The story of the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework
Our Strategic Adviser Tony Singleton, writes about the story of the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework , how it started & what it's become now.
Every government framework should have the user need at its heart if it is to be a success. In just the same way that delivering great public services relies on putting the user first, so does the way that government buys and sells. Sadly, that is not always the case, but it is true for the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework. Its story goes hand in glove with the Government Digital Service and the public service transformation that GDS championed.
The complicated and lengthy OJEU process
The move to agile software development and service delivery is now the mainstay of the public sector. But it wasn’t always so. Government over relied on large systems integrators to build the services they wanted to deliver and, in order to ensure that EU and UK public sector procurement rules were adhered to, followed what is known as the OJEU process.
OJEU stands for the Official Journal of the European Union. This is the publication in which all tenders from the public sector which are valued above a certain financial threshold according to EU legislation, must be published. The legislation covers organisations and projects that receive public money. Organisations such as Local Authorities, NHS Trusts, MOD, Central Government Departments and Educational Establishments are all covered by the legislation.
Sprint II and the Digital Services Framework
With the move to agile development and the introduction of the digital service standard that all public facing transactional services had to meet, there was a need to breakdown the development and build of new services into the discovery, alpha and beta phases and to be able to move quickly from one phase to the next. To have to wait between three and six months to move between project phases while and OJEU type procurement was carried out would simply cause the project to fail.
There had been some thinking about how the public sector could buy would it needed to meet these sorts of demands prior to the establishment of GDS. As long ago as 2010, a new pan-sector framework, known as Sprint II, was award to SCC by the government organisation then known as Buying Solutions, which became part of the government procurement service and morphed into the Crown Commercial Service. The framework allowed publicly funded bodies to buy hardware, software, infrastructure and services from SCC without going through individual tenders. It was inevitable, therefore, that in the early days of Sprint II was used by GDS to support digital service delivery.
Although Sprint II went some way to meet the needs of building digital services, it did have its shortcomings. A decision was, therefore, taken by GDS to work with CCS on a new framework that could better meet the needs of agile service delivery. And so, the Digital Services framework was born. It was set-up to give the public sector easy access to suppliers of all sizes, with the right digital capabilities, to help them produce public services that are digital by default and focused on user needs. The DSF, as it was known, met with some success in levelling the playing field for government contracts, supporting growth by giving opportunities to smaller suppliers (SMEs made up 84% of those on the framework).
In comes Digital Outcomes and Specialists Framework
Following considerable supplier feedback in the main from Harry Metcalf of dxw, GDS acknowledged that work needed to be done to improve the Digital Services framework, and so the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework, or the DOS framework for short, was born. Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework was an entirely new approach and redesign to the way in which the public sector engaged the people and suppliers it needed to build great digital services. The aim was to deliver a framework that was better for buyers and, importantly, provided more opportunities for suppliers to deliver the digital outcomes, not just the opportunity to supply individuals to fill the gaps in government teams. To that end the DOS framework focused on supplying these digital outcomes and hence the name, Digital Outcomes and Specialists.
DOS is now the main way that central government, and to a lesser extent the wider public sector, buys in the skills and suppliers they need to build and deliver digital services. The framework has grown from strength to strength and the latest published figures show that there were reported sales of nearly £334m at the end of March 2018 with 35% of those by value and 81% by volume awarded to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Advice Cloud clients are also doing a brilliant job at winning some serious Digital Outcomes and Specialist tenders with over £5.9m won so far. Surely that’s too good an opportunity to miss out on!