DOS3 Event: Hang in there!
On a lovely sunny August morning we gathered at techUK to talk DOS3. With an excellent line up of speakers it promised to be a great day. It delivered!
There was a lot of questions asked, a few surprising issues raised and a lot of good news shared that we will be following very closely. I’ve decided to start this blog in reverse order of the event since the most interesting bit in my opinion was the Q&A session at the end (sorry Chris!).
DOS Community of Practice
Two of the suppliers raised questions around standardising elements of the DOS tender process. CCS were asked if they considered having a standard set of questions buyers can use in DOS procurement. This would contribute to tenders being more understandable and straight forward for suppliers. Another area that was raised was in need to some unifying, is feedback. At the moment buyers, when they provide feedback to unsuccessful suppliers, don’t have to follow any particular format. This results in, at times, feedback that is very difficult to understand and of no real use for suppliers looking to optimise their future responses.
In response, Emilia Cedeno, Category Manager at CCS shared that they are currently working on these, and other issues, as part of the DOS Community of Practice. Now I’ve heard of this on Twitter before but not much is being shared about it (and I feel it should!). This collaborative project looks to build capabilities among buyers in using DOS as well as make DOS a better experience for suppliers. Seemingly standardisation is just one of the questions being approached by the group.
Getting there is of course a huge task but, things are happening. Emilia noted “when we started the Community our first workshop was attended by 13 people. Next week we are holding our 80th and I am hoping for 90 participants.” Another asset mentioned to suppliers (that some of them I gathered, were not aware of!) was the CCS Mystery shopper service. Suppliers were urged to use the service to alert CCS of issues such as lack of feedback or badly written tender opportunities.
A bit of a shocker…
A somewhat shocking discovery is that some suppliers have had experiences with buyers not contacting them at all – not even to let them know the tender was awarded. The opportunity status was left as “Processing” in the DOS dashboard for months. We have never heard of this happening before and it was news to both CCS and dxw.
This of course shouldn’t be happening, and CCS urged suppliers to report any such instances. Suppliers they should first try and engage with the buyer directly but if that doesn’t work Mystery Shopper should be the next stop. I can see a situation where the Awarded button had simply not been pushed by the buyer due to them being too busy for “admin”. But transparency has been hard won in public sector procurement and should definitely be maintained.
Niall and the G-Cloud extra-terrestrials
Now, back onto the presentation portion of the day. The event kicked of with Niall Quinn, Strategic Category Director Technology from Crown Commercial Service. Niall gave an overview of where they are at the moment with DOS3. There is usually 10-15% drop off of suppliers who start but do not complete their application. Commenting on why, Niall gave two reasons:
- Disqualifying themselves out – sometimes it can be tricky for suppliers to know how to respond to qualifying questions. Mistakes such as accidentally replying Yes to a questions such as are you employing slave labour is not as uncommon as one would think. It was nice to hear that CCS often follows up with these suppliers to check if their answer was an accident. I’m guessing that’s wise for many reasons, not just framework related but also just in case we are dealing with a guilt-ridden confessor… Not likely but worth double checking!
- Realising that they are applying for the wrong framework half way into the application – We have seen this quite a bit at Advice Cloud. Sometimes it can be tricky to know and unfortunately not all suppliers do their research before they click on the apply button.
My favourite part of the talk was what I saw as proof of a changing face of CCS – a more approachable and friendly image. Niall referenced the recent articles about a G-Cloud supplier out of this world: the extra-terrestrial code that was on offer. He confirmed that CCS does not have a need for alien mark-up language but that “they are delighted to know that this framework is easy to use and that it is attracting suppliers from this world and beyond”. Now I am sure that there is a lot of serious discussion at the moment at CCS about this and people are working on how to avoid glitches like this. But rather then shying away from it, it was refreshing and telling to see Niall mention it, in jest.
Applying for Digital Outcomes and Specialists is easy
The second speaker was no other then our very own M.D Chris Farthing. As always, he started off with an overview of Advice Cloud and his own credentials. We do have a lot of experience to share, but not every supplier in the room knew this. Also, I’m not ashamed to say it, but we are extremely proud of what we, but more importantly our clients have achieved so why not tell people!
We love DOS – and Chris took the opportunity to share why. Here are the headlines:
- Opportunities are published out in the open
- The opportunity it provides for suppliers, with over £333m spent so far! Oh, and a target of £2.5bn worth of spend planned for DOS and G-Coud by June 2019, even more success in the pipeline!
One of the main messages by our MD was that it is very easy to apply for DOS but, you need skills and knowledge to sell. Chris noted how it took us a mere 15 minutes to reapply for DOS3. He recommended that suppliers don’t waste their budgets on getting external help to apply, rather invest your money in optimising your bidding strategy to help make the framework a success.
DOS suppliers hang in there!
Last but by no means least was Harry Metcalfe. He presented the findings of the dxw Digital Outcomes and Specialists Armchair audit. Almost 3000 votes were cast on 31 opportunities during November and December and we discovered that a whopping 65% of them were rated as “generally bad” and 89% of opportunities had a phrase which was inappropriate for the work.
Even though his findings indicated that there is an issue, Harry noted “at a high-level DOS is working very well. The research points to just the need for fine tuning”.
The research created a great platform for dxw to share some of their own experiences around winning DOS business. As the majority of their work goes through DOS, there was a lot of advice to share:
- Ask a lot of questions – there is no infinite box to put information on DOS so asking questions is very important. Also, suppliers should read other people’s questions and answers they go. A pro tip Harry shared is the practice by dxw to record and track answers and discovering patterns. This helps them optimise their responses! Understand the structure and ask who is on the assessment panel. Find out if you are writing for a delivery team or if it will be mostly procurement people and customise your responses accordingly.
- Building relationships is critical – this was also the message from the whole event: People buy from people. Suppliers should not just get onto the framework and apply for tenders. Part of this is certainly marketing and branding.
- Hang in there! – Harry finished off his tips with a positive note: suppliers should persevere! If things are not working out don’t just give up.
It seems pertinent to end the overview of the day here. I think I will echo Harry: hang in there suppliers! Making DOS3 a success will not be easy (applying for the framework is the easy part here) but it’s certainly possible with hard work. If you need any help with that you know where to go. We are always happy to help! 🙂