Awarded to Version 1 Solutions Limited

Start date: Wednesday 24 November 2021
Value: £1,250,000
Company size: large
Education Authority Northern Ireland

Education Authority Online Schools Admissions

7 Incomplete applications

3 SME, 4 large

5 Completed applications

3 SME, 2 large

Important dates

Published
Thursday 14 October 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 21 October 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 28 October 2021 at 11:59pm GMT

Overview

Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Contracted out service: the off-payroll rules do not apply
Summary of the work
Further digital transformation on the Outsystems platform to improve user focused development by removal of priority manual processes, to create an intelligent experience tailored to user needs. Implement features incrementally for bespoke Parent, School, Admin portals to deliver a full digital service maximising re-use where feasible and possible.
Latest start date
Wednesday 17 November 2021
Expected contract length
24 months (optional extension subject to performance and commercial governance arrangements)
Location
Northern Ireland
Organisation the work is for
Education Authority Northern Ireland
Budget range
It is estimated that the work can be delivered within the budget range of £750,000 to £1,250,000. This covers the entire length of the contract including any extensions.

About the work

Why the work is being done
In March 2021, EA launched a new Digital Admissions service for Post-Primary Schools, replacing an almost entirely manual paper-based application process. This enabled parents to apply digitally and facilitated EA, Schools and DE to successfully complete the Admissions process for the September 2021 intake. Using the Outsystems platform, an application was developed for parents to apply online, upload relevant documents giving schools the ability to manage applications and EA to have oversight to administer updates. The document upload functionality was also added to the previously digitised pre-school/primary admissions applications process, allowing parents to upload evidence in support of their application and giving schools the ability to securely view/download the documentation.
We seek to further digitally transformation through continuous improvement by enhancing the admissions process and improving customer experience. By further modernising priority manual administrative processes and enhancing data quality/analysis to make better use of data to support schools/EA decision making. This is phase 1 in the development of a Unified Customer Experience as part of the Education Technology Service programme of work. We operate within the agreed DE Admissions timetable. The initial improvement work must be complete by the 10 January 2022 and subsequent deliverables met within agreed timetables.
Problem to be solved
EA need to further develop and enhance the digital admissions online application within their current Outsystems platform to include digital transformation of processes not previously digitised to benefit all stakeholders and present new opportunities for more effective and efficient services for all of our internal and external stakeholders. The current Online Admissions system was launched in 2021 in response to the Covid crisis when the previous paper based application process was no longer feasible. Over 23,000 online post primary parents used the system to apply for school places, stipulating preferences, uploading over 66,000 documents and viewing placement notifications. The higher user volumes on specific days led to congestion and delays for parents. EA would like to improve the user experience by resolving this issue. The Outsystems platform was also developed to allow the upload of over 78,000 Pre School and Primary documents, we seek to enhance this experience with all documents viewable by parents on upload.

We need to transform remaining priority manual/paper processes within EA support services, to create an intelligent experience tailored to user needs. Implement features incrementally for bespoke Parent, School, and Admin portals to deliver a full Digital Service, maximising re-use where feasible and possible.
Who the users are and what they need to do
• A parent/carer will have the ability to apply online within a fully digital platform for EA support services
• All parents will have easy access to log onto their account, to view status of admission applications, amend application details and view the placement notification for their children on the specified date
• Parents will have the ability within their account to accept/reject, add further preferences, appeal the school placement as required and submit an application for an unplaced child
• Principals/Board representatives need to view and process all application data, view and verify documents, select or not select application as required.
• EA services need to be able to access applications to view, edit, update and to coordinate the service as required.
• EA services, schools/DE require enhanced data quality, improved reporting, analysis and insight
Early market engagement
No market engagement has taken place.
Any work that’s already been done
EA strategically invested in an Outsystems platform and developed the current admissions portal for post primary school applications which was released on 1st March 2021 enabling parents to apply digitally and facilitated EA, Schools and DE officials to successfully complete the Admissions process for the September 2021 intake. A document upload functionality was added to the previously digitised pre-school and primary admissions applications process, allowing parents to securely upload evidence in support of their application and giving schools the ability to securely view/download the documentation. These portals represent the alpha phase and are ready to move into beta, improvements phase.
Existing team
Current EA team is comprised of:
• Workstream Lead
• Project Manager
• Delivery Manager
• Business Analysts
• Seconded School Principals
• SMEs from the Admissions service
• Admissions Head of Service
• Representatives from ICT
• Digital Information Manager
• Consulting Partner team
• Current Outsystems provider
It is envisaged this team shall undergo expansion with new roles included.
Current phase
Beta

