Awarded to Mercator IT Solutions

Start date: Thursday 1 February 2018
Value: £4,200,000
Company size: SME

Digital Operations - Delivery of cloud platform services

8 Incomplete applications

3 SME, 5 large

14 Completed applications

9 SME, 5 large

Important dates

Tuesday 28 November 2017
Deadline for asking questions
Tuesday 5 December 2017 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Tuesday 12 December 2017 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
The partner must demonstrate capacity and flexibility to manage delivery of a Platform as a Service style platfrom in line with HMRCs/GDS Digital standards/design patterns. Delivered through SoW and supplier provided multi-disciplinary teams with capability/skills in business analysis, devops, testing and facilitating scrum teams.
Latest start date
Wednesday 31 January 2018
Expected contract length
2 years
Organisation the work is for
Budget range

About the work

Why the work is being done
"Digital Operations is responsible for the Multichannel Digital Tax Platform (MDTP), winner of the 2015 British Computer Society Digital Project of the Year award providing the production digital environments supporting approx 120 digital services, 10 million customers and 100 releases weekly improving and iterating these. The Platform provides development and test environments for teams in the Digital Delivery Centres building the Services, enabling delivery of HMRC's Digital Services iteratively using agile methodologies.

HMRC require a supplier to add value to this development through provision of suitably skilled technical roles to work in Scrum Teams alongside existing HMRC teams and others."
Problem to be solved
HMRC require a partner to deliver the technical aspects of new and existing Platform developments. This will include (but is not limited to) technical agile specialists incorporating work in scrum teams and delivering in phased sprints. This will be done through outcome based statements of work.
Who the users are and what they need to do
The users are internal digital teams building products for HMRC in support of the Digital Strategy. HMRC's Digital Strategy is to accommodate the majority of interaction with customers through digital self-service. This will reduce the nation's tax gap through making the UK's tax system more transparent and also reduce the overheads involved in supporting such a system.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
The Multiple Digital Tax Platform is already operational and supports approx 60 Digital Product Teams. We are looking to iterate and improve the platform. Iteration is both user driven and in response to legislative change. Existing contracts expire on 31st January 2018. We would ideally like new suppliers to begin work to transition into HMRC before that end date wherever that was possible.
Existing team
There are currently a number of teams working on these services. The successful supplier team will work with these existing capabilities (from other suppliers as well as HMRC staff). A part of the role of the supplier will be to assist HMRC in growing its own capability and we will expect a level of support for our staff who come at all levels from apprentice through to senior management.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Primary location is London. Other locations may include Manchester, Telford & Shipley
Working arrangements
"Work collaboratively with existing cross functional Agile Teams iterating the Platform
Be on site 5 days (40 hours) p/w collaborating with wider team unless work commitments require work to be done elsewhere. Participation in an out of business hours (9-5 Mon-Fri) on call rota is expected
A flexible approach will be agreed in each SoW throughout the life of the contract. We may be open to other working arrangements as the relationship develops.
Be responsible for travel and expenses to normal workplace. Expenses will be in line with HMRC policy.
Individuals to adhere to the Civil Service code of conduct."
Security clearance
The supplier must ensure each individual supplied to us has BPSS security clearance as a minimum.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
"The supplier will have had experience working to Government Digital Standards.

The supplier will provide HR management support to each individual resource. Any capability or behaviours concerns will be raised by HMRC to the supplier, who will then need to act on these. HMRC will have the right to move an individual off of the account if standards of capability or behaviour are breached."

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
  • Have demonstrable experience of providing the relevant skills, roles and resources against a variety of technologies required to form a Scrum Team.
  • Have demonstrable experience of collaborative working with a client's ‘in-house’ teams, including coaching and mentoring, and knowledge sharing.
  • Have demonstrable experience of successfully developing platform services using a pragmatic Agile approach.
  • Have demonstrable experience of scaling up and down teams to accommodate either new requirements or changes within the delivery pipeline.
  • Have demonstrable experience of providing additional and/or value added activities when acting in the role of a partner supplier to an organisation.
  • Engineers will be competent with or experts on Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery and security best practice (Dev SecOps).
  • Teams will have demonstrable DevOps experience, showing ability to release at least every sprint and ideally much more frequently.
  • Previous significant multi-team contract within large organisation in the last two years working in agile scrum.
  • Supplier will have demonstrable experience of user and test driven development (TDD) using agile scrum.
  • Supplier will be able to supply contractors competent with using the ELK stack, Splunk, Mongo DB, Graphite/Grafana, Jenkins, AWS and GitHub.
  • Experience of delivering to Government Digital Standards.
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • "Supplier would ideally have had a significant multi-team contract with a public sector body.
  • Experience of working on a multi-active cloud platform using open source software that includes Mongo DB, ELK, Github, Jenkins.

