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The St Astier Blog – all the latest news on our specialist repair schemes and related activities brought to you with a hefty dose of insight into the inner workings of our humble company.

Saving Time on PPQs, RFQs and Similar Tasks

Saving Time on PPQs, RFQs and Similar Tasks

How much time do you spend filling out construction related forms with the same standard information? Whether you're on the client or supplier side you'll no doubt be familiar with the often hefty administrative burden in the specifying, buying and selling of construction services for all concerned.

What's sucking your time?

For us, completing PQQ's – an important tool in mitigating risk for the buyer in the procurement of services – can represent a significant investment of time. Apart from project specific information, Buyers rightly need to know about a supplier's capacity, capability and infrastructure usually in the form of written responses on their policies, procedures and business practices etc. Duplication inevitably follows from one procurement document to the next.

The promise of procurement databases

Excellent services such as Constructionline, which brings buyer and seller together in the tendering process, are attempting to do away with some of this duplication by centralising key referenced and substantiated information on suppliers and providing access to opportunities for contractors. Of course, the extent to which suppliers can leverage the power of such a service depends upon which buyers in their areas of operation are signed up to the facility. The numbers of buyers using Constructionline is encouraging (disclosure: we’re registered with Constructionline as a supplier) but the presence of several competitors in the professional procurement market may mean that the full power of one single national database to rule them all may never be truly realised.

Many others have debated the issue of a procurement philosopher’s stone but there seems to be no clear agreement on a global panacea to put an end to some of the waste. Despite the simple but compelling business case for a change to the procurement process for all parties, a dramatic reduction in our own PQQ administration is probably some way off. What are we to do in the meantime?

The joy of text substitution

If you've found that you're repeating yourself far too often across several similar documents or God forbid re-typing the same information such as an address at several points in the same file (five times is the record for us) then you'll be amazed how much time and effort you can save with text substitution software.

Whole sentences or paragraphs can be produced by specifying a simple abbreviation in the software. Type your abbreviation in any application you're using and the software magically substitutes it for the expanded text. I use a wide range of easy to set up abbreviations to produce both simple and complex text: typing ‘tdy' expands to today's full date whilst typing ‘qpol' produces a full description of our standard procedures to ensure the quality of work on site.

Of course, it would be foolish to assume that all PQQ questions can be addressed with canned responses. Project specific questions demand well thought out, relevant answers that require a suitable investment of time in order to reap any sort of reward. It’s safe to say that structured procurement is a reality of public sector purchasing and perhaps we have to accept that the accompanying administration for SME’s such as ourselves is set to remain a cost of doing business for the time being. Whilst it wont do away with the administration, at least text substitution can speed up the form filling process.

Where to start

A web search for ‘text substitution software' will return both free and commercial options to investigate. After using several programs, I've found Breevy to have a perfect mix of power and ease of use. A single license works out at around £26 at present but pays for itself in no time.

The power of text substitution is not limited to completing questionnaires. I'm also using Breevy to quickly navigate to folders on our server, open frequently used files, launch programs and web pages, reply to emails and produce other standard communications faster than you can say ‘Heeeere’s Johnny!’.

Up your productivity for free

We’re giving away one free license for Breevy for you to use as you see fit. To be in with a chance of winning you’ll need to leave a comment below…tell us how you’d put the software to use or maybe even share a productivity tip of your own. If you’d prefer not to comment publicly then you can always send me an instead. We’ll pick a winner at random and announce the name in our November newsletter – sign-up below.