Tips for selling to the Ontario government

There is real money to be made by the IT channel doing business with the public sector. Particularly in a challenging economy, with governments still investing in technology to both gain greater efficiencies and provide stimulus to the economy.

However, as partners will quickly find there is a world of difference between the public and private sectors when it comes to buying, to process, and to culture. During a recent session sponsored by ITAC and IT World Canada, Jason Hilidebrant, senior procurement consultant, operational procurement policy with Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, offered some tips for IT vendors and partners looking to do business with the Ontario government.

*Ontario’s procurement directive applies to all goods and services, IT and consulting services procured by all government ministries. The directive is designed to support a procurement process with fair vendor access, transparency and fairness, and to provide the government with value for money.

*The competitive procurement process must be fair, transparent and open, and advertised widely using an electronic tendering service (MERX) to solicit bids for contracts for goods worth over $25,000 and services worth over $100,000. Contracts under those values need not be tendered.

*There are different types of requests. A request for quotations is a procurement document used to solicit goods and services of low value and complexity. A request for proposal is to supply solutions for complex products or services, and is evaluated based on pre-defined criteria that doesn’t include jut price. A request for qualifications is used to solicit fiscal stability and technological eligibility, and then the listed companies are invited to bid in the future.

*A vendor of record is usually established through an RFP process and authorizes one or more vendor to provide goods/services for a defined period on set terms and prices. Depending on the value, there may be multiple vendors of record for a deal. The process ensures that when the government has a specific need they’re getting the best vendor to fill it.

*All partners doing business with the government must complete a conflict of interest declaration to certify they don’t have an unfair advantage, and must declare any former public service employees and lobbyists in their employ.

*To do business with the Ontario government your tax information must be in good standing with the government. You will be required to authorize the tax department to tell the ministry if there is an issue, but no private information will be disclosed. You will be given time to resolve the matter, but the time given will be dependent on the ministry’s procurement needs.

*During the procurement process you shouldn’t contact anyone other than the designated procurement contact or you could jeopardize the procurement process. In the private sector you would speak with everyone you can to get information for your advantage, but in the public sector everyone needs to have the same information at the same time.

*A site tour or vendor meeting may me a mandatory part of the process, so examine all of the RFO documents carefully.

*Entering the procurement process may be a binding process. By entering, you’re agreeing to terms and conditions and typically, there’s a period of irrevocability of six months or more. So ensure you’ll be as happy with your bid six months from now as you are today.

*Late bids cannot be considered and will be returned unopened. One vendor was stuck in traffic on the 401 because of an accident and couldn’t meet the 11am deadline, so their bid wasn’t accepted. Another used a courier that guaranteed 9am delivery but the courier delivered the bid to the wrong address. By the time it got to the right address it was past the deadline and the bid was returned, unopened. That was an issue between the courier and the bidder, not the government. So don’t wait until the last day to submit your bid; it limits your opportunity to deal with last-minute snags.

*We can only evaluate your bid based on what you tell us. Don’t assume we know it, but detail your qualifications in full if you want the full points you deserve.

*Review how the bid will be evaluated and give information in those key areas, not just in the areas you think are more important. Unless requested don’t provide alternative solutions as that could be considered unresponsive, but you could ask about it during the question process and it could lead to an amended document.

*Once an agreement is signed, all vendors will be notified and will be offered a debriefing if the value was over $25,000. All vendors are entitled to know why their bid wasn’t successful. The objective of the debriefing is to help the vendor learn how to submit more competitive bids in the future. Debriefings are the best way for you to learn how to be more competitive in winning bids in your area of interest.

*The more you learn about the government’s challenges and priorities, the better you’ll be able to position your organization to do business with the government. Read the government’s throne speech, and consult the business plans and press releases on all ministerial Web sites.

*For more information on the procurement process, visit www.ontario.ca/supplychain, www.serviceontario.ca, or e-mail [email protected]

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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