The Digital Outcomes and Specialist framework (DOS) RM1043 sits alongside G-Cloud on the Digital Marketplace. The DOS framework is for the procurement of digital teams or individuals, often alongside in-house delivery teams. Opportunities on the Digital Outcomes and Specialist framework are advertised in the open and suppliers just need to search and apply for those that are applicable.
DOS came to the fore as the replacement for the Governments Digital Services framework. Which, whilst innovative for its time led to considerable frustrations for suppliers. DOS is now the primary way that central government buys the skills and services it needs to build digital teams. The framework is open to suppliers of all sizes and the application process is minimal, making it a goldmine for SME providers. However, one of the myths about DOS to dispel is that being on the framework guarantees you sales – in fact, the hard work comes not in listing but applying for tenders!
With Digital Outcomes and Specialists 5, the framework was delayed due to COVID-19, but still stood strong as a framework used by the public sector amid pressures for procurement to be much much quicker. We’re definitely expecting this to continue as knowledge about how DOS works – and it’s benefits – is shared within procurement circles.
Everyone loves facts, if you need more of them the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework FAQs are a good place to start or check out our more comprehensive history of the DOS framework.
Digital Outcomes – for suppliers looking to support a digital outcome within one of these abilities:
Digital Specialists – for suppliers hoping to provide an individual to work on a project in at least one of these roles:
User research studios – to provide facilities for the purposes of user research
User research participants – for the recruitment of participants for user research with a range of experience and who can best represent the users of the service you are developing.
Why do we love the DOS framework? Well, there are many benefits of being a supplier on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework, the first one being that £1.8bn worth of business has been put through the framework since it was launched in 2016! Even better news if you are an SME as 35% of that £1.8bn was with SME providers. Others include the way that DOS makes it easy for buyers and suppliers to communicate in a more productive way in advance of applying for a tender. This functionality saves time, money and resources for both the buying organisation and the supplier. DOS also provides another route to market for suppliers looking to support digital transformation programmes across the whole of the public sector.
For a detailed breakdown of who is buying on DOS, check our Digital Outcomes and Specialist spend dashboard!
The application process for the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework is not the hard part, it’s writing great bids and winning business. We always say that getting on the DOS framework is just the start. Suppliers should have an effective bidding strategy and understand how buyers evaluate suppliers. Whilst the criteria and weightings are set on an opportunity by opportunity basis it is important to know the basics.
For consistency, each supplier will be evaluated using a scoring criteria:
0 – Not met or no evidence
1 – Partially met
2 – Met
3 – Exceeded
Suppliers can be scored on:
Government specialists dxw carried out some lengthy research on the quality of DOS opportunities. Being suppliers themselves, they felt frustrated with the sometimes-poor quality of opportunities on the framework. To try and get some concrete stats and drill down into what the problem actually is, they built a tool and conducted ‘The Great British Digital Outcomes Armchair Audit’. If according to their research, 68% of the DOS opportunities they looked at did not have a clear summary of work, this already has suppliers on the back foot from the get go!
Their results make for an interesting read, and a required one for suppliers hoping to ask the right questions and get the right response from buyers. Improving DOS framework tenders will make it easier for suppliers and buyers to fully align their expectations when writing and applying for DOS tenders.
There are many things to consider when deciding whether to take the plunge and apply for DOS opportunities. Over 2,000 tenders have been published meaning that there is a lot to choose from. In our experience, suppliers should work smart and be picky. The main piece of advice we can give is to make sure you have time! Check the dates the clarification period closes as well as when the applications for the actual opportunity closes. You wouldn’t want to miss the chance to ask your questions in advance of applying for the opportunity. Don’t wait till the last minute to start writing your bid. Too often suppliers rush to complete a response and end up submitting something that doesn’t properly reflect their skills and experience. Give yourself extra time to review and refine your response!
There are a few documents that suppliers need to be aware of when listing on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework. These are the Government Service Manual and the Digital Service Standard.
The Digital Service Standard
The Digital Service Standard is the set of 18 criteria that help governments build, design and run digital services. The manual is a set of guidelines and all public transactional service must meet this standard.
Point 4 is really one of the key elements, so make sure you understand how agile relates to the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework.
The Service Manual offers further advice and guidance for the successful creation of Digital Services that adhere to the Digital Service Standard.
But why should you read these? Well, although it may seem like these aimed at the buyer, it is important you understand what requirements and standards the service or project you will help deliver needs to meet. This will allow you to be better informed, understand the buyer’s requirements and most importantly understand the user need.
As we mentioned previously, on the face of it applying for DOS is pretty easy but winning the business is not. This includes responding to opportunities on the framework. So, here are our top tips for tendering:
It’s important to take some time to think about what buyers look for in a great DOS bid, and these points should help you get started with just that! And whilst the bidding stage is where the main work happens, in-between opportunities suppliers should be out there marketing the fact they’re on DOS and that they’re working with the public sector.
Unfortunately, you might win or even been shortlisted for every Digital Outcomes and Specialist opportunity you apply for. But, don’t worry because it doesn’t need to have be a lost exercise. Something suppliers seldom do is ask for feedback or even challenge the decision. This can be due to not knowing how, or even if they are allowed to ask.
Once the buying organisation has made their award decision they are required to notify all unsuccessful suppliers, this is usually done by email. Buyers must:
So, why is this all useful? Knowing the scores of the winning supplier will allow you to gauge how far off you were from winning the contract. It will also, coupled with the positive feedback allow you to see the weak points of your tender and allow you to focus on those for future opportunities.
Now challenging an award decision is trickier than asking for feedback. This is because you need to have sufficient evidence and be sure that you feel like some part of the procurement process was not compliant.
To be able to successfully challenge a tender award decision you need:
The initial response back to the buying organisation isn’t required to come from a legal team, it’s simply you asking for further details and understanding the rationale behind the award decision.
There’s no doubt that the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework is an innovative framework with a huge amount of potential. Any supplier that is offering bespoke digital services or work on a digital project should apply to be on this framework.
If you are still not sure whether or not the DOS framework is for you, get in touch and we can help you decide!
Want to find out the DOS Lot structure as well as who the big spenders are? Well we have you covered in our latest Infographic!
We’ve even included the phases of an agile project to help get your head in the agile game. Enjoy!