Tender Jargon Made Simple: an A-Z to Keep Things Simple (Updated November 2020)

Tender Jargon Made Simple – an A-Z to Keep Things Simple (Updated November 2020)

ConfusedThis simple guide makes complicated tender jargon simple. One of the most off-putting things in getting started on tendering for any firm or voluntary and community sector organisation is jargon – or tender jargon – a seemingly endless catalogue of confusing terminology. Yet the explanations behind these terms are often simple and it is critical that such tender jargon should not put you off the end game of making winning tenders a component of your business development. Also professional guidance, support and templates are available to help businesses of all sizes overcome the challenges of procurement and to write winning tenders.

The following provides a breakdown of many of the common pieces of tender jargon used in tendering in the UK, Ireland and wider EU; alongside a simple explanation of what it means. This is tender jargon made simple.

Tender Jargon Buster A-Z

Accelerated, Restricted or Negotiated Procedure: Special circumstances where the procurement process (public sector buying process) is effectively shortened to meet a specific deadline or emergency. As such, this differs from the more common Open and Restricted Procedures (see later) and tends to be on larger/ EU contracts.

Aggregation: a term used for a trend in procurement to pull together higher numbers of smaller contracts into smaller numbers of larger contracts. These are sometimes split into ‘lots’ (see below) and are designed to lead to increased value and reduce the contract management burden within the public sector. This is very much the current direction of travel in the UK and Ireland and is problematic for smaller organisations; raising the importance of partnership/ consortia bidding.
Alcatel Standstill Period: the name relates to previous legal cases taken to the European Court of Justice and what it means in practice is that there needs to be a minimum 10 day period kept free between award of decision and the contract commencing; effectively to allow for appeals. Contracts, cannot be finalised, work cannot start, products cannot be provided and feedback is usually not given until after the 10 day standstill period.

Alternative Tender or Alternative Bid: see Variant Tender (below).

Award Criteria: the scored criteria of a tender. Usually a offered as a percentage breakdown of how marks will be allocated.
Contract Notice Opportunity or Competitive Contract Notice: this is a contract opportunity advertised by a public sector organisation through a relevant portal or website – see here on how to access tender opportunities.

Best Value: common in UK local authority tendering, the basic principle is focused on a clear and accountable system that will lead to the best value tender being chosen.

Buy Social: in terms of procurement ‘Buy Social’ is a means by which public sector organisations can seek to integrate social requirements into contracts. This can be a requirement for the successful organisation to deliver certain social benefits in delivering the contract. Examples of such social requirements include: apprenticeships, placements, wider employment opportunities, targeted training among others. Further information.

Collaborative Procurement: is a broad term on how the public sector is seeking to bring together the way in which public bodies buy goods and services into reduced and commonly aggregated contracts (see aggregation above).

Consortia or Consortium: These terms refer to partnership tenders where two or more businesses join together specifically for the purpose of tendering for a specific procurement opportunity. This differs from more formal partnerships as consortia bids tend to be focused on specific opportunities.

Contract Award Notice or Competitive Contract Notice Award: published information on an awarded contract. When you see one of these it is too late to tender; but you can gather information on the competition and even details such as going rates on pricing.

Contract Notice or Competitive Contract Notice: published invitation to tender published in the OJEU (see below).

Contracting Authority: the  individual public authority (such as a Government Department or Local Authority) or certain private entities who will award contracts and ‘contract’ the work.

Constructionline: focuses on construction in the UK, this is a register of local and national construction and construction-related contractors and consultants. As the firms registered have pre-qualified, they can be used by public sector as a means to advertise opportunities. Further Information.

Consortium or Consortia Tender: a partnership, between firms or other organisations whereby they combine to meet the requirements of a tender.

CPV Codes: Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV Codes) are used through the EU to generically describe products or services. From the tendering organisation’s point of view CPV codes help communicate the types of products and services they are interested in bidding for; so that tender alerts can be issued to the relevant business/ community organisation. Further information.

e-Procurement or e-Tendering: generic term used to describe the use of a range of electronic methods linked to procurement (buying). Associated terms include: e-Sourcing, e-Procurement (both buying) and e-Payment (including electronic forms of invoicing and payment).

Economic Operator: a term sometimes used for a (potential): contractor, a supplier or any service provider.

ESPD – see European Single Procurement Document.

European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) – is a form required by those bidding for EU contracts above specific thresholds. It basically is a self-declaration of that you are a suitable business in terms of: suitability, financial status and ability. The ‘form’ is available for online completion. Indeed online completion will be compulsory by the end of 2018. Click here for a simple video.

