Latest Public Sector News


The digital buying community is live

Source: PSE Oct/Nov 2018

Many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace were either non-compliant or poorly worded, which resulted in challenges from suppliers and delayed timescales for buyers. Crown Commercial Service (CCS) decided to go out and talk to its users to train them to create better, more targeted content, reveals Emilia Cedeno, category manager (digital).

A year ago, the procurement operations team at CCS embarked on a journey to help buyers of digital, data and technology services from across the public and third sector build their commercial and technical awareness.

These services are accessed through the Digital Marketplace, set up in 2014 by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and CCS. CCS’s Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS), G-Cloud and Crown Hosting Data Centres frameworks are all accessed through the Digital Marketplace.

The platform has been a major success. In the last year alone, £1.3bn has been spent through Digital Marketplace, with £602m going to SMEs.

One of the aims of the Digital Marketplace was the simplification of the procurement process for buyers – including ensuring that public bodies’ and suppliers’ requirements and understanding of the procurement process are aligned.

The DOS framework was launched in 2016 as the route to market for application development services to support the digital transformation agenda. The agreement has been growing in size, from a 2016-17 spend of £41m to a 2017-18 spend of £284m.

The procurement operations team at CCS found that many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace for DOS were either non-compliant or poorly worded, resulting in challenges from suppliers and delayed timescales for buyers.

The solution, the team found, was to go out and talk to users to see how CCS could provide extra support and guidance.

When the team completed a discovery process – an extensive period of user engagement over a number of workshops across the public sector – they found that many of those involved in the procurement of digital services felt uncertain about how some framework processes, such as creating a requirement and evaluation, worked. It was clear that there was a need to build a better technical and commercial understanding.

To deliver this knowledge, CCS collaborated with the Digital Marketplace team at GDS to deliver workshops on topics like agile statement of works, balanced scorecards and writing agile requirements:

  • Working with the Ministry of Justice to develop templates for writing requirements in an agile way, enabling the procurement team to be aligned with the digital team;
  • ‘Holding hands’ with Highways England when developing its procurements for digital transformation, delivering different workshops over two weeks until all requirements were ready to go to market;
  • Engaging with different teams within the Home Office to understand the correct route to market for their requirement and to debate the different approaches they could use.

The journey has, at times, been a difficult one. Building capability is a big job and represents a step-change for both central government and the wider public sector.

How to get involved

After delivering more than 90 workshops, CCS and GDS decided to launch a ‘digital buying community’ to create and support a peer group of buyers from the public and third sector who can share knowledge, discuss common challenges and develop solutions.The community meets once a quarter and includes buyers from across the public sector, including central government, local government and health. The community has fostered cross-government conversation, allowing common digital commissioning challenges to be shared and solved as a group.

Digital procurement professionals have the potential to be powerful enablers of agile service delivery. By bringing them together to share their expertise, we hope to be able to spread best practice for buying digital and technology services across the public sector.

The aim is to get 100 buyers to join the digital buying community. If you want to participate, or know of any buyers that would benefit from joining, search ‘digital buying community’ and get in touch.


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