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Education Authority Northern Ireland, project can be delivered remotely
Working arrangements
In the current circumstances we anticipate the team will work remotely and communicate via MS Teams. The supplier is expected to work closely with EA services and ETS teams. The supplier will need to undertake discovery exercises as required to fully understand current processes and identify improvements. For governance, we require weekly status reports to include progress to date, milestones, next actions, bug identification and planned fixes, issues, risks, budget ,project plan, blockers and successes. Supplier should be prepared to provide to show and tell sessions upon conclusion of each development sprint through agile project delivery methodology.
Security clearance
All resources working on this engagement will be required to have successfully passed BPSS checking - evidence will be required.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Call-off Schedule 21 (Northern Ireland Law) to apply

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
  • Ability to deploy an agile, effective and experienced multi-disciplinary team with range of project management, UX, design, development, user testing skills to start work no later than 17/11/21 (15%)
  • Have experience of rapidly designing, developing and implementing an online solution with multiple portals with a flexible approach to design and changing technologies. (15%)
  • Must be able to complete prioritised improvement work by the 10 January 2022 and subsequent deliverables within the agreed customer timetable. (15%)
  • Have experience of designing flexible and scalable high volume digital services that meet a wide range of user needs. (15%)
  • Have experience of delivering successful outcomes for organisations who work across multiple service areas.(10%)
  • Demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively with external suppliers to manage integration with existing services and platforms (10%)
  • Experience of building and maintaining positive relationships with delivery team and with all stakeholders (10%)
  • Able to demonstrate an understanding of the importance/value of data insight and analytics (10%)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Have experience of delivering successful outcomes within the education sector in the UK or Republic of Ireland
  • Illustrate innovative, agile thinking in relation to problems as they arise and be reactive to change
  • Demonstrate experience of delivering end-to-end service transformation ensuring high quality user focussed improvements.

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
3
Proposal criteria
  • How the approach meets our needs and those of our customers and stakeholders(20%)
  • Technical solution offered (20%)
  • Team structure, knowledge and experience (20%)
  • Proposed timescales for the work (20%)
  • Identification of risks and dependencies with a plan to manage them (10%)
  • Value for money (10%)
Cultural fit criteria
  • Shares knowledge and experience with clients, is transparent and collaborative when making decisions and solving problems (25%)
  • Can work with stakeholders with low technical expertise (25%)
  • Ability to take responsibility for all associated works, resolving problems and being able to adapt quickly to any agreed changes (25%)
  • Focus on business outcomes and time criticality (25%)
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence

60%

Cultural fit

10%

Price

30%

Questions asked by suppliers

1. Is there already an incumbent supplier on this role?
Neueda developed the first phase of EA’s digital admissions portal.
2. Who from your team will be scoring applications for this opportunity and what positions do they hold?
The evaluation panel comprise of the following:-
• Digital Transformation Manager/ETS Workstream Lead
• Senior Business Analyst
• Head of Pupil Services and Student Finance
3. Who is the incumbent and how long they have been the incumbent?
Neueda developed the first phase of EA’s digital admissions portal. They were engaged by EA under contract for this work between October 2020 to April 2021.
4. Can you please advise the timelines of this procurement (e.g. shortlisted companies notified, anticipated contract award)? Also, can you confirm if shortlisted suppliers will have the opportunity to present?
We are currently working to the following timetable:-
• Initial Supplier responses closing date – 28th October
• Evaluation of responses – 28th October – 3rd November
• Request for proposal from Shortlisted suppliers – 4th November
• Return date for proposals – 11th November
• Evaluation of proposals – 12-15th November
• Issue contract award letter – 16th November
• Contract commencement – 17th November
This is a draft timetable and is subject to change.

