Start date: Monday 8 November 2021
Value: £25,730
Company size: SME
The University of Sheffield

2925/HP - Robotic Process Automation Proof of Concept

18 Incomplete applications

16 SME, 2 large

36 Completed applications

30 SME, 6 large

Important dates

Thursday 29 April 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 6 May 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 13 May 2021 at 11:59pm GMT


Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Summary of the work
A proof of concept of Robotic Process Automation on 1 Finance process to understand the benefits, skills required and provide assurance around technical, data and security risks.
Latest start date
Monday 31 May 2021
Expected contract length
6 weeks (estimate)
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
The University of Sheffield
Budget range

About the work

Why the work is being done
The University of Sheffield would like to understand the potential for Robotic Process Automation to support the delivery of end-to-end digitisation.

A proof of concept with 1 Finance process will enable us to demonstrate the benefit of RPA and identify the skills that would be required to automate any further processes beyond the proof of concept.

We are looking for a supplier to manage the project to automate 1 Finance process; including discovery work to understand the existing process, provide automation software and a small number of licenses to University staff (expect less than 5 licenses required), automate the chosen process and measure the benefits once successfully automated.

We will then retain the software and licenses after the proof of concept to maintain the automated process; including access to any resources that will help the University to continue to use the software.
Problem to be solved
The Spike Cavell Procurement Reporting will be suggested as the Finance process for proof of concept.

This process involves running a series of reports and exporting from our SAP system, combining the reporting and submitted monthly to the North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium (NEUPC).

The process will also utilise the data exported to create a 3 year rolling summary using a number of variants.

The 3 year rolling summaries will also be projected forward 3 years using some model criteria, with various reporting options.

The 3 year rolling summaries should also be compared to actual spend and analysed easily in a report using variants.
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a Finance staff member (Head of Procurement), I need the reports required to improve management of the University's spend profile, vendor and contract management and forecasting of spend, so that the University is more able to be efficient, compliant and manage its carbon footprint.

As an IT Services Product Manager, I need to see RPA implemented on a business process, so that I can understand the benefits, time and skills required to automate further processes within the University.
Early market engagement
The University of Sheffield has had initial engagement with a few suppliers to understand the solutions available.
Any work that’s already been done
We have identified the Finance process that we would like to automate to provide a proof of concept.
Existing team
ITS Product Manager, 1 Business Analyst, Head of Financial Procurement, Head of Finance Systems & Change, Systems Analyst and/or Assistant Functional Analyst, SME
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Supplier will work remotely.
Working arrangements
Supplier will work remotely.

Supplier will provide a project plan and report weekly on progress of delivery of the proof of concept.
Security clearance

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
  • Previous experience of introducing RPA within an HEI/similar organisation
  • Previous experience of introducing RPA for Finance processes
  • Able to measure benefits of the trial, including but not limited to any time savings and efficiencies
  • Support knowledge transfer so that we can understand what skills are required for future procurement exercises
Nice-to-have skills and experience
Experience of using Agile methodology

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Value for money
  • How the proposed solution meets the problem to be solved
  • Technical Solution
  • Professional services to deliver proof of concept
  • How they've identified risks (and approaches to manage them) and potential benefits
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work collaboratively with colleagues in IT Services and Finance
  • Have a positive and proactive approach to ensure the proof of concept is a success
  • Be transparent and collaborative when making decisions
  • Share knowledge and experience with team members
Payment approach
Fixed price
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Reference
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. In order to understand the university’s requirements in further detail, please can we arrange a 30min call with our RPA team?
Due to availability of key stakeholders, we would not be able to schedule calls with all suppliers at this stage. We are happy to field any questions raised prior to the deadline, and are actively working to answer and publish those already asked.
2. Please can we have an indication of the budget for this project please?
We received this query from multiple suppliers - the answer below should cover the three queries relating to budget expectation / indications.

