This opportunity is closed for applications

The deadline was Wednesday 22 June 2016
Skills Funding Agency (SFA) on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)

User research for digital apprenticeship service (SFADAS01)

0 Incomplete applications

13 Completed applications

11 SME, 2 large

Important dates

Wednesday 8 June 2016
Deadline for asking questions
Wednesday 15 June 2016 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Wednesday 22 June 2016 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Provide a flexible team of user researchers (4 to 8) to work in fast-paced agile delivery teams to research user needs to inform delivery of clear, user-led content and features for the service. Suppliers will need to put forward individuals with the essential technical skills set out in this document.
Latest start date
Expected contract length
2 years but may be shorter depending on progress towards delivering the strands of work.
West Midlands
Organisation the work is for
Skills Funding Agency (SFA) on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
Budget range

About the work

Why the work is being done
BIS and the SFA are delivering a new digital apprenticeship service. The service vision is “Empowering employers to build skills through quality apprenticeships”. Currently apprenticeship funding is allocated and paid directly to training providers. Therefore employers will take control of government funding for apprenticeships. The policy intent is to drive up the quality and quantity of apprenticeships. We have completed a number of discovery and alpha stages for some components the service. The first strand will go live in August 2016. The services being procured are expected to deliver the remaining strands of work by April 2017.
Problem to be solved
Often employers don't know they have the option to choose from a range of providers, or that government will fund training for their apprentices. Employers need to be able to: 1) hire apprentices; 2) choose the right type of training for their apprentices; 3) find a suitable training provider; 4) understand what funding is available, including the apprenticeship levy, where that applies to them; and 5) manage their training costs.
Who the users are and what they need to do
1) As a citizen I need to improve my employment prospects so that I can start a career and earn money.
2) As an employer I need to employ an apprentice so I can improve the skills of my workforce, and get support for my business.
3) As a training provider for apprenticeships I need to ensure employers choose my services so my business is viable.
4) As SFA I need to manage levy payment and funding to training providers and ensure growth in apprenticeships for the benefit of the economy.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
We have completed a series of discovery and alpha phases for the various strands of work within the service. Two strands of work are currently in the beta phase.
Existing team
The supplier will be working with civil servants and multiple suppliers across various strands of work for delivery of the service.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Skills Funding Agency, Cheylesmore House, 5 Quinton Road, Coventry CV1 2WT, with occasional travel to other locations nationwide.
Working arrangements
Onsite full-time 5 days a week co-located with the rest of the team at the SFA offices in Coventry. Occasional travel to other BIS or SFA (or partner organisation) offices may be required, subject to SFA travel and subsistence policy. This programme is being delivered using agile methodologies. Successful application of agile principles and techniques requires that the teams are co-located and able to work directly with colleagues representing digital delivery, operational and policy requirements.
Security clearance
The successful supplier must be able to demonstrate that all proposed team members have been subject to Baseline Personnel Security Standards checks as set out in the SFA Baseline Security Policy 2014.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Standard DOS framework and call-off terms and conditions. Expenses as per the SFA travel and subsistence policy.

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
  • Provide researchers with a mix of substantial hands on experience and/or degree in the relevant field combined with experience. Degrees in HCI, psychology, design research or similar are relevant.
  • Full understanding and demonstrable experience in User Centred Design (UCD) product development.
  • Full understanding and demonstrable experience of research methodologies. Qualitative: RITE, usability testing, and contextual enquiry. Quantitative: usability metrics.
  • Full understanding and demonstrable experience in indirect data collection techniques such as web traffic analytics.
  • Full understanding and demonstrable experience in planning and running a private and public beta of a product to the real user (i.e. use of the product in a live environment).
  • Experience in delivering insights in a scrum team of cross-disciplinary team members using Lean UX techniques.
  • Ability of individuals proposed to work with users and stakeholders at all levels.
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • A full understanding and demonstrable experience of research methodologies: ethnography, open and closed card sorting, multivariate testing.
  • A full understanding and demonstrable experience in indirect data collection techniques: surveys, digital diary studies.
  • A demonstrable focus in experience in validating for digital products. Physical or service design is acceptable too.
  • Strong understanding of the Government Digital Service’s Design Principles and Digital Service Standard.

