This opportunity is closed for applications

The deadline was Wednesday 4 September 2019
Department for Education

Service design to help schools buy catalogue goods (discovery & alpha) REPUBLISHED

9 Incomplete applications

9 SME, 0 large

30 Completed applications

22 SME, 8 large

Important dates

Wednesday 21 August 2019
Deadline for asking questions
Wednesday 28 August 2019 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Wednesday 4 September 2019 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
**REPUBLISHED... PLEASE RESUBMIT QUESTIONS & APPLICATIONS** We require a service design partner to research, prototype and test potential solutions to help schools with the procurement of standard catalogue goods. To evaluate whether a viable service could be built that significantly decreases schools expenditure and meets user needs.
Latest start date
Monday 14 October 2019
Expected contract length
Discovery - approx 8 wks, optional alpha - approx 12 wks. Max contract length is 6 months
No specific location, eg they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education
Budget range
Please only provide costs for an 8 week discovery and an optional 12 week alpha.
Up to a maximum of £400K.

(Bidders must fully detail their resources and charges at the proposal stage. Travel and Subsistence should be included in the proposed charges.)

About the work

Why the work is being done
We want to help schools save money on procurement. The Department for Education has a Schools Buying Strategy aiming to help schools save £1bn of their current £10bn spend on non-staff costs by 2020 and this work will continue into the next Spending Review period. Developing a digital service to help schools save money on standard catalogue purchases could be a critical enabler for work under this strategy, and act as a catalyst for behavioural change in schools to encourage better resource management.
Problem to be solved
The way schools buy goods is inefficient:
(a) It's manual and time consuming
(b) Schools lack easily accessible/trustworthy information about value
(c) Suppliers face high costs and barriers to entry
(d) Schools struggle with complex procurement processes.

We need to validate this existing research to confirm if there is a market failure and if there are viable options to intervene to address the problems.
(If we progress to alpha), we want to test these options with schools. We need to test our riskiest assumptions, ensure we meet user needs and consider the cost effectiveness of any proposal.
Who the users are and what they need to do
Our primary users are Schools Business Professionals (SBPs), and anyone else involved in the procurement of standard catalogue goods.

As a SBP, I need to buy catalogue goods for my school:
a) at the best price so I manage my school's budget efficiently and
b) at the right quality so the school continues to function smoothly.

Key user needs (buying, getting help, saving time, saving money, understanding what to buy, managing suppliers)
Key challenges (time, commercial expertise, finding suppliers, value for money)
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
Over the past four years there have been three separate discoveries looking into the needs and pain points faced by school buyers.
The third discovery passed an assessment and was followed by an alpha that looked at a different problem area.
This year there has been some further economic analysis done by the DfE Delivery Unit, which showed a large price variance across online goods catalogues. This identified market failure has prompted us to start this piece of work.
Existing team
The service team is in Schools Commercial. Currently this includes seven civil servants (Service Manager, Digital Product Lead, Delivery Manager & project management support roles).

The supplier will also be expected to work with the wider Department (Delivery Unit, Engagement, Marketing, Tech Group, Policy, DFE digital, Digi-comm's etc) and with a wide group of stakeholders up to director level.
Current phase
Not started

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Department for Education – multiple sites (key teams located in Sheffield, Manchester and London)
Working arrangements
Some co-location with the team will be required to maximise opportunity for collaboration and engagement with DfE users and stakeholders. Travel to other DfE sites and schools to meet users is expected but must be in line with the DfE travel & subsistence policy. Expenses must be included in the contract sum; there will be no separate budget for expenses. We will operate using agile methodology including daily stand ups, sprint planning, sprints, retrospectives and show and tells. Face-to-face attendance at all Show and Tells is expected. There is some flexibility for remote arrangements.
Security clearance
BPSS (Baseline Security Level) BPSS is standard; the level of security needed will depend on the sensitivity of the data the supplier will have access to.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Have understanding of market failure and experience of developing solutions to correct market failure/intervene to alter the way a market functions.
  • Experience developing a commercial product, including having an understanding of supplier and customer on-boarding.
  • Work to GDS service standards.
  • Use Agile methodologies.
  • Have significant experience of rapid prototype iteration based on ongoing user research.
  • Have significant experience of conducting user research and usability-testing sessions (face-to-face and remote) based on a robust methodology.
  • Have experience of recruitment of user research participants (including users with accessibility and assisted digital needs).
  • Have experience of analysis of existing research, analytics and insight to ensure good understanding of users and their needs.
  • Have experience of delivering high quality content and information architecture design for complex user journeys across multiple touchpoints, which meets user needs.
  • Have experience and capability of creating plans for Beta from both a design and technical perspective.
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Show evidence of digital creativity and innovation to tackle a difficult or complex problem.
  • Show evidence in leading, coaching, mentoring and upskilling people in Agile techniques and roles to build agile capability within existing teams.
  • Understanding of the education and schools landscapes.
  • Experience in designing citizen-facing digital services.
  • Experience in taking services successfully through the GDS Service Assessment.
  • Experience of working in partnership with technical delivery teams.
  • Experience of using the design system.

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Design solution - recent example(s) of experience working on digital projects, which developed a commercial product to intervene in an existing market.
  • Approach and methodology - example(s) that demonstrate a strong understanding of Agile meeting user needs and GDS Digital Service Standards.
  • How the approach or solution meets user needs - an example of where the supplier has tested competing design hypotheses in alpha to deliver a successful outcome for users.
  • Proposed team structure and members, explaining the justification for each member.
  • Value for money in your proposal.
Cultural fit criteria
  • Provide an example of where you have used agile core values to design a service which delivered successful outcomes for the user and the organisation.
  • Provide an example of how you will collaborate as a team with us and the wider organisation.
  • Demonstration of a proactive approach, taking responsibility for work and resolving issues quickly.
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. For the first essential skills and experience – "Have understanding of market failure and experience of developing solutions to correct market failure/intervene to alter the way a market functions.", could you please elaborate what is expected in terms of experience?
By this we mean demonstrating experience of 1. understanding how a market functions 2. assessing whether market failures, such as asymmetry of information, might be influencing the price of goods, and 3. successfully designing a similar service or product which seeks to correct these market failures E.G. by providing transparent information for consumers on product quality.
2. The Buyer asks to 'Please only provide costs for an 8 week discovery and an optional 12 week alpha'. There is no field in or opportunity to provide those in this submission form?
Only the four shortlisted suppliers will be asked to provide detailed costs as part of their written proposals. Please complete the information about the criteria requested in the submission form. We will contact all suppliers to let them know whether they have been shortlisted or not.