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The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2 framework launched in February 2017, helping the public sector to find suppliers that can buy, design, build and deliver software and test their websites or software. Niall Quinn, director for the Technology Strategic Category of CCS, discusses the aims, objectives and impact of the new framework, how it is driving government spend to SMEs, and the growing importance of digital
The public sector in this country is keenly aware of the opportunities that digital provides for bringing government closer and make it more comprehensible to ordinary citizens. Thousands of digital projects are ongoing in local authorities, police forces, NHS bodies and hundreds more public sector entities as I write this, demonstrating just how crucial it is that government is able to aggregate its demand and leverage its size to maximise commercial benefits and make public money go further.
At the same time, the government’s go-to provider of common goods and services, Crown Commercial Service (CCS), is committed to facilitating the growth of SMEs and increasing opportunities for small and medium-sized providers to supply to government.
An SME-friendly framework
The second iteration of Digital Outcomes and Specialists, launched in February, has proven to be extremely SME-friendly. From the earliest work to improve and build upon the strengths of the previous iteration of the framework, we have designed the agreement to maximise the opportunities for SMEs - initially, in securing their place on the framework, and then by making it as straightforward as possible for them to sell their services to public sector customers.
The numbers back us up on the success of these measures with small and medium-sized enterprises. Of the 2,018 suppliers on Digital Outcomes and Specialists, 1,900 (94 per cent) are SMEs. This supports the government’s pledge to spend £1 in every £3 through SMEs.
In the months since the framework opened for business, £4.5 million has already been spent by the public sector with businesses, with £1.7 million, or 38 per cent of the total going to SMEs. Overall, central government and wider public sector spend through the first iteration of Digital Outcomes and Specialists is now over £26 million, with 32 per cent of it going to SMEs.
Achieving this kind of spend is about making both sides of the process as easy as possible to complete. That means appealing to SME and larger suppliers in the first place through simple, easy to complete bidder packs, and then supporting public sector customers with a logical and assured process to buy in digital expertise.
An agile solution for buyers and suppliers
With such a broad range of requirements - from the design of local authority websites or software to user research studios and participants for central government departments or arm’s-length bodies - it’s crucial that suppliers can be agile with their offer. Designing an online billing application for a large, unitary local authority in the north of England, with features that make it suitable for use by large numbers of older or vulnerable adults or their families is very different to supplying a digital solution for a rural NHS Trust that wants to automate its online booking system.
One solution might involve a team of web developers working in-house and in tandem with public sector colleagues - the other a remote, project managed development with a diary of video conferences and key delivery milestones. The depth and range of suppliers on Digital Outcomes and Specialists makes these kinds of projects achievable, and affordable.
Buyers can access suppliers with the right capabilities, who comply with the Digital by Default Standard and align with the Government Digital Service Design Manual. Intellectual property rights for project-developed solutions are owned by the buyer and can be shared and reused with any other public sector buyer, ensuring longevity and efficiency across agencies. Sustainability is built into the foundations of the agreement.
From the suppliers’ side, we’re making it easier for SMEs and larger suppliers by enabling them to provide short, concise initial responses to buyer requirements, only going on to complete full tender responses if they are successful in being shortlisted.
The framework is also designed to be agile in its length and scope - it’s a 12 month framework with the option to extend for another 12 months. Contracts under Digital Outcomes and Specialists can run for 24 months, providing flexibility for longer projects. All engagements under the framework are based on customers specifying outcomes with specific deliverables.
About the framework
Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2 is a dynamic style framework with the specific aim of helping the public sector buy, design, build and deliver digital outcomes using an agile approach, by procuring the appropriate specialist resource to deliver agile software development.
The agreement is split into four lots: Lot 1 – Digital outcomes: teams to build and support a digital service; Lot 2 – Digital specialists: individual specialists to deliver a specific outcome with defined deliverables on a service, programme or project; Lot 3 – User research studios: space and facilities to carry out interviews, usability tests and focus groups; watch and record people as they engage with designs, prototypes and live public sector services; and Lot 4 – User research participants: access to a diverse range of user research participants including people who are digitally excluded, as well as those who have low literacy or digital skills, and those who need assisted digital support.
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