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Demonstrate the supplier’s experience and knowledge of delivering user research
  • Demonstrate an understanding and prior use of research methodologies and data collection techniques
  • Demonstrate how the supplier contributes to building an effective multidisciplinary team
  • Demonstrate the supplier’s approach to user needs
  • Demonstrate how the supplier has used an analytical and problem solving approach to add value beyond the scope of user research
  • Demonstrate how the supplier actively promotes understanding and acceptance of core content and user centered design and agile principles
Cultural fit criteria
  • Demonstrate commitment to excellence and improvement (for example, through seeking actionable feedback, setting targets etc)
  • Demonstrate a passion for the Lean UX philosophy
  • Have a no-blame culture and encourage people to learn from their mistakes
  • Transparent and collaborative when making decisions and recommendations
  • Demonstrate courage (for example, can express controversial views, confront reality, make tough decisions, question actions inconsistent with group behaviours, candid about progress/estimates)
  • Demonstrate vulnerability (for example, declare uncertainty, fear, recognise mistakes, apologise, acknowledge weaknesses)
  • Demonstrate responsibility (for example, act like a leader, serve your team, provide solutions to problems, engage in external/internal environments, seek the best for the organisation beyond your team)
  • Demonstrate simplicity (for example, take simple steps to goals, do less but better, mitigate failures, talk straight with respect)
  • Demonstrate excellence (for example, seek actionable feedback, set challenging targets, know users, deliver cost effective high level customer satisfaction)
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm (for example, bring whole self to work, celebrate success, share passion and energy with others, optimistic)
  • Demonstrate a commitment to ensuring a team understands the user need over simply delivering findings
Payment approach
Time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Case study
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. The RFP states that this will be a two year contract but that it may be shorter depending on progress towards completing delivery of the service. In the same document it is stated that the service must be live by April 2017. These two statements seem to contradict each other.
The length of the contract will be 2 years as per the standard DOS duration. The April 2017 deadline is to deliver the Minimum Viable Service (MVS). We expect that there will be additional work required post April 2017 to deliver remaining user stories that are not deemed to be part of the MVS and user stories which may be uncovered during the course of the work as more is understood from a policy and/or delivery perspective. The service will go through private beta phases where additional content and functionality reqs will/may be identified.
2. What provisions are in place to carry out knowledge transition from incumbent suppliers to the new suppliers from this procurement?
There are 2-year contracts with incumbent suppliers which were let during the procurement that took place in September 2015. These contracts will continue to be used until their contract values are used up or when they expire. There is sufficient contract value left in those to run in parallel with the new contracts so as to ensure that there is continuity of key resources and that there is adequate knowledge transition. There is an expectation on all suppliers to deliver knowledge transition not only from one supplier to another but also to civil servants. This should be reflected in bids.
3. Do you expect proposals to include different (or more than one) level of expertise/experience?
We would like to have the ability to commission work from more than one expertise/experience level as it may not always be necessary for the programme to resource a team with only “senior” UR’s, for example.
4. Are you expecting one supplier to provide all 4-8 roles onsite full time over the course of the contract, or is there flexibility for the consultants to be on and off-site (as appropriate depending on the activities being worked on)?
The expectation is that suppliers will work full time on site during the course of the contract. Occasional travel to other BIS and SFA (or partner organisation) offices or to external organisations for field work may be required.
5. User research methodologies during Beta development can include a variety of research services. Will there be lab/facilities available for use in Coventry? If not, are suppliers permitted to use labs in other regions (e.g. London)?
There will be lab facilities in the Coventry office. On occasion we may need to procure external labs to conduct user testing to avoid regional bias and to cover a cross section of users. B2B user research is well subscribed on a voluntary basis but formal lab B2C (citizen) research will require recruitment and incentive provision. We have the option of using the lot within DOS for user research lab space.
6. How do you anticipate recruiting participants? Will we be engaging with any participants under the age of 18?
We will need to use external recruitment, especially for citizen users. We will need to recruit participants under the age of 18
7. Is accessibility user testing likely to be a requirement during this contract?
Yes, accessibility user testing will be a requirement. The guidelines state that we should be testing with one or two users with an impairment in every iteration. This will be an ongoing piece of work.
8. Is there any cover for accommodation and travel costs, for people willing to relocate for the contract duration?
All supplier resources will be required to be based out of the Coventry SFA offices. As such, travel and subsistence to the base location is not covered by expenses. Day rates should be inclusive of any costs of travelling to and working from the base location. However, the cost of travel to other locations while performing SFA work will be covered as per the SFA travel and subsistence policy and will need to be invoiced by the supplier with supporting receipts.