How Business Proposals are (Really) Evaluated


How much do you know about how government agencies evaluate request for proposals? If your business depends on government contracts, funding, or grant-giving, then it helps to understand how bids are:

  • Reviewed
  • Assessed
  • Scored and
  • Awarded

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In this series of tutorials, I will first look at how government bodies uses the services of external proposal evaluators to evaluate bids. While this process may change across different departments, it’s the one I’m most familiar with.

How Request For Proposals are Evaluated: Defining the Scope

This article describes the rules and procedures for evaluating Request For Proposals.

First, identify who will perform the evaluation, e.g.,

The evaluation shall be carried out by the Department in conjunction with [consultant 1] and [consultant 2].

The evaluation process consists of two phases:

  1. Phase 1 – Assess the proposed solution against the requirements of the Request For Proposal.
  2. Phase 2- Concerns the financial assessment, i.e. which bid offers the best value for money.

Defining the Request For Proposal Evaluation Process

Phase 1 of the evaluation works as follows:

  • Appoint the evaluation team
  • Identify lead evaluator for each tender.
  • Review the Invitation to Tender (ITT) and Supporting Documentation including the Q&A responses.
  • Identify any issues or risks in the ITT and Q&A documents.
  • Develop a scoring scheme; agree the marking scheme, with specific references to the criteria stated in the Invitation to Tender and any risks or issues identified.
  • Evaluators agree a threshold mark for each section.
  • Evaluators agree a weighting system.
  • Each evaluator performs the evaluation for each Tender Submission
  • Each evaluator attributes marks as per the marking scheme: note that the rules and guidelines described in this document should be applied in all aspects of the evaluation of bids.
  • Consensus meeting is held at the end of the individual evaluations.
  • Prepare Phase 1 Evaluation Report draft and final versions


It is assumed that any bids provided to the evaluating team by the government agency are valid bids (i.e. received on time and accepted as a bona-fide bid).

Defining the Evaluation Team Roles and Responsibilities

In general, at least two independent evaluators are used on any bid.

You need to appoint one lead evaluator and other evaluators to coordinate the assessment.

Their roles are summarised as follows:

Lead Evaluator

  • Co-ordinates the bid evaluation process
  • Chairs any moderation/consensus meetings
  • Prepares Phase 1 report
  • Co-ordinates/facilitates Phase 2 [providing organisation and management of the process, such as organising meetings, minute taking, and scheduling interviews]

Other Evaluators

  • In Phase 1, scores the tender submissions according to an agreed marking scheme.
  • Participates in evaluation and consensus meetings.
  • Attends meetings providing input as required.

Rules and Guidelines

Apply the following rules, guidelines and procedures during the Phase 1 evaluation.

The appointing of the evaluation team
The team to evaluate any bid is approved by the project leader.


Any individuals involved in evaluating tenders must be consistently involved in reviewing all competing bids on a project.

If someone becomes unavailable before they have fully reviewed all competing bids, their replacement must review all proposals including those already covered by the initial evaluator.

Conflict of Interest

The evaluation team must be objective and free from any conflict of interest.

It is essential that all companies and evaluators are objective.

If any company or individual has any financial or personal interest (e.g. competitor, business partner, shareholder, relative, employee etc) in any of the companies presenting tender bids, then they must make their interest known to the coordinating evaluator.

This will be discussed with the client; if necessary, the evaluator may have to step aside and be replaced.


All documentation that relates to the tender bids – and their evaluation – is subject to restricted access and should not shared wit any persons outside the evaluation team.

Each evaluator is responsible for ensuring that the information provided to them is kept secure and confidential.
Reports and Communications

During the assessment, there will be many reports and communications between the teams.

Adhere to the following guidelines as follows:

  • Communication with prospective contractors (i.e. bidders) should occur in writing only and should be coordinated through the lead evaluator.
  • Retain copies of all communication (including emails) with prospective contractors; submit these with the evaluation report.
  • Communication with the government agency regarding project specifics and clarifications should also be in writing and preferably coordinated through the lead evaluator.
  • Communication between evaluators regarding bid assessment should be avoided before consensus meetings. This ensures that evaluations are objective and independent.
  • Communications regarding procedure or clarifications may take place if required.
  • Use the Evaluators Report to communication the result of evaluations.

Achieving Consensus

It would be very strange if both evaluators awarded the same score to the same bid. In general, there is a difference of opinion, which is always a good sign.

The question is how to discuss these scores and work towards consensus, i.e. a common score.

  • Differences are likely to occur in individual scores in different sections of the bid; to explore this setup consensus meeting.
  • Its objective is to address these points and, if possible, achieve an agreed evaluation score.
  • If there are significant differences in the scores – which cannot be reconciled at a consensus meeting – you need to use an additional evaluation team (for instance, members of the government agency) to assess the bids.

The final deliverable from a consensus meeting is a list of scored bids.

Scores, rankings and recommendation(s) may be qualified with commentaries and notes.

Note any anticipated risks associated with the bids based on the information available to the evaluation team.

Evaluation Report

This includes the administrative documentation involved in the evaluation of bids, such as:

  • Declaration from the team members of their capacity to evaluate the bids objectively and independently
  • Individual evaluators’ sheets on each bid.
  • Consensus report.
  • Appendix with all written communications of any significance during the bid.
  • Final evaluation report signed by the evaluators.


In the next tutorial, we will look at how to create a scoring system for the bids. This is usually based on
Understanding of the Project; Quality of the Proposed Solution; Approach to Project Management; Proven; Completeness of the Proposal.

Do you have any questions about how to evaluate a Request For Proposal? Please share them below and we can discuss it together.