Conducting procurement debriefs is a win-win

Conducting debriefs with your project’s bidders is an important part of the RFP process. For unsuccessful bidders, debriefs provide valuable information they can use to improve their future bids. For purchasing organizations, debriefs can lead to better and more competitive submissions from those suppliers. Debriefs are a win-win for organizations, as long as they’re conducted effectively!


Why conduct debriefs?

  1. Satisfy trade agreement obligations
    • Under trade agreements, unsuccessful bidders have the right to a debrief
  2. Transparency in the procurement process
  3. Minimizing proponent complaints, disputes, or protests
  4. Follow your organization’s policies
    • If your organization doesn’t have a debrief policy, it should!
  5. Public and proponent confidence and trust
    • Proponents who have faith in your process may choose to participate again for a different opportunity, even if they were unsuccessful this time
  6. Educating potential bidders on how to improve future submissions, increasing your pool of suppliers, and helping maintain those relationships
  7. Potential win/win
    • Showcase that you are an organization of choice
    • Suppliers gain confidence in the process to participate (and win) in the future
  8. Gaining proponent feedback to help your organization improve its processes
For more information about trade obligations, watch the on-demand webinar “Trade treaty obligations in Canadian public sector procurement.” Watch the webinar

What is a debrief?

A debrief is a forum to provide 1:1 feedback to an unsuccessful bidder, to help educate them for future submissions and obtain feedback on your procurement process.

It is not:

    • A forum to debate the RFP, process, or the evaluation criteria. These questions should be asked during the question period while the opportunity is still open.
    • A way to obtain information on other proponents’ proposals. There’s a line between transparency and oversharing.
    • An opportunity to challenge the score or outcome. There are appropriate mechanisms to challenge a result, outside the debrief process.
    • An attempt to influence the evaluation process; the evaluation process has already been completed at this point.
    • A chance for the bidder to explain the gaps in their proposal.

Ideally your organization has a formal process and training in place for employees to conduct successful debriefs.

Anatomy of the debrief


Proponents are entitled to get a debrief. It’s not a favour. Proponents may not know they have a right to the debrief, so buyer organizations should encourage and inform their bidders of this right.

Some organizations use defer and delay tactics to prevent offering the debriefs. Debriefs should be done as soon as possible and built into the procurement process schedule.

Drivers of debrief quality

If the RFP and evaluation process are transparent and defensible, conducting debriefs should be simple. Essentially, you have nothing to hide, so you have nothing to fear from the debrief.

These aspects of the RFP and evaluation process can greatly impact the quality of your debrief:

    • Disclosed evaluation weights and sub-weights
    • Clear scoring scale
    • Clear evaluation approach & methodology
    • Transparent criteria without bias
    • Proper consensus evaluation processes

If you want to learn more about evaluation processes, check out Doreen Wong’s on-demand webinar “Skating on Thin Ice: Common Mistakes in Public Procurement Evaluation Processes.”

Planning the debrief

Consider these factors when planning the debrief:

    • The more complex an opportunity, the more time should be allotted to debriefs. Your debrief should account for the amount of time and preparation the proponent put into the submission.
    • Invite the correct participants who are adequately prepared to answer proponent questions.
    • Have an agenda that outlines the purpose and ground rules for the debrief. Provide an overview of the RFP and process and specific feedback on the proponent’s proposal.
    • Leave adequate time for questions and proponent feedback.

Debrief is not a dirty word!

For more information about the debrief in action, including common problem areas and tips to avoid them, make sure to register below to receive the recording of Doreen Wong’s session “Debrief is not a dirty word!”