With BBC’s Sherlock - The Final Problem being broadcast on Sunday evening and a PQQ deadline at 12 noon the very next day, I knew I had some work to do over the weekend to make sure I’d wrapped up my response to the quality I wanted, whilst allowing time to indulge in the drama of my favourite detective. Little did I know, I would soon be drawing parallels from Sherlock and the PQQ response.

Now, by this, I don’t mean that every PQQ is unnecessarily complex (although some of them are). It’s often the complete opposite, in fact. The problem with a lot of PQQs is that they can be thrown together with so little care and attention that you could just as likely be tendering for a street lighting contract as a complex web development project (yes this has actually happened to us). The moral of the story? You can’t use the same pro forma that you use for procuring pencils to procure specialist digital services.

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

- Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Time and time again we see briefs with no thought given to how the questions actually match up to answering the brief. We are all too often asked to undermine our whole creative process by submitting mockup designs and to ‘give a solution in under 500 words’. Often we push back, with a Sherlock-esque response; I never guess. It is a shocking habit,—destructive to the logical faculty.” Because, we want to make informed decisions, rather than wasting time on (potentially arrogant but certainly uninformed) assumptions. Perhaps I should change my response to; “You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data”, and hire the Baker Street boys.

“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently, “I can’t make bricks without clay.”

- Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Fortunately, we (the agencies) take the business of responding very seriously - in the case of this tender, for example, our commitment was tantamount to almost 6 days of the senior team's time, which, in actual fact, is a relatively small outlay for these types of tender.

As an agency, we try to avoid tendering where necessary, but in many cases, it remains a necessary evil, for example, it's how we managed to secure our place on the digital frameworks for EDF Energy and BBC (can we do a Sherlock website please?).

So, why should businesses and organisations care?

Because the quality of the questions in a PQQ can have a major impact on the quality of the response. If no thought is given to an ITT/PQQ before sending it out, then you are sending out a signal that you are not overly invested in the project. And, why should a potential new partner care about it if you don’t? When we (the agencies) certainly do.

It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.

- Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

Ask questions that will actually elicit useful responses. Use the PQQ as a way to narrow down your selection to a quality group of suppliers. And, above all, be logical in your approach.

If you’re in the process of preparing a tender for a digital project, but you’re struggling with how to go about this, get in touch; we offer the service to help scope and write PQQs.

It shouldn’t be the final problem it should be how we create the final solution.