Awarded to Softwire Technology Limited

Start date: Monday 11 September 2017
Value: £295,000
Company size: SME
Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy

Alpha – domestic consumer energy efficiency advice service.

8 Incomplete applications

5 SME, 3 large

18 Completed applications

13 SME, 5 large

Important dates

Wednesday 26 July 2017
Deadline for asking questions
Wednesday 2 August 2017 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Wednesday 9 August 2017 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Alpha will develop a prototype of a domestic energy saving advice service. This will take information from the user about their property, and some personal details. It will then recommend actions or installable measures to save money on bills, calculating cost savings and recommend any funding sources which are available.
Latest start date
Monday 4 September 2017
Expected contract length
12 weeks from contract signing date to report publishing for BEIS.
Organisation the work is for
Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy
Budget range
Our maximum budget for the 12 weeks of work is for approximately £300k exclusive of VAT.

About the work

Why the work is being done
Improving the energy efficiency of homes in the UK is important in achieving carbon targets and reducing consumer bills. Accurate, impartial advice is the crucial first step for consumers. Advice can include recommendations of measures consumers could take to improve the energy efficiency of their property, as well as an indication of eligibility for and referral routes for available support. BEIS currently provides the Energy Saving Advice Service (“ESAS”), a phone-only service. BEIS has undertaken discovery on transitioning to a digital service with assisted digital. The alpha team will develop prototypes for the future service and test with users iteratively.
Problem to be solved
Understanding energy efficiency improvements can be complex for consumers, needing to take into account the characteristics of a property and its occupants. There can be an information gap between consumers seeking to make improvements and being able to confidently take action. Eligibility for financial support can vary depending on individual circumstances, the property and its location. Referral routes can be complex and so discourage consumers from taking action. A digital service could reach a broader audience than the existing phone service; although some consumers will require assistance with the digital service.
Who the users are and what they need to do
All domestic property occupiers are potential users. They need better support through tailored advice based on their property and personal circumstances, and access to direct referrals to schemes providing support. Users that are not targeted in the MVP include landlords, suppliers and installers. While alpha prototypes will not focus on these users, the alpha team should bear them in mind when conducting user research and creating a plan for beta. There will also be an assisted digital element sitting alongside and using the same systems and data as the digital service.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
BEIS carried out discovery to scope user need for a digital service, and government’s role in such a service. Discovery found need for a minimum viable product to cater to consumers. It recommended prioritising consumers at a trigger point (e.g. broken boiler), in fuel poverty, those seeking to reduce bills or seeking to reduce carbon, or improve comfort. It identified a role for government in being a trusted source of data and information, providing impartial advice and protecting the vulnerable. Discovery recommended an assisted digital service sit alongside the digital service.
Existing team
The procured team will be working with employees of BEIS who will act as Service Manager and Product Owner. A consultant from the BEIS Digital Services team will be available for advice and review.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Work will take place at BEIS offices 1 Victoria Street, London.
Working arrangements
We would require the successful team to co-locate with the BEIS policy team at BEIS HQ for at least part of the working week. Actual arrangements will be agreed at the outset of Alpha. The service will be delivered in an agile way based on scrum principles which encourages open and fluid communication across the team. We expect the supplier to suggest and manage the approach that enables this, and we anticipate daily scrums along with regular show-and-tells. Users and stakeholders are across England and Wales so there will be a requirement to engage users from different regional areas.
Security clearance
Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS)

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
  • Experience building easy-to-use consumer-facing web-based applications.
  • Experience conducting and documenting user research, and using findings to iterate project work and software development.
  • Proven experience delivering projects using agile project management methodologies.
  • Experience of rapidly developing and iterating prototypes based on user testing, findings from discovery and policy context, including assisted digital.
  • Experience of working across multiple government departments, including data-sharing protocol.
  • Experience of developing digital services considering the needs of industry stakeholders
  • Experience identifying users who require assisted digital services, including vulnerable consumers, and their respective needs and usage patterns. Experience of ensuring prototype services cater to these needs.
  • Experience working with multiple data sources to analyse how they relate to each other, and how to get maximum service value from them.
  • Understanding of both legal and data protection issues in using personal data.
  • Communicating complex issues using clear and concise language in both written and verbal ways to a variety of audiences and expertise levels.
  • Experience of working with prototyping
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Demonstrable knowledge of the issues surrounding domestic energy efficiency, particularly in respect of consumer advice and consumer energy usage.
  • Awareness of recent technological developments in energy generation, energy efficiency measures and energy usage measurements, particularly with reference to ‘smart’ technology.
  • A familiarity with the principles of behavioural insight and behavioural change. Experience of applying these principles to consumer-facing services, particularly online.
  • Experience building easy-to-use mobile applications
  • Experience of delivering digital projects in line with the GDS Digital Service Standard.
  • Coaching, mentoring and upskilling people in agile techniques and roles to build capability within existing teams.

