, which can lead to information gaps, delays, and mistakes that increase construction bidding errors. In addition, maintaining version control can be a problem when various stakeholders do not have access to the same copy of the spreadsheet.

To overcome problems associated with using basic spreadsheets, consider investing in a system that lets you consolidate information in a centralized database that provides real-time visibility and transparency to all relevant stakeholders. With a single source of reliable information, not only will stakeholders stay well informed, but you will also be able to automate more complex tasks such as generating bidder lists, bidder histories, and other reports. All of this saves time and reduces duplication of effort.

3. Standardize Units of Measure to Reduce Construction Bid Errors

A frequent cause of mathematical errors on bid forms is the use of varying units of measure for quantifiable items such as materials, time and other resources. One way to help prevent tendering bid errors is to define standard units of measure when you issue the bid. 

The problem of non-standard measurements persists, however, when bidders overlook your standard definitions or choose to use their preferred alternative units of measure. To solve this problem, use a system that “locks down” the units of measure for the relevant fields on the bid form. Not only will the lockdown help correct data-entry errors by bidders, but it will also make reviewing and comparing bids much more efficient, as reviewers will be able to compare “apples to apples” rather than needing to calculate the appropriate equivalents for non-standard measurements.

4. Notify Bidders of Incomplete Construction Bid Information 

Due to the complexity of information required in the bidding process, it’s normal for bidders to overlook or omit some required information on the bid form. Disqualifying a bid due to missing information may not be feasible, as that might rule out otherwise attractive vendors and limit your organization’s ability to identify the best-matched bidder for the job.

Alerting the bidder of missing information as quickly as possible can help reduce delays later in the review process. The problem is that contacting vendors individually with details about which information is missing can be very time consuming. 

A solution is to make bidder alerts part of the submission process using bid management software with a notification feature. Similar to an online registration form, the software’s bid form will alert contractors in real time when they have not completed a required field. Then the bidder can quickly add the missing information, and your team won’t need to waste precious time chasing down information from potential vendors.

5. Automate Tabulation for Construction Project Bids 

Like standard units of measure, an automatic bid tabulation feature is a huge time saver when it comes to making an apples-to-apples comparison of potential contractors. If you’re looking to adopt a system that will help you improve accuracy and reduce time spent on evaluating qualified bids, invest in a system that automatically consolidates data from various vendors on one easy-to-review tabulation page. You’ll eliminate

hours wasted on transferring data into an evaluation spreadsheet—and lower the risk of error that comes with manual data transfers.

6. Be Flexible on Project Delivery Methods

No matter what bid management processes you use, you’ll want them to be flexible enough to accommodate multiple methods of proposed project delivery—for example, design-build, or Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC), in addition to only low-bid scenarios.

The problem with a method that limits your selection to only the lowest bidders is that these vendors’ proposed delivery methods may not enable you to achieve the best project outcomes and may even lead to a much higher total cost of ownership of your built asset. 

A digital project delivery method that uses centralized data and digital workflows to connect the planning, design, and construction phases of the project helps you save costs in the long term by facilitating more efficient collaboration across project teams—which reduces schedule delays, rework, and waste. Digital project delivery also helps reduce the total cost of asset ownership by providing the most complete data set on the built asset to inform future operations and maintenance. That means all the information collected about the asset’s design and construction history can be carried forward to the operations and maintenance teams, eliminating the need to spend time and money to recapture information on the asset’s attributes, existing warranties, and other key data.   

If you’re looking to attract bids from qualified vendors who will give you the widest selection of choices for optimal project outcomes, select a system that is robust enough to handle multiple delivery methods, including digital project delivery.

7. Beware of Construction Bid Scams and Traps 

Use caution when trying any bid management system that claims to be “free.” The problem with such a system is that it likely comes with a hidden price tag. For example, the provider may mine your data–including your bidder list—and use it elsewhere. Or the provider may be looking to make money from the sale of paper plans, which would likely undermine your cost-saving efforts.

Avoid being a target for data theft and unwanted sales pitches by identifying an established and well-respected solution provider that can clearly demonstrate the capabilities and benefits of the solution that matches your needs and budget.

Learn More

Trimble is a leading provider of industrial technologies. We offer digital solutions for capital program and project management, including bid management software, along with a wide range of solutions for asset lifecycle management. The Trimble team is available to answer your questions and discuss your specific challenges and goals. Contact us for more information or to request a demo