As organizations continue to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many are transitioning their construction project bidding process to be completely remote to practice social distancing and help fight the spread of the virus. For some, that simply means finding a way to host bid openings remotely. For others, it means overhauling their entire paper-based process in a short amount of time.
Due to our 20+ year history as an e-bidding provider, we have the opportunity to discuss the challenges organizations are facing with many of our partners in the construction industry. Based on discussions with our users, we have developed a list of resources to help agencies get started with remote bidding and facilitate remote bid openings.
Choosing the Right Platform
If you’ve never hosted an online letting before, the first step is to find a platform you trust that works for your organization. Remote construction bidding platforms can vastly differ in terms of capabilities, project type, and security. For example, we offer online bidding services for state transit projects and general local procurement - but neither may be right for you.
It’s important to find a platform that can be implemented quickly and easily understood by your bidding audience. Other features to look for are omission alerts, smart bid forms, bid tabulations, and online bid bond verification. If you work for a local public agency, consider contacting your equivalent state or federal agency for recommendations.
Protecting Your Data
The influx of business moving online during the pandemic has increased many organizations' need for secure cybersecurity practices. Most, if not all bidding platforms, have a variety of security measures to ensure data is encrypted and authenticated. The challenge is timing.
Some companies may need documents to be mailed to enroll your organization in their digital verification. As you vet bidding providers, ensure they’re currently accepting remote notarizations or another form of verification so you can get up and running quickly. And as you move data and processes online, consider some general best practices for cybersecurity.
Hosting Remote Bid Openings
Once you begin accepting bids electronically, results will be available online when the solicitation closes. With that said, many organizations opt (or are required) to continue with traditional bid openings. We’ve seen our users and agency partners use the following tools to hold remote bid openings effectively:
Zoom | GoToWebinar | WebEx & More
Consider using a webinar platform to host your bid opening remotely. While these are paid services, they allow for greater flexibility and control over who can attend the opening. Organizations can send direct invitations to their bidder list or post a public link. Webinar platforms are also built with robust communication features like Q&A tools that will allow agencies to communicate with bidders in a remote setting. Many webinar tools also create automatic recordings of sessions that can be posted to your website at the conclusion of the opening.
Live Streaming Platforms
Youtube Live | Facebook Live | Periscope & More
Many webinar platforms are priced based on the quantity of participants in a webinar. If you are holding bid openings for a large bidder audience, we recommend testing out one of these free tools to see if it will work as a cost-effective alternative. While these platforms offer less control and communication capabilities than paid webinar platforms, they are easily accessible and may already be trusted and understood by your audience due to brand presence. While there are a number of these tools available, we recommend Youtube Live or Facebook Live for their popularity and ease-of-use.
Communicating to Your Bidders
One of the challenges of this transition is informing your audience of the change. Several agencies have provided good examples of setting up clear instructional landing pages to communicate the necessary steps. Here’s how several agencies have handled this shift:
Alabama Department of Transportation (WebEx)
Virginia Department of Transportation (YouTube)
New York Department of Transportation (Webcast)
West Virginia Division of Highways (ClickMeeting)
Finding the Right Fit
If you are looking to post bids for general state/local procurement or state highway/bridge projects, you may be interested in Bid Express. Initially launched in 1999 as the first electronic bidding platform for highway construction, Bid Express has become a national standard for secure online bid submissions. To find out if Bid Express is the right fit for your organization, contact us or sign up for a demo at https://www.infotechinc.com/bid-express.