Start date: Monday 18 November 2019
Value: £1,500,000
Company size: SME
Department for Education

User Research Capability

13 Incomplete applications

11 SME, 2 large

21 Completed applications

18 SME, 3 large

Important dates

Thursday 12 September 2019
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 19 September 2019 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 26 September 2019 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
We are looking for User Research capabilities to help the Department deliver and continuously improve user-centred education and social care services, and to build user research knowledge and capability within the department.
Latest start date
Monday 11 November 2019
Expected contract length
2 years
South East England
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education
Budget range
Budget approval is subject to Cabinet Office spending controls, service assessments and DfE governance.
A pipeline of activity is foreseen over the next 24 months, with an indicative budget against the requirements for this capability being £1.5m, but that scope could expand or contract.
Each SOW will give a cost to enable tracking
DfE does not commit to any minimum or maximum spend at this point.

About the work

Why the work is being done
To help the department to: deliver and continuously improve user-centred education and social care services, build user research knowledge and capability within the department, and contribute to a culture of evidence-based decision-making.
Problem to be solved
DfE Digital requires user research capabilities to deliver outcomes based on user needs and evidence, and to the Government Service Standard. The user research capabilities should be capable of supporting a range of projects from inception through to live phases. This approach will provide continuity through the lifecycle of projects, ensuring no break in support and expertise built up in the team leading to improved opportunities for shadowing and knowledge transfer. We anticipate 5-8 projects at any time.
Who the users are and what they need to do
Some of our key user groups include:
Education advisors
School administrators
University staff
College staff
Local authorities
Social care providers
Training providers
DfE staff
Some of their needs include:

As a newly qualified teacher, I need to know what teaching jobs are available, so that I can apply for the right job for me
As a school leader, I need to know about funding opportunities, so that my school can apply for relevant grants
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
The Department has a large digital delivery programme in progress, with a number of services in already live and beta phases (e.g. Teaching Vacancies and a proritised roadmap of other services in inception, discovery, and alpha phases. The department has already completed significant user research with key user groups (e.g. teachers), so user research capablity should seek to build on this existing knowledge and fill gaps, where appropriate.
Existing team
You will work with internal DfE staff from a range of disciplines, including; user research, service design, content design, architecture, security, policy, product management, finance, and delivery management.

You may collaborate or work with other suppliers who are providing capabilities as part of a team, for example, data extract, transformation, load and migration and in the setting up of dev/test environments
Current phase
Not applicable

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
For any given SoW the work is likely to be based in South East England. Travel may be required to DfE offices, and also to other UK-wide locations to conduct research.

The primary base will be detailed in each Statement of Work (SoW) and expenses will not form part of the cost unless the supplier is asked to work from a secondary location instead during the execution of the work relating to the SoW. e.g. If SoW primary base is in Coventry then no expenses will be paid for Coventry.
Working arrangements
The existing DfE Digital team comprises a Head of User Research, and other lead roles in product management, service design, content design, development, and agile delivery. Suppliers will typically work in multidisciplinary service teams with a mixture of these professions, and will be expected to collaborate with stakeholders in e.g. policy, HR and finance.

User research capability will be expected to support the development of user-centred services, build internal DfE user research capability (e.g. through mentoring and upskilling), and effectively transfer knowledge back into the Department.

A Statement of Work will be completed to outline the outcomes and deliverables expected
Security clearance
DfE requires all supplier staff to have baseline personnel security standard clearance (BPSS). There may be a requirement for some of the work to require security clearance checks. This will be detailed in the statement of work.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Standard Framework and Call Off Terms and Conditions. Expenses must be pre-agreed and comply with CCS Travel and Subsistence Policy. Any expenses shall be submitted in line with DfE standard T&S policy. Primary work location stated in SoW will not attract expenses. Contract and Vendor Management will form a key part of governance and suppliers will be expected to co-operate in a manner that fosters healthy working relationships and quality delivery.

