One of the questions often asked by vendors is “How will the Province decide who is selected through this process?” The answer comes down to scores assigned to each submission, based on either lowest price or overall highest score. This page provides guidance on how scores are assigned, and what to watch for.
When the Province is looking for solutions or to qualify vendors, a scored solicitation process is often used.
Usually, one of the following processes would be used for awarding to the highest score:
- Request for Proposals (RFP);
- Short-form Request for Proposals (SRFP);
- Request for Qualifications (RFQ);
- Request for Standing Offer (RSO);
- Request for Corporate Supply Arrangement (RCSA);
- Negotiated Request for Proposals (NRFP); and
- Joint Solutions Request for Proposals (JSRFPs).
Refer to Types of Solicitations and Other Opportunities for information about these solicitation processes, including when they would be posted to BC Bid. Corporate templates for these processes, where one exists, can be found at Solicitation Templates.
Basis of Award
Scored solicitations are awarded to the vendor(s) that meets all mandatory requirements and minimum (also called upset) scores (if applicable) and scores higher than others. Only those submissions that meet all mandatory requirements will be considered. Refer to Mandatory Requirements for more information.
Some scored solicitations may include one or more minimum score areas (also known as “thresholds” or “upset scores”). Minimum scores indicate that the Province is putting significant importance to this section when evaluating submissions. Usually, minimum scores apply to a specific section of the solicitation, meaning that to be considered a vendor must meet the minimum score.
How a minimum score applies should be clear in the solicitation. If the solicitation includes one or more minimum scores, ask questions by the specified timeframe (if identified) if you aren’t sure to which section(s) of the solicitation that it applies.
Pay particular attention to any section that includes a minimum score.
Determining the Highest Score
How submissions are scored can vary greatly from one solicitation to another. Typically, the solicitation document will identify how points are divided between the categories identified, which could be as few as two or as many as a dozen or more (although three to four is typical).
This division of points is a clear indicator of what is important on the part of the purchaser. Pay particular attention to those sections that are weighted heavily and/or that include minimum scores, remembering that incomplete or vague responses may result in a lower overall score for your submission.
If you can’t clearly see how the division of points applies to the information requested for submissions, ask questions to get the clarity you need to understand what the government buyer finds most important.
Scored solicitations should include a description of what would meet the Province’s basic requirements (also known as “benchmarks”). For example, if the solicitation assigns points to related or relevant experience, it should also provide a benchmark that vendors can compare themselves against (e.g. how much experience is expected and what related or relevant means). If this information is missing, ask questions by the specified timeframe (if identified) to get the clarity you need to determine how well you meet the benchmarks.
How Benchmarks Affect Scoring
For most scored solicitations, lower scores are awarded when the submission doesn’t meet the benchmarks and higher scores are awarded for submissions that exceed them.
More information and examples on writing quality responses to the benchmarks in scored solicitations can be found in section 5.2 of the Proponents’ Guide to RFPs.
Sometimes, you may be responding to a solicitation that was released from a government office that you have worked with before, or perhaps your organization is generally well known. You may even be currently providing the goods or services, but you are at the end of your contract term and the Province is going back to the market with a new solicitation. To ensure the fairness of the process, the government evaluators can only evaluate what is written in your submission; they can’t include anything they know about you nor can they make any assumptions about how you will deliver services outside of what is in your submission. Therefore, approach the response preparation assuming that the evaluators know nothing about your company and abilities.
Most scored solicitations will evaluate price. The solicitation document should explain how price will affect who is successful. If this is not clear, ask by the specified timeframe (if identified) how price will be evaluated.
A common mathematical formula used for evaluating price compares one submission against another and assigns points as follows:
Lowest price / This price x points available
Using this formula means that the lowest price will be awarded all the points assigned to price, and everyone else gets a portion of those points, depending on how close they are to the lowest price. A submission that is twice as much as the lowest price will receive half the points.
Other methodologies for evaluating price could include price-per-point or lowest price that meets minimum score(s); refer to section 4.8.3 of Preparing RFPs: A Ministry Guide to the Request for Proposals (RFP) Process for more information on these options.
Most scored solicitations will include directions on what vendors should or must include in their submissions (sometimes referred to as “response guidelines”).
Some solicitations will also include general or specific instructions on how to organize your submission. If such instructions are included, be sure to follow them. You may want to create a checklist of these instructions, to ensure that you’ve covered all of them. Examples of these instructions may include specific forms to fill out, signatures, use of appendices, numbering pages, etc.
Writing Hints and Suggestions
The following advice may assist in improving the quality of your submission in order to be awarded as high a score as possible.
You should structure your submission in the same order as the solicitation document. This will make it easier for the evaluators, as they are likely going to be looking for information in that order (refer to Submission Evaluations and Debriefs for more information on the evaluation process).
You may want to use the instructions or response guidelines as headings in your submission; this will help ensure that you address everything expected. For example, if a solicitation includes instructions that say “Describe how your organization meets or exceeds the experience cited above”, you could use this as a heading to the section of the submission that addresses your organizational experience.
Sometimes, a highly qualified vendor scores lower than another vendor with less experience, often because the more experienced vendor did not provide all the related information requested. Evaluators can only consider what is in the submission; if information is vague or missing, scores are likely to be negatively affected. Write your submission as though the evaluators have never heard of you or your organization.
Address What is Required
This may seem like obvious advice, but it is a common and easy mistake to fail to clearly address what is required. For example, a solicitation might ask for an explanation of how you intend to deliver something. A statement saying that you will deliver it is not explaining how, and therefore does not address what is requested.
Another example is mixing up experience (what you’ve done before) with approach (how you would deliver the services). Most scored solicitations will ask for both experience and approach, and will evaluate each separately. If you respond to instructions regarding how you intend to deliver services by stating what you’ve done in the past, you haven’t actually answered the question. Without firm statements of what you will do in the future, your submission may not score well in the approach section. (The opposite is also true – your scores are likely going to be lower in the experience section if you respond to it with an explanation of how you intend to deliver services.)
Stay on Topic
Submissions should be complete and relevant to everything requested in the solicitation. You will want to include any information you have to support and explain what you have to offer, but remember to stay focused on what was requested. Submissions can become so sidetracked in providing additional information that the actual information requested is not fully addressed.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Precise use of language is important in scored solicitation processes. For example, a submission with statements on what you will do when delivering services is far clearer than one that states what you could do. The word “could” doesn’t have a clear meaning as it is qualified or dependent on something else. The word “could” might mean that this is what you will do if offered the contract, but it also might mean that this is an optional service available at an additional charge. This ambiguity may result in a lower score.
Refer to Award to Highest Score if interested in the guidance provided for government buyers related to scored solicitations. Information for government buyers on how to write weighted requirements can be found here. Overall guidance for government buyers on the Request for Proposals process can be found in Preparing RFPs: A Ministry Guide to the Request for Proposals (RFP) Process.