Digitising government services

The third Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework has been designed to support the public sector in its digital transformation of services. It helps buyers find suppliers that can research, design, build, test and deliver software applications and digital services

The government’s Transformation Strategy sets out how the government will harness digital technologies, skills and tools to transform public services and put the citizen first.
At the time of launching the strategy, Minister for the Cabinet Office Ben Gummer, said: “I want to see a revolution in the way we deliver public services – so that people up and down our country feel that government is at their service at every single stage in the journey.
“That is why we are publishing our Government Transformation Strategy, outlining our commitment to reshape government by ensuring millions of people are able to access online the services they need, whenever they need. We will deliver these changes while driving efficiencies wherever possible, making considerable savings for the taxpayer.
“Only by transforming the relationship between the citizen and the state – so that the latter serves the former – will we deliver the Prime Minister’s commitment to build a country that works for everyone.”

Procuring digital services

To help the government achieve its digital ambitions, there are a range of framework agreements from the Crown Commercial Service, designed to make procuring digital services easier and cost effective.
The Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework and G-Cloud frameworks for example, mean that government can buy the right technology and services from the right suppliers at the right price. By making procurement clear and simple, they are opening up the marketplace to suppliers of all sizes and from all parts of the country. They are creating a level playing field that means that all private sector enterprises can be involved in helping government work better for everyone.
The Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework agreement helps the public sector to find suppliers that can research, design, build, test and deliver software applications and digital services.
Since its launch at the end of April 2016, over 1,850 opportunities for suppliers to do business with the public sector, have been published on the Digital Marketplace.
Almost £280 million has been spent through the framework since its inception, with over £100 million going to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The previous version of the framework had 2,018 suppliers, with 94 per cent of them SMEs.
Now the third version of the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework (DOS3) is live, having undergone a refreshment.  

The third Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework

The Digital Outcomes and Specialists 3 framework has been designed to support the public sector in its digital transformation of public sector services. It helps the public sector to find suppliers that can research, design, build, test and deliver software applications and digital services.
It 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 framework is based on the approach detailed in the Government Service Design Manual and complies with the Digital by Default Service Standard. The contract terms and conditions have been designed to reflect the flexible, iterative way of an agile approach.
The framework will be awarded for an initial term of 12 months, with an option for CCS to extend the deal for a further year. Individual call-off contracts of up to two years – plus a six-month extension – can be awarded via the framework.
The framework is available for use across the public sector, including central government departments and local councils, as well as charities and the NHS.

Why was the agreement developed?

This framework has been developed to create a diverse pool of specialist, agile service providers to enable government and the public sector to move traditional services to a user centric design service, which is lower cost and flexible to enable continuous development and improvement. It specifically enables and supports the government’s digital by default strategy and cloud adoption commitment.

How was the agreement developed?

Digital Outcomes and Specialists 3 has been developed in collaboration with the Government Digital Service (GDS), building on the feedback received from users on Digital Services 1 and 2, and Digital Outcomes and Specialists 1 and 2.
This iteration has been re-designed by a team from CCS, GDS and GLD (Government Legal Department). The design has encompassed buyer and supplier engagement, feedback and iteration.
Contract simplification and the use of plain english have played a part in the redesign of this iteration of the framework.

What’s available?

Digital Outcomes and Specialists 3 is available through the Digital Marketplace, a website which was created by the Government Digital Service in collaboration with the Crown Commercial Service to make government procurement easier, faster and more transparent. The Digital Marketplace  allows buyers to find technology or people for digital projects in the public sector.
Buyers will need to run a further competition for each requirement by using the online buying tool on the Digital Marketplace. Guidance and a list of suppliers are available on the Digital Marketplace.
Digital Outcomes and Specialists 3 comprises four lots: digital outcomes, digital specialists, research studios and research participants.
Lot 1, for digital outcomes, is for teams to build and support a digital service, with the capabilities to deliver performance analysis and data, security and service development, as well as many more.
Lot 2, for digital specialists, is for individuals to deliver a defined service, programme or project. They include data engineers, performance analysts and user researcher, among others.
Lot 3 is for user research studios, for suppliers with the facilities to carry out interviews, usability tests and focus groups. This may involve filming people as they engage with your designs, prototypes or services.
Lot 4 is for user research participants, for suppliers of user research. Participants are likely to include people who are digitally excluded, as well as those with low literacy or poor digital skills.