Suppliers must provide sufficient guarantees to meet the requirements of GDPR in line with Procurement Policy Note 03/17 Changes to Data Protection Legislation & General Data Protection Regulation

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
  • Evidence of conducting user research at all stages of the lifecycle from inception to live
  • Demonstrable experience of using qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research approaches, and evidence of applying them appropriately.
  • Evidence of analysing user research findings
  • Evidence of effectively communicating actionable insights and findings
  • Evidence of championing user research and user-centred design in an organisation
  • Experience of upskilling and mentoring internal user research capability
  • Evidence of including all kinds of users (e.g. user with access or assisted digital needs) in user research.
  • Experience of advocating for inclusive practices and helping teams design and deliver accessible services that work for all users
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Experience of working with education, training, and social care providers
  • Experience of helping to build and maintain a user research community of practice in an organisation in order to continually assure, improve and innovate their user research practice
  • Demonstrable experience of involving a delivery team in user research planning, observation and analysis
  • Experience of helping inexperienced delivery teams adopt user-centred practices and embed them into their agile workflow
  • Experience of helping teams adopt and master a wide range of user research methods (e.g. ethnography, diary studies, contexual inquiry, observation)
  • Experience of helping teams to adopt a wide range of analysis and synthesis techniques
  • Evidence of successfully delivering against the Government Service Standard
  • Experience of establishing a research operations function in an organisation
  • Evidence of collaborating with multiple teams in order to deliver end-to-end services

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • How the approach or solution meets user needs
  • Approach and methodology
  • Technical solution
  • How they’ve identified risks and dependencies and offered approaches to manage them
  • Estimated timeframes for the work
  • Value for money
Cultural fit criteria
  • Reinforce a culture of continuous improvement and iteration in all teams
  • Champion the value of user research, user-centred design, and evidence-based decision-making
  • Experience of working with an organisation in the early stages of a digital transformation programme
  • Experience of working with multi-vendor teams across multiple projects
  • Experience of collaboration with multiple organisational stakeholders in order to achieve successful outcomes for both the organisation and users
  • Experience of transferring knowledge to permanent staff within a client organisation
  • Experience of upskilling user researchers in an organisation
  • Understands how to work collaboratively in a multidisciplinary, agile service delivery team
  • Able to explain technical things to non-technical people, and non-technical things to technical people
  • Proactively collaborates across teams in order to deliver transformational end-to-end services that work for users
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Who is the current incumbent supplier
We do not currently have a supplier for this capability, so there is no incumbent.
2. Is there a current incumbent?
We do not currently have a supplier for this capability, so there is no incumbent
3. Please could you specify locations of work? Coventry and?
Base locations will be London or Coventry. Travel to any other DfE locations will be specified in the SOW
4. Is there a current incumbent supplying this service currently?
We do not currently have a supplier for this capability, so there is no incumbent
5. Are you looking to embed user researchers for the duration of the contract or involve a range of different researchers for shorter, defined periods across the term of the contract?
We will be looking to involve UR capability in defined projects during the contract. Project outcomes and periods will be included in the SOW
6. Do you plan to appoint a single or multiple suppliers for this requirement?
We plan to appoint a single supplier, but we are happy to receive applications from suppliers who wish to submit as an alliance
7. How will you be evaluating supplier price?
We will be carrying out supplier price evaluation in line with the DOS Digital Marketplace guidance.
8. Are you simply looking for a rate card?
We would be looking for suppliers to provide us with their rate cards
9. The proposal criteria set out suggests that you have a detailed plan of work you would like us to suggest an approach to and cost up, rather than this being a call off arrangement as implied in the 'problem to be solved' statement. Can you please provide more information about the specification you would like us to respond to at tender stage, including the price evaluation model you will use?
The department has a high-level roadmap of research work, which is iterated on the basis of emerging research insight and departmental priorities. Each statement of work will provide further detail on the outcome required.
We will assess price based on suppliers rate cards and evaluate inline with the buyers guide on the digital marketplace