Supplier poll claims to find ‘lack of clarity’ in majority of Digital Marketplace opportunities

Misunderstandings must surely mean that contracts are not always awarded to the best supplier for the job, fears the DOS supplier that carried out the survey

Posted 11 January 2018 at 9:36am by

A new survey among UK SMEs by public sector digital specialist dxw has identified what it claims to be “a worrying lack of clarity” in public sector digital procurement.

Reviewing opportunities published on the Digital Marketplace in a three week period in October 2017, respondents claim to have found that the vast majority, 71%, “did not adequately explain what problem was to be solved” and 74% “did not clearly describe user needs”.

Just 13% of published opportunities were rated as “generally good” by most survey respondents, while 65% were rated as generally “bad”.

Other survey findings:
·          77% of opportunities require six or more essential skills
·          71% did not clearly explain the pre-tender market engagement, if present
·          68% did not have a clear summary of work
·          65% did not adequately explain why the work was being done
·          45% shortlisted five or more suppliers
·          and 32% did not clearly describe the budget.

“It seems very likely that  the quality of writing in opportunities is putting off SMEs who are more than capable of undertaking these projects,” said the company’s MD, Harry Metcalfe.

“Many opportunities are unclear and some are essentially incomprehensible – except perhaps to the incumbent supplier.

“Clearer opportunities will ensure there is a wider, more diverse pool of suppliers, which will provide greater value for money for the public sector and better services for users.”

The company makes a big caveat about all this: that it carried out the research alongside client work, which has limited the time it was able to spend on it, so it “should not be considered rigorous”.

However, it hopes its data provides “a general sense of the problem” and makes a useful contribution to the ongoing process of improving procurement of digital services.

dxw built a tool which gathered opportunities published on the Digital Marketplace in a three week period to October 13 2017 and invited suppliers and clients who use the Digital Marketplace to vote on their clarity: 2996 votes were cast, on 31 opportunities.

All were for outcomes opportunities, not specialists, and results were produced from a combination of vote analysis and examination of data (e.g. counting the number of opportunities with more than six essential skills).

In a blog reflecting on the findings his company claims to have uncovered, Metcalfe added that believes that the message needs to be heard by GDS:

“This is a huge missed opportunity. The public sector’s supplier base is smaller and less varied than it could be. And in individual procurements, these misunderstandings must surely mean that contracts are not always awarded to the best supplier for the job.

“Ultimately, this leads to poorer outcomes for users… I hope that the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework will face this head-on in its next iteration.”