The EA is reserving the right to request shortlisted suppliers to present to the panel.
5. What are the technological stack used for the existing digital services? Are they cloud based solution? If yes then which cloud.
Technological stack consists of Capita, Outsystems platform and AWS Cloud.
6. You mention the current Outsystem provider as part of the existing team, have they not been asked to deliver this 2nd phase of development?
EA have contract with Outsystems until 6th January 2021. Discussions with Outsystems are underway to extend this relationship.
7. Can you provide details about the congestion issue you’re looking to resolve? What happened for parents? Do you have any insights on the underlying cause?
Parents of 23k children logging into get placement notification at 9am. Waiting room from 8am led to build up of traffic. High interest due to lack of school transfer tests that year. Recorded 166k views and 33k users.
Issue with implementation of code associated with queue it software presented parents with an error message at the top of the queue and put them back into a queue resulting in loop. Issue also with licence constraints of queuing software.
8. Due to the nature of Outsystems there are extensive limitations to the changes that can be made which may prevent resolving the issues you’ve experienced. Are you confident that it is actually possible to resolve the congestion issues on this platform?
EA are confident that we understand the problems previously experienced and have plans in place to resolve these for future phases.
9. Are you open to moving off Outsystems and rebuilding the service on a more widely supported tech stack either before or after the Jan 10 deadline?
Due to the timetable involved in the admissions cycle it is EA’s desire to remain with Outsystems to ensure no risks to delivery. EA are happy to consider alternatives in the longer term working with the Digital Outcomes Supplier.
10. Please could you provide the tech stack for the existing Outsystem?
EA currently have the Outsystems Standard license, hosted on OutSystems Cloud. The set up within the outsystems cloud uses AWS hosted in UK along with SQL and . net technologies.
11. In relation to bullet point 6 -Essentials section – can you give us a few examples of what you see as a service area?
Bullet point 6 is the following – ‘Demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively with external suppliers to manage integration with existing services and platforms’.

EA wish to promote re-use of existing services as required for e.g. gov.uk notify, accessibility software, analytics software, Outsystems platform.
12. There seems to be % scores attached to each of the Stage 1 bullet points – Will the scores from the 1st round be taken forward as part of your overall assessment or will they only be used to shortlist suppliers for stage 2?
The scores from the stage 1 bullet points (Essential skills and experience and Nice-to-have skills and experience) will be for shortlisting only and will not carry forward to the next stage.
13. What support services do the ‘current OutSystems provider’ deliver to EA?
Please see response to no. 11.
14. Please can you confirm the application object count for the current OutSystems application?
205 objects
15. Please can you detail the initial work that must be complete by 10 January 2022 and subsequent deliverables including EA timetables?
Initial work for 10 January will be in connection with a document upload facility including preview of documents for parents and schools. Subsequent deliverables will be determined by timeframes as dictated by DE timetable which is still being finalised/approved.
16. How would EA propose to manage the transition from the incumbent to a new supplier?
There are contractual provisions in place with the current supplier with regards to exit in which the supplier has an obligation to assist with any move to a new supplier.
17. Are there any restrictions in the location of the delivery resources e.g. UK, Europe, India?
If this refers to people delivering the service then there are no restrictions however they will have to operate UK time working hours of 9am-5pm GMT and be fully contactable (and responsive) during these hours.
18. Is Outsystems on cloud or on-premise?
As per no. 5 - cloud
19. Do you have any existing document management solution? Where are you storing the documents currently?
Documents uploaded as part of the application process are stored on cloud services based in UK
20. Are there any existing integrations? We don’t see any integration requirements
We are keen to integrate with existing services as required for e.g. gov.uk notify, accessibility software, analytics software, Outsystems platform.
21. Do we have requirement for native mobile app?
No but solution must be mobile responsive – 70%+ of users used mobile device last year
22. Is the Role management functionality out of the box and will need further customisation?
Roles are defined using the OutSystems roles functionality for parents, schools, EA admission staff, and super-admin users. New roles or customisations may be needed depending on how the solution is implemented.
23. Is the data stored in Outsystems DB or connected via external DB
OutSystems DB
24. What is the peak user load and hits per second?
Jan 7th (pre-school / primary launch) – approx. 20k page views, 1300 unique users, and approx. 100k server requests, peaking at approx. 500 concurrent users per minute.

June 13th (post-primary results) ~11k parents initially in the “queue”, but only 300 per minute allowed through to the results page – resulting in approx. 20k logged in users in 4 hours.
25. Current production infrastructure specs (Both App server & DB Server)?
OutSystems Cloud infrastructure on AWS, using EC2 with auto-scaling and RDS with SQL server and currently ~220GB of data stored.

Note the current application is built as an OutSystems Reactive application, on React.JS, which greatly reduces the burden on the app server.
26. Whats are the expected roles and teams size expected to be onboarded by 17-Nov-21?
Project management, UX, designer, architect, developer, tester (6-10 people minimum)
27. For all public sector contracts, there is generally a 10 day standstill period. But according to the timelines posted by the authority this doesnt seem like the case. Will the standstill period be taken into consideration?
• Issue contract award letter – 16th November
• Contract commencement – 17th November
Due to the time critical nature of this requirement EA have proceeded with an outline timetable that did not include a standstill period.

In line with regulation 86 (5) c of the Public Contract Regulations a standstill is not mandatory for contracts being awarded from a Framework.

Nonetheless EA is reserving its right to proceed with a voluntary standstill period at the intent to award stage (after evaluation) and when all bidders are made aware of the outcome of the competition.