Building Capability: Digital Commissioning and Supplier Relationship Management

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Across local government generally there’s a lack of skills in digital commissioning; recent engagements have evidenced gaps in understanding / knowledge on:

  • how to most effectively use commercial agreements
  • procurement and digital / technology teams working together effectively

At a local level Hackney is looking at how to build skills and confidence in this area, in a landscape where they’re using smaller suppliers, developing an agile culture and embracing the Digital Marketplace wholly as it’s intended.

Our hypothesis: by better understanding the current context and developing interventions delivered at a local level, we’ll be able to support collaborative and constructive relationships across the public and commercial sectors, focussed on joint delivery. This is one of two fundamental objectives and priorities set out in the Government Transformation Strategy:

This builds on work of CCS supported by GDS, to develop and grow a newly established digital buying community.

Collectively central to this transformation is:

This project will be predominantly delivered via an 8-week discovery (estimated £80k cost, delivered as an outcome commissioned via the Digital Marketplace) to identify:

  • what are the broader users’ needs across the UK’s local government sector, including:
    • how have leading Local Authorities approached building digital commercial, procurement and contract / supplier relationship management capability
    • what are the blockers to Local Authorities in building digital commercial, procurement and contract / supplier relationship management capability
    • what does supporting successful collaborative delivery throughout the end-to-end digital, data and technology lifecycle look like, at a Local Authority level
  • how much of this can be commodified, to provide patterns and approaches that scale for the benefit of the local government sector, as well as central government and wider public sector
  • potential scope, activities and anticipated budget required for a follow-up alpha

Essential events and milestones include:

  • development of the Digital Marketplace brief / opportunity, evaluation, and contract awarded (6-8 weeks)
  • initial scoping meetings, familiarisation and on-boarding (1 week)
  • discovery project delivery (8 weeks)

How will we know that we have met our objectives? We will have:

  • a clearly articulated set of user needs, based on user research
  • better understood current best practice, blockers and pain points of users
  • identified the scope and potential deliverables for alpha, including identifying wider number of exemplar partners for the alpha stage (likelihood of your discovery benefitting as many others organisations as possible
  • published all our work openly on the Local Gov Pipeline and blogged as we’re progressing (working in the open)
  • identified our KPIs – including how users may demonstrate cost savings to their organisation (cost saving and cost avoidance calculations)
  • met the local service standard, including holding a formal service standard assessment at the end of the discovery project

The current costs associated with the problem we’re looking to address are undetermined, but anticipated to be myriad due to the impact of procurement in UK (but also global) public sector value chains.

When it’s done well, public procurement (as an essential element of digital commissioning) can be a significant enabler and creator of social value. Conversely, when it’s done poorly and in isolation of users’ (citizens, businesses, etc) needs, outcomes, and impacts, public procurement can be a significant disabler and eroder of social value.

The scope of the proposed discovery research could include establishing initial baseline estimates.

These costs, which may vary between each different public sector buying organisation, are likely to include:

  • delays to project / programme delivery due to the time it takes to award contracts with third parties, caused by lengthy, overly-prescriptive, inflexible, risk-averse and bureaucratic procurement processes being followed
  • lack of competition due to market concentration, caused by ‘designing’ procurements that result in routes to market that favour a small number of (typically larger) service providers, rather than diversified supply chains including the third-sector (voluntary, charitable and social enterprise organisations)

Hackney specifically have identified the following benefits from this work:

  • Document and then share best practice with other local authorities where Hackney has led the way
  • Better contracts that allow effective collaboration with suppliers – leading to a positive impact on collaboration and working in the open environment
  • Shorter procurement lead times enabling Hackney/buyers to deliver new services at pace
  • Increased confidence amongst all ICT staff in Hackney/buyers enabling us to buy and manage digital services more effectively, including innovative new types of services in the future
  • Better understanding of the challenges faced both individually and together between Procurement and Digital/Technology teams

We’ll ensure work done is relevant to others by:

