Awarded to Softwire Technology Limited

Start date: Monday 23 October 2017
Value: £146,600
Company size: SME
Department for Education (DfE)

National Pupil Database Data Matching/Processing/Collation - Discovery

6 Incomplete applications

3 SME, 3 large

18 Completed applications

12 SME, 6 large

Important dates

Wednesday 9 August 2017
Deadline for asking questions
Wednesday 16 August 2017 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Wednesday 23 August 2017 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Effective and efficient collection, matching, processing, analysis and management of school performance data is a significant undertaking that underpins the Departments highest profile data and products. There are a large number of high profile and influential stakeholders. The discovery will baseline the current process and review users and their needs.
Latest start date
Friday 15 September 2017
Expected contract length
12 week for the initial discovery
Yorkshire and the Humber
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education (DfE)
Budget range

About the work

Why the work is being done
The DfE currently contracts a supplier to collect, match, process, analyse and correct data. This is a significant undertaking and the outputs underpin a number of high profile data assets including: The National Pupil Database, The School Performance tables and Analyse School Performance.
In preparation for the delivery of these datasets beyond the current contract, the department wishes to:

*Clearly map the ‘as is’ process and the end to end service architecture provided through the contract
*Illustrate areas of complexity, challenge or risk
*Identify user needs
*Provide insight into options for efficient delivery of the service provided by the contract
Problem to be solved
What are the best delivery routes for DfE’s future need to collect, match, process, analyse and correct school performance data in a cost effective, timely manner and to the necessary high standard.

In particular, we want to understand where there are ‘pain points’ and DfE has choices and trade offs between timeliness and quality to meet user needs. DfE would also like to understand if there are discrete activities where it makes more sense to consider alternative options, which could deliver value for money.
Who the users are and what they need to do
The data collected, matched, processed and supplied by the contract populates key department systems primarily Performance Tables (PTs), Analyse School Performance (ASP) and National Pupil Database (NPD). The external users of these services include parents, schools, LAs, MATs, Ofsted and researchers, the levels of data they want or have authority to have access to varies by user. Internal users of the data include ministers and officials who require the data to make school accountability and improvement decisions, to target support and funding.

In discovery it’s important we re-assess our users and their current and future needs.
Early market engagement
Currently a single supplier delivers the complete end-to-end collection, matching, checking and processing services. Market engagement was undertaken at the outset of the last procurement. This was on the premise of replicating the current services. The opportunity was advertised on contracts finder and informal discussions held with prospective suppliers to assess the markets’ response and the time that would be reasonably required to transition to a new supplier. Further discussions were then had with some suppliers on possible technical solutions.

As part of discovery, detailed conversations should be held with market suppliers and internal DfE experts, who have knowledge of the processes and infrastructure that form the components of this contract (e.g data collection, matching, hosting etc). This will allow the supplier to assess all possible technical solutions and sourcing routes, once stakeholder needs have been fully assessed. Given the sensitivity of the pupil data, information/ cyber security will be crucial requirements.

Early conversations with prospective suppliers and GDS about this discovery have suggested that we may require a Technical Solutions Architect, a Business Analyst, a User Researcher and possibly a Developer to form part of the initial discovery team.
Any work that’s already been done
In addition to the market engagement some process mapping was done internally at the outset of the last procurement, this along with the departments statement of requirements which form part of the existing contract, will need to be reviewed and re-refreshed but can be shared at the outset of the discovery.
Existing team
The supplier will work primarily with the DfE NPD Access Development lead who is an experienced Product Owner, but will also be required to liaise with a range of stakeholders (internal and external to the department) who have responsibilities for the delivery of the existing arrangements for the provision of these services or are users of them.

