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National Leadership Centre

Infrastructure support and maintenance for live running of Connect Digital Service

13 Incomplete applications

12 SME, 1 large

12 Completed applications

12 SME, 0 large

Important dates

Friday 6 March 2020
Deadline for asking questions
Friday 13 March 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Friday 20 March 2020 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
We are looking for a supplier who can support and maintain the infrastructure behind the Connect Service, working with internal Cabinet Office teams and a digital development supplier to ensure that new features and changes can easily be incorporated.
Latest start date
Wednesday 1 April 2020
Expected contract length
1 year
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
National Leadership Centre
Budget range
Up to £100,000 over 1 year.

We anticipate that 2-4 days per month should cover essential monitoring and patches. With additional work required when we are sprinting and deploying changes more frequently. As such we welcome suggestions for how best to manage this approach in a cost effective and flexible way.

About the work

Why the work is being done
The NLC was created by the government in October 2018. It connects the most senior leaders across the public sector in England and helps them work together to improve public services. The Centre runs a world-class leadership programme (with residential courses), connects people across sectors and regions, and is becoming a global hub of leadership data and high quality research.

The Connect Service supports activities across The Centre by providing an online service where senior public sector leaders can find one another. After passing a Beta service assessment in December we are now looking for a supplier to support and maintain the infrastructure that underpins this service.
Problem to be solved
The Connect Service solves a need uncovered through User Research and market analysis that there has been no space for public sector leaders to come together across sector or geographical boundaries. Our directory service provides the core offering for those users.

We are now looking to put in place a support and maintenance contract for the infrastructure of the service. This should include regular patching of security releases for our database, support of the continuous integration systems and monitoring tools.

A supplier should respond to alerts from the system and ensure that they are dealt with quickly.

Our infrastructure is built on AWS, the Cabinet Office's provision and uses containerisation, and auto build and deploy processes. A supplier will need to work with Cabinet Office Digital Data and Technology colleagues.

We have ambitions for The Service and will be releasing new features throughout the year, as such a supplier will need to consider support for new infrastructure requirements that may arise as a result in changes made, or new feature releases to the application. A supplier will need to work with development teams to ensure seamless change and release processes.
Who the users are and what they need to do
Our primary users are the most senior public sector leaders in the country, roughly 1,200 people. We have identified many needs, including:

As a member of the network...
1) I need to connect with my peers across other sectors, so I can broaden my network and approaches to challenges
2) I need curated content that is tailored to my interests, so I can save my limited time

Additional groups include delegates on programmes (I want to know what I expect on the programme, so I can prepare), personal assistants (I need to undertake research on behalf of my public sector leader), and NLC staff (I need to connect with public sector leaders to organise our Programme offering, publicise upcoming events or target members of our network who might be interested in new insights arising from our research).
Early market engagement
In August 2019, the NLC tendered for a contract for our current digital work (Beta). The market was competitive and the contract was awarded to Convivio.

Now that Beta assessment has been passed and we move into live operation of the service, we are splitting our contracts to reflect support of the infrastructure, and ongoing digital design and development of the service. As part of that we have undertaken some conversations with suppliers about how best to approach this.
Any work that’s already been done
Beta Assessment was passed in December 2019.

The application is built using Drupal, and data is held within Salesforce powering the CRM back-end. It offers the following MVP which we are looking to continually improve and iterate

- Directory
- Filtering and search functionality
- Apply for our flagship programme
Existing team
The NLC is around 20 people:

The Head of Digital acts as Product Owner. It is expected that you'll work very closely with other teams, particularly the Research, Networks and Programme teams to deliver products and services that meet their users needs.

You may be required to work with an incumbent supplier to hand over technical responsibilities.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
The NLC is mostly based in 1 Horse Guards Road in Westminster, with a small team based Manchester as well. We use, Slack, Zoom, Hangouts and other tools to manage collaborative working.

Most of this work can be delivered remotely, however some presence at meetings relating to release of new features may be required if changes to infrastructure are required.
Working arrangements
We are unable to host a team regularly in our offices unless you already have CTC clearance.

We are happy for work to be undertaken on a remote basis, with daily stand ups beneficial - other communications channels (Slack, Hangouts, Zoom) also encouraged for more informal conversation.

It would be useful to have face to face sessions at least once a fortnight as a whole team.
Security clearance
BPSS is minimum to access government assets. We do not anticipate SC level clearance being necessary.

Existing CTC clearance will be necessary if the team will want to work in 1HG building.

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 recent experience of delivering to the Technology Code of Practice
  • Have experience of continuous iteration and improvement of an existing Private Beta and/or live service, drawing insights and key results to inform priority areas for development
  • Experience of working with non-digital and operational focussed teams to share insights and prioritise development
  • Have experience of supporting a highly secure service and understanding of government requirements for data protection and security
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Provide details of when you have worked with multiple partners to support the delivery of new feature changes to infrastructure
  • Provide details of where you have worked with the wider public sector

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Demonstrating an understanding of user needs and NLC requirements
  • Proposed approach and methodology - including technical approach
  • Identifying risks and dependencies
  • Team structure, including relevance of the team members' skills and experience
  • Value for money
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work in an open and transparent way, sharing work in progress and involving others as you go
  • Value boldness and creative thinking
  • Share learning and build capability in others
  • Value diversity and inclusion
  • Communicate clearly and work with others with less technical expertise
  • Challenge our assumptions through evidence based decision making based on identified user needs
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. How many Ec2 instances are in use on a typical day?
We currently have 4 Ec2 instances.
2. Is the service maintained 'as code' (eg using CloudFormation, Terraform, Ansible, Puppet or similar?) if yes, what system(s) are in use?
Yes, the infrastructure is delivered as an ‘infrastructure as code’ project — a combo of Terraform, Terragrunt, Concourse pipelines.
3. What is the release procedure (rolling update, inplace upgrade etc)
We do rolling updates — app code merged to ‘production’ triggers a pod build process, which is then rolled into live with zero downtime. However, since we’re using a DB-backed app with current app config in the DB, it requires some in-place procedures to be run afterwards.
4. Other than EC2, what AWS services are in use? (eg R53, Dynamo DB etc)
Services in AWS used: RDS, DynamoDB, S3, EKS, ES
5. What is the availability SLA?
We would like availability to be 99.99%
6. What is the desired response time SLA?
As stated, we would expect prompt response to any alerts and notifications arising from the system.

We do not currently have an SLA in place with our incumbent so are happy to receive recommendations for how best to approach this based on the severity of alerts and patch releases.