When I was consulting we were bought out (by a French company) and I was instructed to place a dummy recruitment add in the trade press and use the resulting interviews to find out what was wrong in the various mobile companies. I was then expected to go back to their management with “solutions”, leaving those who’d come for the interview hanging around having wasted a day’s holiday. I told them to fuck off and resigned.
Over the course of my career I have every now and then been asked to invite a contractor or supplier to submit a proposal purely so my own organisation can get a handle on the scope of work and the cost for their own budget. As a supplier of services, I have also been approached by client companies who were after the same thing.
Often an organisation will have no idea how to outsource a project because they can’t even write a scope of work. They need a scope of work because their internal policies compel them to launch a competitive tender, rather than single-source the job. They also need a budget price for the work for internal approval. So they’ll invite a known supplier to submit a proposal on the pretext that they are actually bidding for the job, which will often entail a site visit and preparation of documents at the supplier’s expense. When the client company receives the proposal they fiddle with it, rename it “Scope of Work”, and put it out to competitive tender. More often than not the original supplier who did all the work will lose the bid, usually because their price has been leaked enabling competitors to undercut them, and because there was always a favoured company lined up to do the work in the first place: they just didn’t know how to do it.
It’s a shitty way to treat suppliers, yet I have seen this practice encouraged by managers whose arrogance doesn’t allow them to see how unethical it is. To a lot of people working in client companies, contractors and suppliers are expendable pieces of shit who are beneath contempt. If the supplier is half-smart they’ll twig pretty quickly that they’re being given the run-around and simply decline to participate. Client companies get awfully pompous when a contractor does this, and it’s fun to watch. They don’t quite say “How dare you? Do you know who we are?” but they come close.
There is a better way of doing this, and it’s what I insisted on doing last time I was in such a situation. I went to a known supplier and asked them for a quote to conduct a site visit and prepare a full scope of work document. They would be paid for their efforts, and the document would be used for the competitive tender of the job proper. The amounts in question were trivial but it meant the supplier could not complain about unfair treatment, and I could tender the job with a clear conscience that I’d been completely transparent. In the end the project got cancelled and with the approach I’d taken the supplier didn’t feel aggrieved that they’d done all that work for nothing.
Obtaining “free” services from contractors or suppliers by pretending their submissions are part of a tender is something that happens way too often in my industry and I suspect many others. It’s a practice that does no good whatsoever regardless of how clever a manager thinks he is by “saving” his company money, as it undermines trust. Companies should quit doing it.