DfE commercial business partners should be consulted to provide guidance on procurement routes open to the department
Current phase
Not started

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Primarily based in Sheffield but with travel to other DfE sites, particularly London, to meet key stakeholders
Working arrangements
1) We are looking for flexibility in the approach to completing this discovery
2) We will be working to Agile principles - i.e. regular stand ups, Show & Tells etc
3) Necessary expenses will be paid in line with DfE standard policies
Security clearance
As part of the discovery suppliers may need see sensitive pupil level data. As such, any successful supplier would be expected to meet the security terms associated with applying for an NPD Extract, outlined here:

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
  • Expertise and experience in application of Agile approaches to delivering complex systems (using Agile techniques that meet the GDS Service Standards and have passed GDS Service Assessments)
  • Proven experience of working with data matching and processing on this scale
  • Should be able to work at high intensity in a team, collaborative environment
  • Have Technical & Solutions Architect experience
  • Ability to identify & analyse complex processes and hand-offs
  • Ability to cleary communicate technical solutions to non-technical colleagues
  • Successful delivery of projects that include blended, multi-discipline, multi-stakeholder teams focused on meeting user needs, and demonstrating clear methodology for engagement, problem solving and delivery
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • An understanding of DfE data processes
  • Proven experience of knowledge sharing and skills transfer with in-house teams so as to build sustainable capability
  • Demonstrable experience of carrying out research with a diverse mix of users including those with low digital literacy and assisted digital needs

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Technical solution
  • How they’ve identified risks and dependencies and offered approaches to manage them
  • Value for Money
  • Approach & methodology
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work as a team with our organisation and other suppliers
  • Share knowledge and experience with other team members
  • Agile and flexible to changing/uncertain requirements
  • Transparent and collaborative when making decisions
  • Challenge the status quo whilst maintaining good relationships
Payment approach
Fixed price
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Case study
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Do the DfE have a delivery manager assigned to this Discovery work or are the supplier expected to supply a delivery manager?
In line with the GDS Service Manual (see link below) we were not planning on assigning a Delivery Manager to this initial discovery.

We will assign someone with Product Manager skills/experience.
2. 1. We note that you have engaged with the market in preparation for this tender. Could you let us know the suppliers you have engaged with?

2. Is there a defined budget for this procurement which we should work within?
1. We have held informal discussions with several individuals with Agile expertise to help us understand the skills & experience we require for our discovery team.

2. No.
3. Given the period over which the discovery is set to take place, will we have free access to people and data when, in all likelihood, they will be implicated in this year’s production effort?
This is a high priority piece of work for the department. We understand that access to people and data is essential for this discovery and we will work with our stakeholders to ensure access is available.
4. It seems that much thought has already gone into this. Will previous candidate solutions – ideas even – be available for interrogation (to avoid “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”)?
We will appropriately share as much information as possible in order to make this discovery a success. However, as this is a discovery, we are keen not to move into 'solutions' to early.
5. 1. DfE currently contracts a supplier to collect, match, process, analyse and correct data. Will access to this data be possible during Discovery?

2. Will direct access to this supplier be possible during Discovery to understand how collection, matching, processing and correction is currently happening?
1. Yes
2. Yes
6. Will the product owner mentioned in existing team be full-time on the project?
7. Does DfT have a maximum budget in mind for spend with a supplier during the Discovery phase that can be shared?
Yes, the DfE has a maximum budget in mind. We will not be sharing the budget.
8. Can you please outline steps and dates in the procurement timetable, up until supplier award i.e. Proposal or presentation dates
The immediate process is:

*DfE Requirements Published - Wednesday 9 August 2017
*Supplier Deadline for asking questions - Wednesday 16 August 2017 at 11:59pm GMT
*Supplier Closing date for applications - Wednesday 23 August 2017 at 11:59pm GMT

The link below outlines the following steps

We would look to schedule presentations for shortlisted supplier w/c 4 September.
9. 1. DfE have provided information with respect likely team roles for Discovery (Technical Solution Architect, Business Analyst, User Researcher, Developer) - will any of these roles be undertaken by DfE staff?