As a general indication, the potential budget available for this project is between £15k and £30k. It is worth noting that price is being evaluated as part of this requirement, and suppliers quoting competitive pricing would be advantageous for this part of the evaluation process.
3. At this stage, can you say whether you have a preference for RPA products from vendors such as Ui Path and Blue Prism or automation tools that can be developed in house e.g. Microsoft power automate, or are you looking for this work to advise on selection of the best tool?
At this point, we are looking for help in delivering a full solution and not just a technical tool.
4. Do you plan to implement RPA across other functions after POC?
This is dependent on the success and knowledge gained through the POC.
5. Has there been any due diligence done in the past to say RPA is the choice?
No, this piece of work will help us to determine that answer.
6. What is the ROI expected after implementation?
Success will be measured in time freed up for staff to focus on other work.
7. How many reports would need to be run? Do you have an idea on the hourly/daily expectation?
Four reports need to be run which are then merged to produce an end report. It is currently a monthly requirement that takes a couple of days to carry out.
8. Where is the 3 year rolling summary stored ? Database, Excel… ?
We do not have a 3 year rolling summary stored anywhere. This would be new as part of this POC. We have a number of products where data can be stored, including IBM TM1.
9. Would this POC consist of the vendor creating models for forecasting or will that be done by the university?
The University will create models for forecasting.
10. Would the bot do comparison on the rolling summary and actual spend or just prepare the data for humans to compare?
Ideally, the bot would do the comparison on the rolling summary and actual spend.
11. The tender mentions ‘initial engagements with few suppliers’. Have you finalized the RPA tool for this POC? Or would expect the vendor to perform tool feasibility analysis and recommend the tool?
We would expect the vendor to recommend the most suitable tool.
12. 100 words limit for each question is not sufficient to provide answers, is there any other medium to send the detailed proposal for this POC. like an option to send to any email etc...

Are we allowed to provide any links to the reference documents in our response, as the word limit is only 100?
The 100 word limit for responses at this stage of the process is set by CCS for the DOS5 framework, and is out of the University’s hands. We can only accept answers that meet the 100 word count limit, and will not be able to read any additional documents to ensure a fair process with all interested applicants.

Please remember that, at this stage, we are only looking for evidence of the skills / experience. Those successful at the shortlisting stage will then be asked to provide a detailed proposal for the University’s particular requirement.
13. Can you say what suppliers / tools you have seen or worked with to date and has this included process discovery software?
We have seen demonstrations from Ui Path, Xeretec and, Blue Prism.
14. Is there any other vendor currently delivering any RPA services to University of Sheffield?
We are not aware of any other vendors doing any similar work at the University.
15. Do you work with any sensitive information and to what extent does the GDPR (or GDPR-like regulations) apply to these data?
Yes, everything in Finance is subject to GDPR as well as confidentiality and commercial sensitivity considerations. The chosen supplier will be required to complete our internal Information Security and Data Protection assessments to evidence that they meet satisfactory security standards before any work is undertaken.
16. Do you have flexibility in modifying how the existing process works from the point of view of human interactions with files, forms, and data entry?
We would be open to suggestions around modifying the existing process.
17. What is the success criteria for measuring this POC?
Success criteria includes making the process more efficient, freeing up staff time and providing realistic results and comparisons.
18. Are there any data & security standards to be complied with during the POC?
The proof of concept will be carried out with a live process and live data, including extremely sensitive data. As this data is transferred to a third party as part of the process, any stipulations set by the third party need to be adhered to. The chosen supplier will also have to complete our internal Information Security and Data Protection assessments to evidence they meet satisfactory security standards before any work is undertaken.
19. You outline “The University of Sheffield has had initial engagement with a few suppliers to understand the solutions available.” Could you elaborate on this to clarify what specific work was undertaken thus, with which suppliers and how this has impacted the current requirement.
The engagements were exploratory conversations and demonstrations rather than discussing any specific University priorities and requirements. As published above, the University has seen demonstrations from Ui Path, Xeretec, and Blue Prism.
20. How have you sized the RPA tool licenses (5)?
This was an assumption of the number of users who would need to maintain the automated process, however, we would expect the supplier to determine the number of licenses required during the proof of concept.
21. Do you need the vendor to provide staff for maintenance of the BOT?
This will need to be determined during the proof of concept.
22. We understand the identified process for the POC involves running a series of reports to and from from SAP system integrating with APIs, active directory, and other systems to submit monthly reports to the North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium (NEUPC)