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Approach and methodology
  • Technical solution
  • Proposed programme of work and estimated timeframes
  • Team structure (with roles and responsibilities)
  • Value for money
Cultural fit criteria
  • Working transparently and collaboratively across government.
  • A collaborative and sharing approach, actively seeking input from colleagues and stakeholders.
  • Adept at communicating technical ideas with non-technical clients, both in writing and verbally.
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. 1) Please may we request a copy of the Discovery report for this procurement?
We will provide the report and other documents emerging from discovery to suppliers who are shortlisted for the presentation stage.
2. 2) How many suppliers to evaluate says '6'. Does this mean you have invited only six contractors to bid or has this gone out to all suppliers on the DM framework?
This advert has gone out to all suppliers on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 2 Framework. We will shortlist up to 6 suppliers to be invited to present to our evaluation panel.
3. 3) Will the service be built on GOV.UK?
We have not yet made a final decision on whether the service will be built on GOV.UK, therefore we would expect that a supplier would being alpha prepared to build a site compliant with the GDS Service Design Manual and GOV.UK requirements, however with flexibility to change depending on discussions with stakeholders and the Government Digital Service.
4. 4) Will the supplier be responsible for recruiting research participants for prototype testing?
We expect that the supplier will be responsible for recruiting research participants for prototype testing.
5. 5) What research was done with users during discovery and what form did this take?
User research during discovery consisted of in-depth interviews with a sample of consumers. Interviews with stakeholders, ranging from policy interests to industry representatives to advocacy agencies were also carried out.
6. 6) Is there a deadline for the alpha to be completed by, and for the live service to be launched?
We would encourage suppliers to seek to complete alpha within 12 weeks of the start date. There is no deadline for a live service, however we are seeking for a public beta to be available during Spring 2018.
7. 7) Can you provide a timetable for the proposal submission and the presentation stages?
We would expect to be able to notify shortlisted suppliers on Monday 14 August. We would then expect to receive written submissions by the end of Wednesday 16 August, with presentations to follow on Thursday 17 August. These timings are subject to change
8. 8) What is the scope of the assisted digital channel? If the customer has a question that is not covered by the digital service, will the assisted digital channel be expected to provide an answer?
We anticipate that the assisted digital service will provide identical information to the digital service
9. 9) Is the service to offer direct referrals into national schemes, or merely provide signpost information to the user?
For the alpha stage, the MVP will need to provide signpost information to the user. We expect the service to be built with the ability to easily add this functionality in future.
10. 10) Is the service to cover advice, recommendations and referrals for renewable technologies as well as energy efficiency measures?
Yes, the service should cover renewable technologies as well as energy saving measures.
11. 11) Will the supplier be responsible for recruiting users for the user experience testing and other associated user input for Alpha?
We expect that the supplier will be responsible for recruiting research participants for user experience testing and any other inputs.
12. 12) Will details of the user requirements, personas and user cases from the Discovery phase be made available? Will details of users recruited in the Discovery phase be available to the successful supplier?
We will provide the report and other documents emerging from discovery to suppliers who are shortlisted for the presentation stage. This includes user personas. Details of users recruited during Discovery will not be made available to the successful supplier.
13. . Prior to this tender, has BEIS carried out any pre-market engagement? 2. Was the Discovery work undertaken internally or through an external supplier? 3. Can you please share the Discovery findings? 4. How experienced is your team with agile delivery? Have you used this approach with past projects? 5. Will the new site need to adhere to design constraints? 6. Was the appropriate technology stack for the site build considered at Discovery phase?
BEIS has not carried out pre-market engagement directly relating to this procurement. Discovery was undertaken by an external supplier, with input from internal colleagues. We will share the Discovery findings with shortlisted suppliers prior to requiring a written proposal and presentation. Team members have used agile delivery on the discovery element of this project. We anticipate the site be made designed such that it works towards design principles. We anticipate the successful alpha supplier will produce proposals for the technology stack.
14. If it’s deemed valuable to extend the delivery time period (but stay within budget), for example to allow for testing and iteration, is this feasible? 8. Has it been established whether or not this service is liable to undergo a GDS assessment? 9. Does the new solution need to integrate with other existing systems? If so, can you please give an overview of what these systems are? 10. Are you willing to undertake the contract on a time and materials invoicing basis?
We are working on assumption of a 12-week timescale for alpha, and invite suppliers to make a proposal based on that timescale. We are working on the assumption that this service will undergo the GDS assessment process following alpha. The solution does not need to integrate with other systems, however we anticipate it will be built in such a way that data sources can be incorporated in future, particularly in line with thinking on smart energy. We will undertake this contract on a capped time and materials basis, and are happy to discuss invoicing arrangements within those constraints.
