Can Baltic & Polish dev houses succeed in Finnish public tenders?

In our continuous exploration of the Finnish IT services market, 6 months ago, we decided to run an experiment. We wanted to know if Baltic & Polish dev houses could stand a realistic chance to be competitive in Finnish public IT tenders.

This article will bring you the experiment results, our learnings and motivations for running it.

Knowledge of any new international market comes through practice, presence & partnerships. You can’t just march in and say “here I am” — winning meaningful projects outside domestic markets is an investment & time heavy process.

Entering a new market, the value in public tenders lies not just in potentially winning the bid. No two markets are the same and public bids offer insights into the requirements, bureaucracy, timelines, potential partners/competitors.

You will see who you‘re up against, what they offer, at what rates and quality. With this knowledge, it’s possible to turn competing bidders into your local market anchors.
By offering something to them that they are lacking, creating extended value props and hopefully buying yourself the ticket into the new market.

So, we thought, even if it can take us some time to win bids, public tenders will help us further on the learning curve: to get to know the FI market, to know how to serve our partners better.

On with the experiment.

Through allies.digital slack group, we had intimate access to the CEOs and biz devs of 100+ Baltic and Polish dev houses. The very companies that win complex tenders on their domestic markets to build world leading e-govt solutions for Estonia & Poland.

At the same time, we knew that most our partners had no physical presence in Finland, minimal experience in FI tenders, and that the language requirement could become an obstacle.

So, we invested into on-boarding a tender specialist, fluent Finnish-speaker with decades experience running business with the Finns, as well as participating in non-IT tenders.

Our plan was simple:
1. Our tender specialist would monitor interesting IT tenders in Hilma — the Finnish public procurement ecosystem;
2. We’d post a weekly update of new tenders into #fi_public_tender slack channel for our partners to assess;
3. We’d wait for our partners to react;
4. We’d participate in the tender with the interested party(ies).

To-date, we’ve posted 23 tenders into our Slack group, participated in 4 bids with different partners, are currently in prep of 4 new offers, so it’s prime time to draw first (early) conclusions.

What are our learnings so far?

  • Out of the 4 tender submissions, 3 results are in:
    The first one — we were ranked honorable 9th out of 12 participants. The tender was won by a top Finnish IT company, but we came ahead of 3 Finnish consultancies, which we thought was a solid start.
    As for the second tender, the submission was disqualified due to partner credit rating.
    The third tender was already very encouraging: won by a Finnish company, we became 2nd out of 5 bidders. While our price was the highest, we were also rewarded highest points on quality.

We’re expecting more results in Q3.

  • Tendering in Finland is a challenging but realistic business opportunity for Baltic & Polish dev houses — the offers that we are able to submit are serious & competitive;
  • Reality is that FI-language support is in fact needed in many tenders. We had to find a viable solution and partnered with a local company that could offer the support.
  • A realistic estimate is that it takes participation in 10 tenders to win 1. From mid-sized dev house point of view, hiring an in-house tender specialist for a foreign market will probably not justify the investment, using a tender consultant seems to make more sense.
  • To win bigger, more challenging tenders with high thresholds of annual turnover and headcount, Baltic & Polish dev houses should more actively seek to partner with local market anchors.
  • Decisions in tenders generally take longer than expected. Eg. tender offer made in March → results received end of June.

So — as it goes for successful tendering — patience is the key. 6 months is a short time to draw major conclusions but so far it is proving to be one of our best hands-on learning experiences about the Finnish IT market.

As for tendering results, we’ll follow up this post in Q4 2020.

Get in touch with us if:

  • You’re a Baltic or Polish IT services business interested in creating meaningful win-win partnerships with FI IT consultancies;
  • You’re a FI business in need of critical top IT resources.
  • You’d like to join the most useful Slack channel for dev house executives.

Priit Pavelson
CEO
https://allies.digital

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