Expression of Interest (EOI), Initial Expression of Interest (IEOI) or Prior Information Notice (PIN): processes whereby businesses or other organisations are asked to express that they might be interested in bidding for a potential project – once the opportunity goes to full tender. Often used where the public sector buying organisation is seeking to test interest/ capacity in the market for a full tender competition. For instance, in outsourcing work previously delivered within the public sector. Slight differences exist between the terms, with the use of PINs has become increasingly common in the UK and Ireland in recent years.

Evaluation Criteria: related to award criteria, this is the evaluation criteria and the method by which a tender response is marked.
Framework Agreement: an ‘umbrella’ agreement or lost of pre-qualified suppliers. Commonly used in a two stage tendering process where the 1st stage establishes a framework and the second phase invites firms on the framework to bid for specific contracts – sometimes referred to as ‘call-offs.’ Framework Agreements, in various forms, remain highly common in the UK and Ireland.

Invitation to Tender (ITT) or Requests for Tender (RFT): the main document that provides information to potential suppliers on what the purchasers wants to buy. There is no single template or approach and these can be anything from less than a page to a ‘tree’s worth’ of paper. Commonly such documents will include information on: background and context, terms of reference or objectives, specification, contact details, how questions can be addresses, format of response required and sometimes a draft contact.

Lots: the dividing of a large contract into smaller sections (lots) in order that the whole contract can be awarded to a combination of one or more tenderers in order to achieve the best overall value for money or simply to meet the needs of a contract. For instance lots can be broken down into geographical area eg a region or county; relate to a type of work or some other format that allows the contract to be broken down. Increasingly used in the UK and Ireland.

Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT): from the point of view of the tenderer this means that the project will be awarded on the basis of criteria that includes price but is not solely price. Where this term is used this criteria should be published. This is designed to identify best value or best whole life cost eg not just the lowest bidder which may not provide good long-term value.

Negotiated Procedure: again used where significant urgency is required in the procurement process. The process involves only chosen suppliers being invited to ‘negotiate’ for a contract. Again differs from the more common Open and Restricted Procedures (see below) and sometimes used where the Open Procedure does not lead to an award of contract.
Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU): something of a misnomer as the Official Journal hasn’t been a ‘journal’ for a few decades. This is a website that publishes tender opportunities from across the EU that reach certain thresholds. As such, these tend to be higher value contracts. Further Information.

Open Procedure: this approach means that suppliers can apply without any prior selection (eg Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) or similar). EU driven approach which tends to be common on higher value, single stage contracts.

Prior Information Notice (PIN): similar to expression of interest above.
Pre-qualification Questionnaire (PQQ): commonly used in a two stage process where tenderers complete a questionnaire to qualify for Stage 2 or to become part of a Framework Agreement (see above).

Restricted Procedure: Again an EU driven process which tends to be for higher value contracts. This process begins with an open first stage approach (such as PQQ) then is ‘restricted’ to those firms who qualify for the next stage or subsequent contracts/ call-offs. This is very common on higher-value contracts in the UK and Ireland.
Select List: often used interchangeably with Framework Agreement, though not necessarily for a second stage competition. This is a list of suitable prospective contractors, suppliers or service providers, drawn-up through a short-listing process.

Single Action Tendering: this is a procurement for which competition between firms is deliberately not sought. Used sparingly, this can be applied in a small number of specific circumstances such as relating to security or where there is no alternative supplier.

Social Clauses in Public Procurement: See Buy Social.

Social Value and Sustainable Criteria: commonly EU driven and rising in prominence in UK and Ireland procurement, this is the adding of additional criteria to tendering evaluation. In particular, social, environmental and economic criteria. Specific examples would include scoring of criteria linked to provision of employment, apprenticeships or up-skilling or environmental efficiency. Linked terms include sustainable procurement.

Tender Alerts and Tender Alert Service: tender alerts provide tender opportunities to potential bidders, usually direct to their email account. This can be expensive – though The Winning Tenders Academy offer a highly cost effective approach.

Variant Tender or Variant Bid: is a response to an invitation to tender that provides an opportunity for an innovative or alternative approach to meeting the stated requirements. This can mean the tender submitted may differ from the approach or requirements defined in the specification. This is often regarded as good procurement practice as the approach allows the market to offer a creative solution and doesn’t seek to restrict innovation by over specifying the requirement.


We hope you find this Tender Jargon Made Simple guidance; for further information on how we can support your business in writing powerful tenders please click here.