  • including as many councils as possible in the discovery research
  • sharing the findings with other councils
  • working in the open
  • feeding into the digital buying community
  • showcasing work done within the different events for Local Digital Declaration

With Essex County Council (ECC) we’ve agreed to engage on two sessions to set out the customer needs, based on the following agenda:

Day 1

  1. Vision – ECC Executive Director
  2. Overview of how digital teams work (agile ways of working / different needs and requirements)
  3. Overview of procurement priorities and internal governance requirements
  4. Hackney – sharing their journey
  5. Overview of Digital Marketplace and CCS frameworks

Day 2

  1. Build on day 1 overview of frameworks (getting into the detail of what can and can’t be done)
  2. Working sessions:
    • Discuss how to plan most effectively for Tech and Digital procurement activity (buying journey and timescales)
    • Sketch out some principles for how we’ll work going forwards

As a result of this proposed discovery phase, we will have produced the following:

    • A clearly articulated business case and benefits case that explains the costs associated with the problems and the potential for savings, so that local authorities across the UK (and potentially beyond) can understand and advocate for investment in building skills and capabilities in the area of digital commissioning
    • An openly published user research report, justifying our conclusions through evidence, and any other useful user research artefacts including our methodology and approach, so that others may benefit from this (for example, the GDS Global Digital Marketplace Programme team)
    • ‘Wardley Maps’ showing the ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ of digital commissioning skills development
  • A clearly articulated proposal for:
    • a product or service we might develop in alpha, which relates to the problems and users’ needs we’ve identified in discovery, including potential scope, activities, timescales, and the team and anticipated budget required for this work
    • further discovery work, if the problems or users’ needs turned out to be different from or more complex than imagined
    • discontinuing this work, if the discovery outcomes are such that no problems are identified, and users’ needs are being met

We also plan to hold a formal Local Government Digital Service Standard assessment at the end of the discovery project, the outcomes of which will be shared in the open. If this can be done within the discovery project timescales, it will be, otherwise it will be done as soon as possible afterwards.

We’ll ensure the discovery outputs are ready to share online by the last week of the project, by delivering using agile methodologies and following the core principles of:

  • focusing on users’ needs
  • delivering iteratively and incrementally
  • continuously improving how our team works
  • failing fast and learning quickly
  • continuously planning, inspecting and adapting

Who are our users?

We’re working to a hypothesis that our key users are:

  • existing commercial and procurement professionals in central and local government, and wider public sector organisations
  • buyers in smaller organisations who are responsible for buying a range of things – from stationery to corporate travel to technology
  • existing IT contract managers – these may have a range of responsibilities including application support, procurement, business support, service support, digital, etc
  • suppliers – both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and larger suppliers, and third-sector (voluntary, charitable and social enterprise) organisations
  • senior leaders in Local Authorities – CEOs, CTOs and CIOs, directors of key services and service areas, and procurement and commercial leads

How will we engage with users?

We plan to engage with our users through a number of channels, which we’ll inspect and adapt continuously throughout our delivery:

  • User research sessions (whether lab-based, contextual, or otherwise)
  • Surveys
  • Existing community networks (e.g. OneTeamGov, LocalGov Digital regional peer groups) and events (e.g. LocalGovCamp, etc)
  • Key stakeholders identified forming part of our proposed engagement plan

Proposed user research objectives

We will have:

  • a clearly articulated set of prioritised user needs, based on evidenced user research
  • a better understanding of current best practices, blockers and pain points of users
  • a better understanding of scope for delivery of digital services
  • a better understanding of how local authorities approach building digital, commercial, procurement and contract supplier management capability
  • a better understanding of how to support successful collaborative delivery throughout the end-to-end delivery lifecycle of digital, data and technology, at a Local Authority level

N/A – the collaborating teams across GDS, CCS, Hackney and the successful supplier awarded the discovery contract, will be self-sufficient and self-organising.

N/A – no funding has been granted for this project in the past.