Department for Education

Schools Buying Hubs Alpha (and optional Beta) require a service design partner

Incomplete applications

14
Incomplete applications
11 SME, 3 large

Completed applications

50
Completed applications
40 SME, 10 large
Important dates
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Published Friday 17 April 2020
Deadline for asking questions Friday 24 April 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications Friday 1 May 2020 at 11:59pm GMT

Overview

Overview
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Summary of the work The Schools Commercial Team are looking for a service design partner to prototype and test potential solutions with end users, to demonstrate that an accessible service can be built to meet user needs, and if successful, work with us to deliver the end-to-end solution in beta.
Latest start date Tuesday 26 May 2020
Expected contract length Up to 12 months. We expect alpha to be 12 weeks, private beta 12 weeks, followed by public beta
Location Yorkshire and the Humber
Organisation the work is for Department for Education
Budget range Shortlisted suppliers should only provide costs for the roles and number of days that we will specify for the written proposal.

Up to a maximum of £1m (Ex VAT)

(Shortlisted bidders must fully detail their resources and charges at the proposal stage.)

About the work

About the work
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Why the work is being done The Schools Buying Strategy aims to support schools to obtain better value for money from their non-staff spend. One of the key initiatives is the rollout of a national schools buying service (known as hubs). There is already a pilot of the service in two regions. This work is to support the design and development of the national service by taking a user centred and iterative approach and exploring what aspects of the service can be digitised. Any digital service will need to be in public beta by the end of March 2021 to support the national rollout.
Problem to be solved There have been multiple pieces of research completed that outline the user needs and problems that some schools buyers face when making complex purchases. For example, frameworks are complicated to access and use, and don’t always offer the best price (schools require a hassle free and simple approach). Also, schools find procurement complicated and time consuming and struggle to procure complex services like catering/ cleaning.
The schools buying service (hubs) aims to support schools through complex procurement issues and wants to provide an effective solution for a simplified approach.
Who the users are and what they need to do Our primary users are Schools Business Professionals. Our users need to buy goods or services for schools so that they continue to function smoothly, they need to know what to buy to best meet the needs of the school, they need help buying things they have little experience with, they need to buy things quickly and easily, they need to manage contracts and suppliers and they need to get best value. Others users we need to consider are the commercial experts who will be supporting schools with complex procurements as part of the hubs service. They need to be able to easily support as many schools as possible to access the service and achieve better buying outcomes.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done There have been three relevant pieces of discovery work carried out. These pieces of research have validated user needs and pain points for schools buyers. We have outlined hypotheses and product vision so that we can go straight into an alpha phase. The non-digital schools buying service (hubs) has been in pilot phase in the north west and south west for over 18 months and insight from this pilot phase is available. We also have a small digital service on GOV.uk called 'Find a DfE approved framework'.
Existing team The DfE will provide a service owner, a digital product lead, a product manager and a junior user researcher. There may also be a content designer available to support the team. There will also be access to commercial leads and the hubs service teams.
Current phase Discovery

Work setup

Work setup
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Address where the work will take place The primary location will be in Sheffield. (Department for Education, 2 Saint Paul Place, Sheffield, S1 2FJ)
For the duration of restrictions on movement due to COVID-19, all teams are expected to work and collaborate remotely.
Working arrangements Co-located in Sheffield at least 3 days a week to maximise opportunity for engagement with DfE users and stakeholders. This primary location will not attract expenses. Some travel to other DfE sites and schools to meet users is expected but must be in line with the DfE travel & subsistence policy. Expenses for User Research 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.
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 information
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Additional terms and conditions By issuing this invitation, the Department is not bound in any way and does not have to accept any tender. The Department also reserves the right at its sole discretion to award a contract for the Alpha stage only. The framework operates on a statement of work (SOW), if the final SOW for Alpha is complete, and a decision is taken not to proceed to Beta, the contract can be terminated. Additional contractual clauses expected include: GDPR, Departmental Security Standards (for departmental data) & clauses on issued property and use of premises.

Skills and experience

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

Skills and experience
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Essential skills and experience
  • Have significant experience of rapid prototype iteration based on ongoing user research.
  • Have significant experience of conducting user research & 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, that meet user needs.
  • Have experience & capability to deliver live services from both a design and technical perspective.
  • Experience in delivering citizen-facing digital services that achieved successful outcomes & realised planned benefits.
  • Work to GDS service standards or equivalent.
  • Evidence of your ability and approach to deploy quality resources at our primary location (Sheffield)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Evidence of leading, coaching and upskilling people in agile techniques to build agile capability within existing teams.
  • Understanding of the education & schools landscapes.
  • Experience in taking services successfully through the GDS Service Assessment or equivalent