Please share the specific actions/ steps/ applications/ interfaces that need to be utilized for the end-to-end process of report extraction and submission?
The report which is submitted to NEUPC is a process that already exists that can be process mapped as part of this contract. The second part of the contract is a new process for creating a rolling forecasting and comparison reporting mechanism which will be developed as part of the contract. We do not have this drawn up yet.
23. What is the frequency of executing the above business process? (Linked to question above.)
At least monthly.
24. How are exceptions currently handled, can you please share a sample?
We are not sure there are any exceptions to the report in the current process.
25. Can the University of Sheffield clarify which suppliers have been involved in the early market engagement, and which product vendors/solutions you consider as being available or suitable following the research?
We have had demonstrations from Ui Path, Xeretec, and Blue Prism but will consider other suppliers.
26. Will the University of Sheffield consider proposals from suppliers who offer a different product or solution to those identified within the early engagement?
We will consider proposals from any suppliers who can help us achieve the RPA proof of concept.
27. Does the University already have a technology of choice? What have the University invested in already?
We do not have a technology of choice.
28. Can the University provide detail on the outcome of the initial engagement with suppliers? Are there any notes or feedback you can share with us?
We have only seen online demonstrations from a few suppliers (noted above in previous questions) so far and we don’t have any notes to share.
29. Are there any specific RPA technologies that you want the supplier to have knowledge of?
30. It was mentioned in the problem statement that a up to 5 licenses were required. Does university already selected/choice of software tool for this Proof of Concept. In general RPA licenses are based on no of Agents (robots). Are you referring to 5 sessions or 5 agents?
This was an assumption of the number of users who would need to maintain the automated process. We would expect the supplier to help us determine the number of robots during the proof of concept and any associated licensing costs.
31. Assuming a Business SME and a Project Manager will be made available for this project by University, to explain and document the existing process (process map), to define Success Criteria and finalising the scope etc...
The University does have a small team available to work on this project, including a business SME, but we are looking to work collaboratively with the supplier to deliver the proof of concept.
32. Do you have any hosting requirements, Please specify if it has to be on-prem or cloud or any other specific requirements?
Cloud hosting is preferred, but we wouldn’t rule out an on-prem solution if this presented significant benefits.
33. What are your main KPIs outside of time savings and efficiencies?
We don’t currently have other KPIs set and would hope to identify any further KPIs with the supplier during the POC.
34. Who is the primary sponsor for this initiative?
This initiative has been endorsed by the Finance Executive Team, and is being lead by IT Services.
35. In regards to questions ‘Support knowledge transfer so that we can understand what skills are required for future procurement exercises’ and ‘Experience of using Agile methodology’, could you please confirm if the response to these can be generic or it needs to be in the context of RPA?
Evidence for these skills and experiences does not have to be in relation to RPA - they can be generic examples.
36. Is it a mandatory criteria to have experience in the HEI space for the POC; or can it be considered from the the other industry as well?
We will consider suppliers with experience from organisations similar to HEI, ie. large, complex organisations.
37. How many resources are required in this team?
The University does have a small team available to work on the project and is looking to work collaboratively with the supplier to fill any gaps.
38. Is there any restriction on the selection of RPA tool?
No, as long as the tool meets our criteria it will be considered.
39. You state that the project can be delivered “remotely”. Can this be delivered from outside the EU (say India)?
The project can be delivered from outside the EU. However, the chosen supplier will need to complete our Information Security and Data Protection assessments to evidence they meet satisfactory security standards before any work is undertaken. This will take into consideration the location in which data is being processed, accessed or stored.
40. Could you please share the time table for this procurement?
Applications close on Thursday 13th at 23:59 (UK time). We hope to have completed shortlisting and notified all suppliers by Friday 21st May. Those shortlisted will then be invited to submit their written proposal, with a deadline in w/c 31st May. We hope to have evaluated and notified the successful supplier as soon as possible after this date, with an expected start in early to mid June.

The timescales above are estimates and will depend on the response rate and resource availability, so may change as we progress through the project stages.
41. Is there any maximum day rate available for each resource?
We do not have an explicit day rate in mind. However, we would anticipate any day rates to reflect the resource needed to deliver the project in the desired timescales, and within the budget range published in an earlier question.
42. Can you share any documentation on the target process for automation?
We currently do not have any documentation to share. However, if beneficial, we can look to provide some further information to the shortlisted suppliers to support their proposals.
43. Do you make a distinction between robotisation of human interactions on an interface (pure RPA) and the use of APIs, databases queries or interactions with Excel tables?
We do make a distinction between RPA and other automation tools and are looking for this project to deliver an RPA PoC.
44. Is there a process of the target financial RPAs that you can share?
We do not currently have process maps that we can share.
45. Are you able to say anything about the level of cleanliness of your existing data?
We are currently working to cleanse the existing data.
46. Currently what’s the Total FTE cost/process, Total time consumption /Process on manual interaction?
The process to pull the initial report together takes 2 full days to complete by 1 member of staff. The 3 year rolling average is a new report we would be looking to create through this proof of concept.
47. Why did you select this process as your PoC?
The University's Head of Procurement approached Business Systems (part of Dept. of Finance) and IT Services to help save time on a monthly reporting task, and to ask for help in setting up a new rolling actuals and forecast process. This seemed like the perfect place to start our automation journey.