Open vs Closed Tenders: A Deeper Dive into Making the Right Choice


In our first discussion titled “Open vs Closed Tenders: the Benefits & the Downsides” we covered the basics of open and closed tenders, highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of each. Open tenders open the door to a broader array of suppliers, promoting transparency and competition, but can lead to a flood of bids, making the selection process more cumbersome.

On the other hand, closed tenders streamline this process by inviting a select group of known suppliers, offering efficiency at the risk of missing out on potentially better or more innovative options.

Moving into Part 2, we aim to dive deeper into these tendering processes, focusing on strategic, legal, and ethical considerations. We’ll explore how the choice between open and closed tenders aligns with your business goals, the market you operate in, and the values you uphold. This section will bring in updated thinking and a more nuanced analysis to help you make informed decisions that serve your immediate needs and support your long-term objectives.

For those who haven’t read Part 1 or wish for a refresher, we encourage you to look back. These discussions form a comprehensive guide to choosing the right tendering process at the right time.

1. Strategic Considerations in Tender Selection

Revisiting the strategic implications of open vs. closed tenders through the lens of category management and the Kraljic Matrix offers a refined approach to aligning procurement strategies with broader business goals. The Kraljic Matrix categorises procurement items based on the dimensions of supply risk and profit impact, providing a strategic framework for categorising spend categories and tailoring the tendering approach accordingly.

Aligning with Business Objectives

  • Open Tenders: Best suited for “Leverage” and “Non-critical” categories, where the market offers abundant suppliers or significant innovation. For “Leverage” items, where spending is high, but supply risk is low, open tenders maximise competition, driving down costs and fostering innovation. In “Non-critical” categories, where both spend and risk are low, open tenders simplify procurement, broadening the supplier base without adding significant risk.
  • Closed Tenders: Ideal for “Strategic” and “Bottleneck” categories. “Strategic” items, critical to the company’s success with high market complexity, benefit from closed tenders that focus on building strong, collaborative supplier relationships, ensuring supply continuity, and leveraging innovation tailored to specific needs. “Bottleneck” items, characterised by high supply risk but low spend, necessitate a closed approach to manage supplier risks and ensure reliability carefully.

Navigating Market Dynamics

  • Open Tenders shine in dynamic markets, particularly for “Leverage” and “Non-critical” categories. They allow organisations to quickly adapt to market shifts, embracing emerging trends and technologies that can provide a competitive edge or improve sustainability.
  • Closed Tenders provide stability and depth in supplier relationships for “Strategic” and “Bottleneck” categories. They’re crucial in markets where specialised knowledge or capabilities are paramount, and the focus is on mitigating risk and securing key resources.

Fostering Innovation

  • Open Tenders are gateways to innovation, especially relevant for “Leverage” items where the goal is to push the envelope in terms of cost-efficiency and product or service innovation. This approach encourages a plethora of ideas and solutions, driving value beyond cost.
  • Closed Tenders facilitate targeted innovation within “Strategic” categories. Companies can co-develop bespoke solutions that directly contribute to competitive advantage and strategic goals by working closely with a few selected suppliers.

Building Strategic Partnerships

  • Open Tenders help diversify the supplier base in “Leverage” and “Non-critical” categories, laying the groundwork for future strategic partnerships. Regular market engagement through open tenders identifies potential partners that could move into more strategic roles over time.
  • Closed Tenders deepen relationships with key suppliers in “Strategic” and “Bottleneck” categories. These partnerships are not merely transactional; they are strategic alliances focused on mutual growth, innovation, and achieving competitive advantage.

This nuanced approach ensures that procurement strategies align with immediate needs and support long-term business objectives, market positioning, and the dynamic landscape of supplier innovation and partnership. By carefully considering the nature of each category and its strategic importance, organisations can tailor their tendering processes to optimise outcomes, mitigate risks, and capitalise on opportunities for innovation and growth.

3. Case Studies and Real-World Examples

Case Study 1: Open Tender for a Municipal Infrastructure Project

Background: A local government aimed to upgrade its aging infrastructure. Given the project’s significance and the need for transparency, an open tender was chosen to attract a wide range of bids.

Decision-Making Process: The municipality established clear criteria for sustainability, innovation, community impact, and cost. They advertised the tender widely, using digital platforms to ensure broad visibility.

Challenges: The open process attracted many proposals, requiring extensive review. Ensuring fairness and transparency while managing such a volume of bids proved challenging, necessitating additional resources for evaluation.