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How suppliers will be evaluated
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
How many suppliers to evaluate 3
Proposal criteria
  • Demonstrate experience of working on digital projects that have met user needs, delivered successful outcomes and can demonstrate sound knowledge of GDS Digital Service Standards and agile methodologies.
  • Demonstrate experience of a hypothesis driven iterative & explorative approach to meeting user needs.
  • Demonstrate where a digital solution has successfully been delivered and integrated as part of an end to end service, where not all aspects of the service are digital.
  • Value for money - demonstrate application of a flexible and transparent financial structure and fair pricing for service design and delivery.
  • Demonstrate experience of understanding an organisations capability and capacity needs and ensure the right skills are delivered and effectively embedded.
  • Evidence of your approach to managing your resources remotely or on site as part of a complex organisation, taking accountability for achieving deliverables
Cultural fit criteria
  • Demonstrate how you would quickly join the team and understand user needs, to maintain continuity between existing discovery work and alpha.
  • Demonstrate how you have planned onboarding and inceptions for other agile projects.
  • Demonstrate where you have worked collaboratively in a multi-disciplinary team with other service providers and subject matter experts to facilitate decision making and buy in.
  • Describe how you will work transparently and collaboratively with all stakeholders and seek actionable feedback to resolve any issues quickly and efficiently.
Payment approach Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence

