What Are Bid Documents?

Geri Terzo

Bidding on a contract of any kind can be a highly competitive process. Whether submissions are accepted by any relevant service provider or may only be presented on an invitation basis, the information requested in bid documents must be comprehensive. It is based on the very materials that a business or other organization will use to make a decision for some contract. The bid documents may not be the only factor for a decision, as top bidders are often invited for live interviews to help streamline the selection, but without these submissions, new business relationships might never be formed.

Bids help decide which person, company, or business could do a specific job for the best deal.
Bids help decide which person, company, or business could do a specific job for the best deal.

In the event that an organization already knows which service providers to consider for a contract, it might distribute an invitation to bid (ITB) to the relevant parties. Even with that formal display of interest, the bidder must follow some procedures, or it may be in jeopardy of losing its consideration. A short-list of candidates may be selected early based on previous business relationships or very specific criteria that are established from the onset of the bidding process. That group may be narrowed down further before a final selection is made based on the bid documents that are presented.

Bid documents must be submitted in the format that the hiring firm prefers. This requirement could be to send materials electronically, via traditional mail, or both. If a third-party consultant is involved in the search process, bid documents may also need to be sent to this individual. It is possible that the hiring firm will provide some type of application template or accept original materials submitted by the candidates.

A hiring firm or its consultant should outline the information that is needed in bid documents. This outline can be offered in an ITB or a request for proposal (RFP), which is more of an open invitation to receive offers. Also, the deadline for submissions should be clarified, which could include not only a date but also a specific time by which bid documents must be received. Questions surrounding an ITB or RFP may similarly have deadlines, and answers to those queries may be published for all candidates to view.

The details that are included in bidding materials will be based on the type of service being requested. In finance, an investment manager bidding on a contract will likely need to provide the amount of money overseen by the firm in addition to past investment performance. Even if a service provider is released from a contract, that firm might be welcome to rebid and resubmit documents at a future date.

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