15. 15) Should this prototype be a working HTML prototype (potentially with some data/sources) that proves that this is technically feasible? Or should the prototype be a wireframe prototype with no working parts, that tests that the MVP is understandable and usable?
The prototype should aim to demonstrate that the MVP is suitable for users, but also it should be able to incorporate some data and sources to demonstrate that advice can be derived from such sources.
16. 16) What are the expected outputs/deliverables at the end of the 12 week period?
At the end of the 12 week period we would expect to have a working prototype service that demonstrates both the functionality of the service and a selection of types of advice that could be generated
17. 17) Can you advise what activities were undertaken as part of the discovery phase, and what the document/deliverable outputs were?
During discovery, our supplier interviewed internal and external stakeholders, as well as potential users. The output comprised a presentation and document detailing user personas and core user needs, role of government and digital, service design principles and recommendations. This document will be made available to shortlisted suppliers
18. 18) Are the specific cases for use (referred to as a trigger point e.g. broken boiler, in fuel poverty, seeking to reduce bills, seeking to reduce carbon, seeking to improve comfort) defined, and in each case has the data that would be needed from the user in order to provide them with advice been defined?
Specific user personas as such were defined during discovery. We anticipate the successful supplier will work with the team to define the data and information required to provide applicable advice.
19. 19) Did the Discovery phase identify sources of data/information for recommended improvements to a property that a user should be advised to make?
Discovery identified potential such sources of data and information. We will work with the successful supplier to secure access to data where necessary. The successful supplier will need to analyse which would be required to develop the MVP.
20. 20) Did the Discovery phase identify website requirements? Or would these need to be identified as part of this phase of work?
Website requirements have not yet been finalised. We would expect the successful supplier to prototype a site and non-compliant site.
21. 21) Can you provide more detail on what is expected of an assisted digital service?
The assisted digital element should draw from the same data and information services as the digital element. We are currently minded that the element will likely be a phone service.
22. 22) What level of prototype is required to be delivered - UX or fully-working?
The prototype should be more of a fully-working prototype, being able to draw advice from data and information sources based on user inputs.
23. 23) What would the full customer lifecycle look like, from the first point of contact?
Customers would have two potential routes through the service. The first will be to enter the site and browse through static information on energy efficiency, energy saving, microgeneration and similar measures. The second will be to use user-inputted information, existing data on the home or a combination of the two to view measures that could be installed, and information on funding options available.
24. 24) What has initiated this project, at this particular point in time?
This project has been initiated to develop a digital successor service to the Energy Saving Service.
25. 25) What will the key measurements of success be?
Success during the alpha phase will be measured by both ease of use and the ability to incorporate data and sources to give accurate advice.
26. 26) What would be the minimum number of questions to be asked? What would be the maximum?
We do not have a specific view on the number of questions to be asked of users. However, we would encourage suppliers to prioritise achieving accurate recommendations with the minimum number of feasible questions.
27. 27) Is the data collected to be stored and available to view by an admin?
The service will ultimately need to store data on performance and usage of the service to be viewed by admins. We do not anticipate at present that any personal data will be stored.
28. 28) Where will the information on what measures should be suggested come from? Will it be part of the development process to define that or can this be pulled from something like RdSAP? Or will a prebuilt system like the Dynamic Engine be used?
The successful supplier will be expected to define which data and information sources measure recommendations are drawn from.
29. 29) Will there be any other external systems we will need to integrate with?
We anticipate the successful supplier for alpha may wish to integrate with systems providing property data, in order to ensure advice would be tailored. However, with several such systems and products in existence, we do not have a view on a specific system. We will work with the successful supplier to secure access to data where necessary.
30. 30) Will the external data be available for the required calculations, e.g the climate in properties' locations, roof direction, standard building techniques by decade, all need to be fed into these calculations? Does BEIS currently already have this data or would it need to be sourced by the appointed supplier?
Such data exists, but it may be necessary for the successful supplier to secure the data for these purposes. BEIS will provide support to secure access to data where necessary.
31. Is there any scope to extend the schedule for written proposals and presentations as described in question 7?
• Having considered the question, we are extending the schedule for written submissions and presentations. We still expect to notify shortlisted suppliers on Monday 14 August. We are now extending the deadline to receive written submissions to the end of Friday 18 August. Presentations will then follow on Monday 21 August.