Outcomes: The competitive nature of the open tender led to the discovery of a new supplier offering an innovative, cost-effective solution with significant sustainability benefits. The project was completed below budget and ahead of schedule, enhancing community infrastructure and setting a new standard for public projects.

Case Study 2: Closed Tender for a Corporate IT System Upgrade

Background: A multinational corporation sought to upgrade its global IT systems. With highly specialised requirements and a focus on security, the company opted for a closed tender, inviting bids from a shortlist of known vendors with proven expertise.

Decision-Making Process: The company conducted a pre-selection process based on past performance, technological capabilities, and strategic alignment. Invited vendors were asked to present comprehensive proposals addressing specific technical and operational requirements.

Challenges: Limiting the tender to known vendors raised concerns about missing out on potentially more innovative or cost-effective solutions. Ensuring the selected vendor could deliver a customised solution that met global standards across all company operations was crucial.

Outcomes: The closed tender facilitated deep engagement with vendors, leading to a highly customised IT solution that met the company’s specific needs. The process fostered stronger partnerships and resulted in a system upgrade that significantly improved efficiency, security, and scalability across global operations.

Key Takeaways

These case studies highlight the nuanced decision-making between open and closed tenders. The open tender’s transparency and competitive diversity benefited the municipal infrastructure project, leading to an innovative and cost-effective solution. In contrast, the corporate IT upgrade required the focused expertise and customisation that a closed tender could provide, emphasising the value of established relationships and deep collaboration.

4. Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations play a critical role in the tendering process, underpinning the integrity and credibility of procurement activities. Ensuring fairness, transparency, and robust anti-corruption measures are ethical imperatives and strategic necessities that influence an organisation’s reputation and operational success. When choosing between open and closed tenders, these ethical dimensions must be carefully weighed to foster an environment of trust and accountability.


Open Tenders inherently promote fairness by allowing any interested supplier to participate. This inclusivity ensures that opportunities are not restricted to a select few, minimising the risk of favouritism or bias. However, to truly uphold fairness, the criteria and evaluation process must be clearly defined and applied consistently to all participants.

Closed Tenders, while more restrictive, can still be conducted ethically by ensuring the selection criteria for invitation are transparent and based on objective performance measures. The reasons for limiting participation must be justifiable, such as specialised expertise or security considerations, and not arbitrary or exclusionary.


Transparency in the tendering process is vital for both open and closed tenders but manifests differently:

Open Tenders demonstrate transparency through public advertisements of tender opportunities, clear documentation of requirements, and open communication about the evaluation criteria and process. Post-tender, disclosing the rationale for selection or rejection can further enhance transparency.

Closed Tenders require transparency in the selection of invitees, with clear communication about why certain suppliers were chosen for the opportunity. Although the pool is more controlled, the process within that pool— from tender release to award—should be as transparent as open tenders, ensuring all participants are treated equally and assessed fairly.

Anti-Corruption Measures

Both tendering processes must incorporate stringent anti-corruption measures to maintain integrity and public trust:

Open Tenders benefit from their visibility, which can act as a deterrent to unethical behaviour. Implementing rigorous audit trails, ensuring separation of duties in the evaluation process, and establishing a mechanism for complaints and appeals can mitigate corruption risks.

Closed Tenders may be perceived as more susceptible to corruption due to their private nature. Countermeasures should include thoroughly vetting suppliers, maintaining a register of conflicts of interest, and ensuring that the reasons for supplier selection are well-documented and can withstand scrutiny.

Upholding Ethical Standards

Regardless of the tendering approach, organisations must adhere to high ethical standards, which include:

  • Developing and enforcing a comprehensive code of conduct for procurement activities.
  • Training staff and suppliers on ethical practices and expectations.
  • Establishing independent oversight functions to monitor compliance and investigate allegations of misconduct.

By integrating these ethical considerations into the tendering process, organisations safeguard against legal and reputational risks and contribute to a fairer, more transparent, and accountable procurement ecosystem. This commitment to ethics attracts quality suppliers, fosters innovation, and builds strategic partnerships based on mutual respect and integrity.

5. Evaluation Criteria Beyond Price

When selecting between open and closed tenders, it’s crucial for organisations to consider evaluation criteria that extend beyond the immediate allure of price. A multidimensional approach to assessing bids ensures that the procurement strategy aligns with broader business objectives, sustainability goals, and operational needs.


