Start date: Monday 22 March 2021
Value: £2,500,000
Company size: SME
Department for Education

User Research Capability - North West

6 Incomplete applications

4 SME, 2 large

27 Completed applications

25 SME, 2 large

Important dates

Monday 11 January 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Monday 18 January 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Monday 25 January 2021 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
DfE are looking for a supplier who can provide User Research capabilities to deliver the digital outcomes required, supporting 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 22 March 2021
Expected contract length
2 years
North West England
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education
Budget range
A pipeline of activity is foreseen over the next 24 months, with an indicative budget against the requirements for this capability being £2.5m, but that scope could expand or contract.
Budget approval is subject to Cabinet Office spending controls, service assessments and DfE governance.
Each SOW will outline the work required, associated budget and payment approach, CTAM, CTM etc. Suppliers will need to provide clear costs 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
DfE Digital are looking for a supplier who can provide User Research capabilities. Working with us to deliver digital outcomes, which are part of building and delivering user centred services in line with the government service standard, which make a genuine difference to people’s lives as part of the department's digital transformation.
Suppliers will need to be capable of ensuring user needs, standards and acceptance criteria are met, whilst conforming to time and budget constraints. Using agile methods and working collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams to improve DFE digital services.
Problem to be solved
DfE Digital are looking for a supplier who will provide capabilities delivering outcomes based on user needs, evidence, and to the Government Service Standard. User Research capabilities should be capable of supporting a range of projects from inception through to live. 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
Not applicable
Any work that’s already been done
The Department has a large digital delivery programme in progress, with a number of services already in Beta and Live phases (e.g. Teaching Vacancies and a prioritised 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 capability will seek to build on this existing knowledge and fill gaps, where appropriate.
Existing team
The existing DfE Digital team comprises a Head of User Research, and other lead roles in UR, product management, service design, content design, development, and agile delivery. Multidisciplinary skills may also be provided through compliant commercial routes and the successful supplier will be expected to collaborate with other suppliers in delivering outcomes.
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.
There is currently no incumbent delivering this capability in the North West of England.
Current phase
Not applicable

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
For the duration of restrictions on movement due to COVID-19, there is an expectation of remote working, including any required collaboration.

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.
e.g. If SoW primary base is Manchester then expenses wont be paid for Manchester.
This contract is to cover the North, primary bases for this capability is likely to be Manchester, Sheffield & Darlington.

Travel may be required to other DfE offices nationwide.
Working arrangements
DfE require User Research capabilities to deliver outcomes for our agile development and continuous delivery.

A Statement of Work will outline the base location, working arrangements and outcomes and deliverables for each service and delivery phase.
To improve DfE internal capability, knowledge transfer will be a requirement for each SoW.

Existing DfE digital teams comprise of lead roles in Delivery Management, Product and Software Development, Service Designers.

Contract and Vendor Management form a key part of governance and suppliers must co-operate in fostering healthy working relationships and quality delivery.
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 gain higher security clearance checks and / or enhanced DBS checks. Where this is needed it will be detailed in the Statement of Work

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Expenses must be pre-agreed and comply with DFE Travel and Subsistence Policy.
Primary work location stated in SoW won’t attract expenses.
For each SoW issued under this contract, the supplier is obligated to undertake the relevant security and criminal checks as determined by DfE, with the Buyer having sole discretion over the acceptance of Supplier Staff who will be performing the activities in the SoW.
Suppliers must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) May 2018; the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018, the Law Enforcement Directive and any subsequent amendments/changes to date.

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.
  • Experience of helping teams adopt and master a wide range of user research methods (e.g. ethnography, diary studies, contextual inquiry, observation).
  • Experience of establishing a research operations function in an organisation

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Experience of working with an organisation in the early stages of a digital transformation programme
  • Evidence 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 to adopt a wide range of analysis and synthesis techniques.
  • Evidence of awareness and understanding of the Government Service Standard and requirements needed to pass GDS Service Assessments.
  • Evidence of collaborating with multiple teams in order to deliver end-to-end services.
  • Experience of explaining technical things to non-technical people, and non-technical things to technical people
Cultural fit criteria
  • Evidence of reinforcing 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 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 upskilling and transferring knowledge to permanent staff within a client organisation
  • Understands how to work collaboratively in a multidisciplinary, agile service delivery team
  • Evidence of working within a diverse and inclusive environment
  • Proactively collaborates across teams in order to deliver transformational end-to-end services that work for users.
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. 12/01/21
1. Who’s in the incumbent and how long
they have been the incumbent?
2. Who’s on the panel?
1.There is currently no incumbent providing UR Capability in the North of England

2.The panel will comprise of digital specialists who deliver digital projects and programmes across the department as part of DfE's digital transformation.
2. Is there an incumbent supplier already providing this service, and if so could you tell us who they are?
There is currently no incumbent providing UR Capability in the North of England
3. Are the phase 1 answers included in the final scoring?
Yes Stage 1 of the procurement process would form part of the final score. Stage 1 forms 10% of the Technical fit of the overall Stage 2 Score
4. Regarding the essential criterion ‘Demonstrable experience of using qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research approaches, and evidence of applying them appropriately’ – do you want suppliers to include evidence of offsite and onsite research approaches? Or are entirely offsite/remote approaches acceptable?
The panel would like to see examples of both onsite and offsite/remote research approaches