2. Are there any other roles that DfE are planning to deploy their own people during Discovery i.e. Service Manager?
1. No - we are looking for the supplier to provide the individuals for these roles.
2. DfE will be providing a Product Owner.
10. Discussions are required with external users (parent, schools, LAs, MATs, Ofsted and researchers), suppliers, internal experts, other internal users. Are there any expectations on numbers of individuals in each category and mode of enquiry (e.g. face-to-face, survey etc).
There is flexibility around the numbers and mode of enquiry as long as the action taken supports a robust discovery.
11. Will we have access to data coming in at the DfE and the formal rules to process it, so that we can compare with actual results?
I don't understand the second part of the question. What results are you looking to compare?
12. There are a large number of high profile stakeholders.

1. Approximately how many high profile stakeholders are there?

2. Do stakeholders differ from the list of external and internal users provided, if so how?
1. It is difficult to provide an approximation of high profile stakeholders.

2. Broadly, the list of external/internal stakeholders stipulated within the 'Who the users are and what they need to do' section of the requirements, are the key stakeholder groups.
13. It is mentioned in 'Early Market Engagement' that further discussions have been had with some suppliers on possible technical solutions. Are there any key findings from this research that can be shared with potential suppliers?
We will appropriately share as much information as possible with the successful supplier in order to make this discovery a success. However, as this is a discovery, we are keen not to move into 'solutions' to early.
14. Please characterise the number and type of data sets that might be ingested? i.e. Are there near real-time data feeds, or reasonably static data sets.
I do not have that information available at present. I expect we will identify that type of information during the discovery.
15. Are there any strategic technologies or tools that are common and important to DfE's wider enterprise architecture and plans going forwards?
I am not in a position to provide an answer at this stage. I envisage this question will be answered during the discovery.
16. We note that the commercial model listed is Fixed Price, from experience we have found other commercial models can be more fitting for agile work such as Time and Materials. Would DfE accept proposals that propose an alternate commercial model?
The DfE will be working on a fixed price model for this piece of work.
17. Who is the current supplier mentioned in 'why is the work being done' section? What involvement in the Discovery is this supplier expected to have?
We will provide details of the current supplier to shortlisted suppliers. The existing supplier will maker themselves available for user research etc.
18. DfE currently contracts a supplier to collect, match, process, analyse and correct data. With respect this existing data 1) how large are these data sets approximately? 2) is the data stored in multiple formats , if so what i.e. Excel / relational database? 3) How often does the existing data update i.e. weekly batch / daily batch / hourly / real-time?
I do nor have the answer to your question at this stage. I envisage us identifying the answer to these questions during the early part of the discovery.
19. DfE currently contracts a supplier to collect, match, process analyse and correct data.

1. Are there any reasons prior to Discovery to think that this existing supplier and existing systems as they are currently set-up are not sufficient to meet DfE future ambitions? If so what are the key reasons?

2. Otherwise is re-use of existing systems a possibility worth considering?
1. No, but we will have a better understanding following the discovery.

2. We are not in a position to consider potential solutions until after the discovery.
20. External users of these services include parents, schools, LAs, MATs, Ofsted and researchers.

1. Roughly how many user representatives in total might be interviewed during Discovery?

2. Are there for instance likely to be big regional differences between user needs within schools, or big user needs differences between different types of school necessitating a wide ranging user research requirement? Otherwise, would research conducted with a couple of schools suffice?
1. It is difficult to determine at this stage.

2. I would imagine the user needs across regions would be standard. The discovery will inform us in more detail.
21. DfE want to understand 'pain points' and has choices and trade off between timeliness and quality to meet user needs. The current supplier has a responsibility for correcting data. Roughly what percentage of the suppliers total effort is spent correcting data?
I do not have the information available to answer your question at this moment in time. The percentage of time the existing supplier spends correcting data will be baselined during the discovery.
22. Will we have access to system logs, for example COLLECT logs, so we can establish flows, latency, frequency of errors (in submitting the data) and similar?
We will provide access to as much information as possible in order to make this discovery a success.
23. Re "using Agile techniques that... have passed GDS Service Assessments" - in the interests of open competition, are you open to bids from suppliers who have worked to service standards but may not have passed a formal GDS assessment?
As this is a high profile piece of work for the department we would require a supplier with '..experience of using Agile techniques that meet the GDS Service Standards and have passed GDS Service Assessments'