60%

Cultural fit

20%

Price

20%

Questions asked by suppliers

Questions asked by suppliers
Supplier question Buyer answer
1. Given the current lockdown can this be done 10% remotely During lockdown all work is undertaken remotely in line with Government guidance.
2. Would you accept the bid from a consortium if we were to bid along with our partner agency? We can only contract with one supplier, however, we welcome applications from suppliers who collaborate and have arrangements with other suppliers.
3. Whilst it is likely you're at a platform-agnostic stage right now, is there likely to be a preferred technology stack for the development of this service? If so, what technologies/languages do you expect or prefer to adopt? Please refer to the service standard and the technology code of practice on GOV.uk. The winning supplier will be expected to liaise with DfE digital and technology teams to ensure a consistent approach.
4. With reference to "Evidence of your ability and approach to deploy quality resources at our primary location (Sheffield)" and considering our current circumstances, please could you advise if you're open to working with a remote partner? During lockdown all work will undertaken remotely in line with Government guidance. However, once lockdown is lifted Sheffield will be the primary location
5. Did you work with a supplier in the Discovery phase and if so, who was it? We have done related discovery work with multiple suppliers and individual contractors over the past 3 years.
6. Are you able to share the outcomes of the three discoveries? We may choose to share some insight to support the 2nd stage.
7. Delivery of the end-to-end solution would require development capability (including developers, technical architects, delivery management) to complement the Service Design Partner. Please confirm if this development capability is outside the scope of this procurement and if so, whether it would be sourced from within DfE, or through an additional procurement. Development capability as required based on the outcome of the alpha phase will be sourced from within this contract.
8. You mention “Shortlisted suppliers should only provide costs for the roles and number of days that we will specify for the written proposal.” What supplier team profile do you envisage, to complement your existing team? We will provide further information at 2nd stage. We envisage the supplier team to include a user researcher, delivery manager, interaction designer, service designer and business analyst with some technical input from an architect or senior developer at alpha phase. The roles we will need in beta will be dictated by the size and complexity of any service we will deliver.
9. Do you expect indicative user recruitment and incentive costs to be priced within in the proposal, or do you expect them to be passed on as 'materials'? Yes, we will provide information about how to set this out in the second stage.
10. What timescales are you working to for: (1) informing down-selected suppliers, (2) submission of proposals and (3) scheduling of presentations? Estimated timetable: Inform suppliers of the results of the first stage by the 5th May; Submission of proposals by the 12th May; Presentations 13th-15th May
11. Is there further information that you will share with the down-selected suppliers to inform their approach? Yes we will share further information at 2nd stage.
12. What technology stacks do you use on other similar projects? DfE digital's technology stack and approach consists of the following elements:
Microservices architecture, with internal and public facing HTTP and JSON REST based APIs for business logic and data access.
User facing websites built using Ruby on Rails, and deployed to the DfE Azure platform and GOV.UK PaaS. Code hosted in the DfE Digital Github.
Databases to be one of the provided managed databases on DfE Azure or GOV.UK PaaS such as Postgres.
DfE Digital Technical Guidance: https://dfe-digital.github.io/technical-guidance/
13. "There have been three relevant pieces of discovery work carried out."
Please could you specify which suppliers were involved with this Discovery work?
The discoveries related to this piece of work were done by 2020 reasearch, Inzenka and in-house teams
14. Following the relaxation of the current Covid lockdown, is it your preferred approach to have a co-located team based onsite in your Sheffield offices? Yes that is correct
15. How do you define the difference between the lead product and product manager role? Product manager is day to day with the team. Lead product manager is across various projects within the programme and will ensure the PM is free to focus on this piece of work alone.
16. What sort of analytics data do the Hubs and DfE have that they expect would be relevant? There is survey data and data on spend and savings achieved by the schools.
17. Do they have specific concerns about getting something live from a design and technical perspective? A minimum viable service will need to be live by the end of March 2021.
18. Could you please provide your definition of citizen or who you expect those users to be? We expect those citizens to be users of a government service.
19. Which people or roles do you expect to require coaching? We have a junior user researcher who would benefit from coaching. Also our wider commercial team would also benefit from learning about agile, user centred and iterative ways of working.
20. Will anyone from the hubs service teams be involved day to day on the project? This has not yet been finalised but we will ensure there is collaboration and a cross functional team.
21. What do you define as a "touchpoint" in a user journey? Any interaction between a user and a service.
22. Has the Discovery indicated whether the service will be integrating with an existing Commercial Off-the-shelf product / platform or are you expecting a bespoke/custom build? The discovery work has not indicated this, either way.
23. What are the commercial timelines associated with this opportunity? Estimated timetable: Inform suppliers of the results of the first stage by the 5th May; Submission of proposals by the 12th May; Presentations 13th-15th May
24. Can you confirm whether an incumbent firm has been supporting you during the Schools Buying Hub Discovery period? We have done related discovery work with multiple suppliers and individual contractors over the past 3 years.
25. What technology stack will the department use to delivery these product and services? DfE digital's technology stack and approach consists of the following elements:
Microservices architecture, with internal and public facing HTTP and JSON REST based APIs for business logic and data access.
User facing websites built using Ruby on Rails, and deployed to the DfE Azure platform and GOV.UK PaaS. Code hosted in the DfE Digital Github.
Databases to be one of the provided managed databases on DfE Azure or GOV.UK PaaS such as Postgres.
DfE Digital Technical Guidance: https://dfe-digital.github.io/technical-guidance/
26. What other suppliers will be involved in this engagement? No other suppliers will be involved.
27. Can you provide further detail on the 'pilot of the service in two regions? Information on the hubs can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/buying-for-schools/get-help-with-buying-for-schools
28. Can you confirm how this DOS opportunity relates to the previous 'Department for Education (DfE) Service design to help schools buy catalogue goods (discovery & alpha)' from September 2019? That work focused on how to help schools with lower value procurements of everyday items. The schools buying hubs support schools with large complex procurements.
29. Can you provide further detail on the 'multiple pieces of research completed that outline the user needs and problems that some schools buyers face when making complex purchases'? How many research projects took place? What date were they completed? Did external firms support or deliver these research projects? The discoveries related to this piece of work were done by 2020 research, Inzenka and in-house teams. These pieces of discovery work were completed between 2016 and 2018.
30. Will the Schools Buying Hub Discovery report or a synopsis be made available? Yes we will provide this information for 2nd stage.
31. Re. "Have experience of analysis of existing research, analytics and insight to ensure good understanding of users and their needs" – In respect to existing research – do you mean user research or other types of research such as academic or social? Primarily user research but there is also some social research available such as survey results.