Main changes between DOS2 and DOS3

The existing roles available under Lot 2 of DOS2 did not cover all of the relevant digital, data and technology framework (DDAT) specialisms. The CCS has therefore added three roles under Lot 2: data architect; data engineer; and data scientist.
The deed of guarantee exists under DOS2 and DOS3 as an optional schedule. The optional status has been made more explicit in DOS3.
Regarding changes made because of the GDPR, the standard model under the framework is that the customer is the data controller, and the supplier is the data processor. For a small number of cases, both the customer and supplier may be controllers. The CCS has provided optional material drawn from PPN2/18 to support customers in these circumstances, although they will need to define the actual relationship. Regarding jurisdictions, DOS2 only allowed for contracts under the laws of England and Wales. There are optional clauses under DOS3 to allow for the jurisdiction to be changed to Scotland or Northern Ireland. The ordering process has been better clarified under DOS3. The CCS has made explicit that customers should provide feedback to suppliers that don’t get shortlisted at the end of shortlisting, rather than waiting until the end of the procurement.
In DOS2, Statements of Works referred to a ‘Release’ but did not define what it meant and allowed customers to come up with local definitions. In DOS3, CCS is more specific about what constitutes a ‘Release’ in order to make the framework clearer and easier to use.
Niall Quinn, director technology strategic category at CCS, said: “DOS3 enables hundreds of new suppliers to be able to provide services to the public sector and further underpins the government’s work to level the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses.
“The success of DOS2 was built on creating a Community of Practice to help share best practice to clearly define problems and we will continue to build on this with DOS3.”
Dave Draper, managing director of SME Valtech, said: “This latest version of DOS continues to provide the consistency and transparency that SMEs need to engage on a level playing field. The inclusion of data roles represents the acceptance of this critical capability in delivering joined up digital government, something Valtech is passionate about.”

Complying with the Standard

Products under the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 3 framework must comply with Digital by Default Service Standard, which provides the principles of building a good digital service, based on a set of 18 criteria.
All public facing transactional services must meet the standard. It’s used by departments and the Government Digital Service to check whether a service is good enough for public use.
Firstly the digital service must understand user needs by researching who the service users are and what that means for the design of the service.
The second criteria is to ensure ongoing user research and usability testing to continuously seek feedback from users to improve the service.
It must have a sustainable multidisciplinary team that can design, build and operate the service, led by a suitably skilled and
senior service owner with decision-making responsibility. The service must be built using agile and user-centred methods and must be improved
on a frequent basis.
Service builders must evaluate what tools and systems will be used to build, host, operate and measure the service, and how to procure them.
Crucially, there must be an understanding of security and privacy issues. Service builders must evaluate what user data and information the digital service will be providing or storing and address the security level, legal responsibilities, privacy issues and risks associated with the service (consulting with experts where appropriate).
There is a requirement to make all new source code open and reusable, and publish it under appropriate licences (or provide a convincing explanation as to why this can’t be done for specific subsets of the source code). The service must use open standards and common platforms where available, including GOV.UK Verify as an option or identity assurance.

Service developers must be able to test the end-to-end service in an environment identical to that of the live version, including on all common browsers and devices, and using dummy accounts and a representative sample of users.
There must be a plan in the event of the digital service being taken temporarily offline.
The standard calls for developers to create a service which is simple to use and intuitive enough that users succeed the first time.
The user experience must be consistent with the user experience of the rest of GOV.UK including using the design patterns and style guide.
All users must be encourage to use the digital service (with assisted digital support if required) alongside an appropriate plan to phase out non-digital channels and services.

The service developer must have the tools to collect performance data and use this data to analyse the success of the service and to translate this into features and tasks for the next phase of development.
Service builders must be able to identify performance indicators for the service, including the four mandatory key performance indicators (KPIs) defined in the manual.
They must also be able to establish a benchmark for each metric and make a plan to enable improvements.

Finally, service builders must be able to report performance data on the Performance Platform and test the service from beginning to end with the minister responsible for it.

Digital Marketplace

Buyers can shop for DOS3 suppliers on the government’s Digital Marketplace website.
The Digital Marketplace was launched in 2014, as a single place for the public sector to access and buy IT commodities and services – such as site analytics and hosting services. It has replaced the previous CloudStore and is the single store for buyers of Digital Services.
The simple design of the Digital Marketplace makes it easier for buyers to find what they need. It has been built using an agile, user-centric design approach, meaning that it can be continually adapted and improved based on users’ feedback.
The former Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said at the time of launch: “We know that the range of frameworks and stores can be confusing. That’s why the new Digital Marketplace, which makes it clearer, simpler and faster for the whole of the public sector to buy digital products and services when it needs to, is a vast improvement for both supplier and customer.
“This will ultimately lead to the delivery of better services for the public, and means that we can continue to work with a range of quality suppliers of all sizes.”
Suppliers must register for an account on the Digital Marketplace to take part in bidding.
i-movo Limited, an SME based in Southwark, won a DWP contract through Digital Marketplace. The company now delivers an online voucher system to support benefit claimants who are not able to access their payments through the bank. David Tymm, CEO of i-movo said: “The process of joining and winning through the Digital Marketplace is straightforward even for niche solution providers like us. We worked in partnership with our customer to deliver a solution which supports vulnerable citizens to access government services, and which at the same time will enable us to grow our reputation and our business.”

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