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How long is a piece of string?

Supply Management, page 21
22 October 2009

Is there a standard period or time that should be taken to complete the whole tender process? If so, what should it be?

Ed Savage, a leading procurement expert at PA Consulting Group, has contributed to a Supply Management Journal article on whether there is a standard period of time that should be taken to complete a tender process. 

Ed says "No, there is no standard tendering time. It depends on many factors - but most importantly on the time to define and explain a requirement. It can take minutes to procure a widely available commodity.

Buying a complex set of services, however, may take many months, with the process driven by an investment decision based on trading time with risk and value. For larger contracts, you may also need to include time for an organisation's internal governance processes, such as for due diligence or contract sign-off. I helped a telephone company procure a managed services contract in about six months, whereas a government client needed three years to buy complex IT services.

Public sector organisations often need extra time to demonstrate probity of public money. The EU's rules are explained on the Office of Government Commerce's website ( and explain the minimum advertising requirements and the new standstill period of 10 days between the decision and the award of contract."


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