Quality is paramount, as it directly impacts the end product or service delivered to customers. Organisations should define clear quality standards and benchmarks that proposals must meet or exceed. This could involve specifications for materials, performance metrics, compliance with industry standards, and evidence of quality control processes. In both open and closed tenders, quality assessments help ensure that cost savings do not come at the expense of product integrity or service excellence.


Sustainability has transitioned from a nice-to-have to a must-have criterion, reflecting organisational commitments to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability. Bidders should be evaluated on their environmental policies, practices (such as waste reduction, energy efficiency, and sustainable sourcing), and social responsibility initiatives. This includes their labor practices, community engagement, and contributions to economic sustainability. Selecting suppliers who prioritise sustainability can enhance an organisation’s brand reputation, meet regulatory requirements, and drive long-term value.

Delivery Capabilities

The ability of a supplier to meet delivery timelines and adapt to changes in demand is critical to maintaining operational continuity and customer satisfaction. Evaluation criteria should include the supplier’s logistical capabilities, flexibility, and resilience to disruptions. This encompasses their track record for on-time delivery, capacity for scaling production up or down, and contingency plans for addressing supply chain challenges. In the context of open and closed tenders, understanding a supplier’s delivery capabilities can mitigate risks associated with supply chain volatility.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

TCO provides a comprehensive view of the costs associated with purchasing, implementing, using, and disposing of a product or service over its entire lifecycle. Beyond the initial purchase price, TCO includes installation, maintenance, support, operational efficiency, and end-of-life disposal or recycling costs. Evaluating bids based on TCO ensures that decisions account for long-term financial implications rather than just the upfront expenditure. This approach supports sustainable procurement practices by emphasising value over cost.

Innovation Potential

Assessing a supplier’s ability to bring innovative solutions can be a game-changer. This includes their commitment to research and development, track record of innovation in products or processes, and ability to customise solutions to meet specific needs. In an open tender, innovation potential can differentiate suppliers in a competitive field. In closed tenders, selecting suppliers known for innovation can lead to strategic partnerships that drive continuous improvement and competitive advantage.

Incorporating these comprehensive evaluation criteria into the tendering process enables organisations to make informed decisions that balance cost with considerations of quality, sustainability, delivery capabilities, TCO, and innovation potential. This holistic approach ensures that procurement activities contribute positively to the organisation’s strategic objectives, operational efficiency, and social and environmental responsibilities.

In Part 2 of our exploration into the nuances of tendering processes, we’ve delved deeper into strategic, ethical, and evaluative considerations that influence the choice between open and closed tenders. We emphasised the importance of aligning tendering processes with broader business objectives, the market’s dynamics, sustainability considerations, and the need for ethical integrity and comprehensive evaluation beyond mere price considerations.

This discussion builds on the foundational knowledge presented in Part 1, which covered the basics of open and closed tenders, their benefits, and downsides. 

By reading Part 1 and then Part 2, you will explore a range of critical questions that guide you through the complexities of choosing between open and closed tenders, ensuring a strategic fit for your procurement needs.

Here’s a list of key questions that these segments collectively address:

  1. What are the fundamental differences between open and closed tenders, and how do these differences impact the procurement process?
  2. How can the choice of tendering process align with your organisation’s strategic objectives and broader business goals?
  3. What are the legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind when selecting a tendering process, and how do they influence decision-making?
  4. Beyond price, what comprehensive evaluation criteria should organisations use to assess bids, ensuring a holistic approach to supplier selection?
  5. How do open and closed tenders address fairness, transparency, and anti-corruption measures within the procurement process?
  6. What implications do open and closed tenders have on long-term business objectives, supplier relationships, and market positioning?
  7. How can organisations navigate market dynamics effectively through their choice of tendering process to adapt to changing conditions and foster innovation?
  8. What role does sustainability play in the tender evaluation process, and how can it be integrated effectively into procurement decisions?
  9. In what ways can the tendering process influence and facilitate the development of strategic partnerships with suppliers?
  10. How can organisations ensure that their tendering process supports ethical considerations and promotes a fair, transparent procurement environment?
  11. What are the real-world implications of choosing either an open or closed tendering approach, as illustrated through case studies and examples?
  12. How is the total cost of ownership (TCO) a factor in the tender evaluation process, and why is it critical for making informed procurement decisions?

As we conclude this series, we invite you to engage with the content further—whether by revisiting Part 1 for a comprehensive understanding, sharing your thoughts and experiences in the comments, posing questions, or reaching out directly for more in-depth discussions. Your insights and inquiries enrich the conversation, helping us navigate the complexities of tendering processes more effectively.