32. Re. "Have experience of analysis of existing research, analytics and insight to ensure good understanding of users and their needs" – is the context of this picking up an existing in-flight service or starting something new, but informing it with as much research as possible? Please can you clarify? There is a non-digital service to support schools with complex buying going live March next year. This piece of work will explore what digital service might support that existing operational model. There is existing user research about schools buying needs but there is not an existing digital service that supports the pilot hubs.
33. Please can you provide us with the outputs of the previous Discovery work? Yes we will share further information at 2nd stage.
34. Will the Schools Buying Hub Discovery report or a synopsis be made available? Yes we will provide this information for 2nd stage.
35. Can we assume that content, learnings and insight from the non-digital pilots will be provided to the successful supplier for insight and use? Yes - what is available will be shared and the chosen supplier will be expected to gather any additional insight that is needed to support this work.
36. Will the full research from the pilot phase be made available prior to the submission of the Proposal?
If not, can any additional information regarding the pain-points and problems faced by schools and individuals be shared? For example, have personas been created?
Will any of the suppliers involved in delivering the pilot research be included in the bidding for this piece?
Is there any documentation that exemplifies the existing experience that procurement entails? Service or journey architecture diagrams?
In what format has the product vision been articulated, i.e. Vision prototype?
Some research will be made available for the 2nd stage which will include schools needs and pain points. Some personas will be shared at this stage. There has not been user research carried out with users of the pilot service. There is documentation of the existing experience and an internal team is preparing what we have for onboarding a supplier as soon as possible. The product vision is articulated in the form of potential alpha hypotheses.
37. Are there preferred software packages and platforms that are currently being used? Is there an expectation as to what platform or software the Hub will be delivered in? Slack and Google drive from a day to day point of view. DfE digital's technology stack and approach consists of the following elements:
Microservices architecture, with internal and public facing HTTP and JSON REST based APIs for business logic and data access.
User facing websites built using Ruby on Rails, and deployed to the DfE Azure platform and GOV.UK PaaS. Code hosted in the DfE Digital Github.
Databases to be one of the provided managed databases on DfE Azure or GOV.UK PaaS such as Postgres.
DfE Digital Technical Guidance: https://dfe-digital.github.io/technical-guidance/
38. Will there be any collaborative working with the other pilots or access to lessons learnt? Yes we will provide as much access as we can to the pilot hubs and their users.
39. Will hosting be on-premise servers or cloud-based servers? If cloud, which one? DfE digital's technology stack and approach consists of the following elements:
Microservices architecture, with internal and public facing HTTP and JSON REST based APIs for business logic and data access.
User facing websites built using Ruby on Rails, and deployed to the DfE Azure platform and GOV.UK PaaS. Code hosted in the DfE Digital Github.
Databases to be one of the provided managed databases on DfE Azure or GOV.UK PaaS such as Postgres.
DfE Digital Technical Guidance: https://dfe-digital.github.io/technical-guidance/
40. Is there an incumbent supplier or if there has been a discovery phase with an external supplier? There have been discovery phases with external suppliers. There is no incumbent supplier.
41. Are we to assume that in our answers, special characters, hyphens, commas and punctuation marks must only be used in accordance with standard English? Yes that is correct. Any words over the 100 word limit will be redacted.
42. ‘Service Design’ implies an element of optimizing an organisation’s operations to better support customer journeys. Is there an expectation that the successfully supplier will be involved in this part of the work, or will their responsibility lie mainly in the design of the digital service? Yes we would want the team to support the entire end to end customer journey but there is a focus on understanding how digital should or shouldn't help the hubs and their users.
43. Given the project is now at ‘Alpha’ stage we are assuming it has successfully passed the GDS Discovery gate. Will we be able to see the comments made by the Discovery gate review team at the start of Alpha to help with planning and identification of further potential research activities, where appropriate? Yes we will share further information at 2nd stage.
44. Access to existing research: we are assuming that the ‘…three relevant pieces of discovery work carried out’ will be made available at the outset of the project, alongside the hypothesis statements and product vision? Yes, that is correct.
45. Is there an opportunity, as part of the alpha phase, to challenge the thinking around the hypothesis statements and product vision? Or have these been signed of and set in stone? Yes, there will be the opportunity to challenge any existing thinking.
46. Will the DfE team be able to support and help provide stakeholder user contacts for potential recruitment for research and prototype user testing? There will be some support from our outreach and engagement team but the supplier would be expected to carry out some of the recruitment to access a more diverse range of schools.
47. Will ‘subject matter experts’ be available to answer questions as they arise which the team may have outside of the defined to support with ongoing project activities? Yes, subject matter experts will be made available.
48. You mention ‘Schools Business Professionals’ as being the primary users. Do you have any user personas for these groups – and for the other user groups – for us to refer to, or is this something you might be looking for as part of this alpha project delivery? There are some existing user personas that will be made available to the chosen supplier.
49. You mention that there is already a pilot of the service running in two regions – is this work to build upon those pilots, or to use the learnings from them to build a new service? The pilot is a non-digital service that is being rolled out nationally. This piece of work is looking at what roll digital will play in the full service when it goes live in March next year.
50. The two pilots that are running – do they include digital and non-digital aspects of the service? The pilot is a non-digital service that is being rolled out nationally. This piece of work is looking at what roll digital will play in the full service when it goes live in March next year.
51. The public beta of the service is planned for end March 2021, when is the anticipated date for the national rollout of the service? The mobilisation phase of national rollout is planned for March - Sept next year which is why we need any digital service to be in public beta by March 2021.
52. The essential skills section mentions rapid prototyping. Does this include prototyping in code? And if so, is there a preferred technology? There is no preferred technology.
53. Will the prototyping include working with APIs or designing working APIs to support provision of a service? There aren't any current APIs to work with. In future that depends on the scope of the service which we would not know until the end of alpha.
54. The essential skills section mentions conducting user research and usability testing based on a robust methodology. Is there a preferred methodology? Or would you be expecting the supplier to define the methodology? Supplier to define the methodology based on the changing needs of the project.
55. The essential skills section mentions working to ‘GDS service standards or equivalent’. Can you please give guidance on what is considered to be equivalent? The meeting of similar defined quality standards in a different sector
56. Will the prototyping need to adhere to the GOV.UK Design System? Yes
57. What will be the level of involvement be from the suppliers delivering the current pilots? There will be access to the suppliers and the users of the existing hubs pilots.