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Technical capability as demonstrated in their written examples, and required at interview.
  • How the approach or solution meets user needs.
  • Ability to provide local resource and scale up or down as required, with examples.
  • HR support and capability.
Cultural fit criteria
  • Able to start on the work immediately.
  • Have excellent communication skills with staff at all levels of the organisation.
  • Willing to take responsibility for their work.
  • Be willing to collaborate and partner, including with other suppliers.
  • Proactively share knowledge and experiences with members of team.
  • Be innovative and promote ideas and suggestions as applicable.
  • Focus on achieving value for money in all activities.
  • Adhere to HMRC's Code of Conduct.
Payment approach
Fixed price
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Please clarify whether you're looking for capacity to run / evolve the existing platform or whether you want resource to replace it (or both, if that is the case).
I can confirm that HMRC are looking for capacity to run / evolve the existing platform.
2. Are the 100 weekly releases into HMRCs live environments? Or non-prod environments?
Live/Production (although they progress through all environments on their way to Prod).
3. Can you describe the current CAB / Change Mgt process which supports 100 weekly releases?
Our prime objective is to get improvements out in front of real users as quickly as possibly and we have built an effective culture of CI-CD over several years. The CAB process only applies to certain categories of change. 99.5% of releases don’t go to CAB and all deployments to Production are performed by the owning team (and not by Web Ops).
4. Do you expect a monthly run rate? Or a TCO for the full 2 years with out of hours built in?
Statements of Work will be reviewed & agreed on a 6 weekly basis so likely to be closer to the former.
5. What is the skills mix and experience levels of current team – HMRC and supplier staff?
For technical roles it’s mostly senior engineers, architects, QAs, etc who are contractors, plus a small number of mid-level permanent staff as engineers and a BA. Team leads – i.e. Product Owners/Managers and Delivery Leads - are a combination of senior permanent staff & contractors.
6. Is this bid to support the service? or the delivery projects? Or both? Should this response just cover the day-to day service? And the SoW Call off process will allow chosen supplier to size each delivery change as it arises?
The platform infrastructure and associated services are built and run in a dev ops environment, so both. SoW will reflect specific milestones in support of this activity.
7. What is the forecast volume of activity outside of normal business hours 2018?
Expected to be limited to production incident support. This is currently covered by a single engineer on a rota basis, with all engineers required to join the rota after a suitable induction.
8. What is the current volume of activity outside of normal business hours in 2017?
Limited to production incident support. This is currently covered by a single engineer on a rota basis, with all engineers required to join the rota after a suitable induction.
9. Are there any anticipated major changes expected in HMRC and HMRC IT which will define new / enhanced service requirements for the Cloud Platform Services team?
Nothing out of the ordinary. There will be more services to host on the platform as part of organic growth, plus optimisation of existing infrastructure. The platform interacts with HMRC’s legacy estate mainly via APIs, which provides a comforting level of abstraction.
10. Could you provide the environments pipeline / demand profile for 2018 with location-demand split where possible? London-Shipley-Telford- Manchester
Our platform hosts around 60 teams building and running around 120 services in 2 week sprints resulting in around 100 releases per week on the platform. These numbers are expected to at least remain constant through 2018 although they could increase slightly. This demand is currently estimated to be approx London 60% Telford 20% Shipley 10% Manchester 10%
11. Could you provide the Environments pipeline / demand profile for 2018 with timelines where possible?
Our platform hosts around 60 teams building and running around 120 services in 2 week sprints resulting in around 100 releases per week on the platform. These numbers are expected to at least remain constant through 2018 although they could increase slightly. Using agile principles the demand is prioritised across the existing platform teams’ structure in order to flatline the demand where possible.
12. What is the current number of environments under management – and split Dev vs Test vs Other?
Build – Development – QA – External Test (live-like API Platform) – Staging - Production
13. What is the current supplier team size?
13 people
14. What is the ratio of HMRC staff: Supplier staff?
Overall 1:2
15. What is the current internal team size? Is the location split or all based in London?
120 approx London 60% Telford 20% Shipley 10% Manchester 10%
16. What do you mean by ''multi-active'' cloud platform in Nice to have skills and Experience (2) - do you mean the simultaneous use of multiple IAAS for e.g via a broker or do you mean experience of using multiple IAAS providers?
Multi-provider, active-active. Two or more virtual datacentres/AZs with a Global Traffic Management solution balancing traffic across all. Synchronous replication of data across all datacentres/AZs, with a single database primary in one and an arbiter in a separate datacentre/AZ.
17. What do you mean by ''multi-team'' contract? Do you mean multiple teams as part of one contract?
Each of the platform teams comprises contractors (and permanent staff) from various agencies collaborating to deliver platform services. While it’s possible that one of the platform teams could source all its contractors from a single agency, it is highly unlikely and not explicitly required (and potentially counterproductive).
18. ''Supplier will have demonstrable experience of user and test driven development (TDD) using agile scrum.'' - please can you clarify what you mean by ''user'' driven development. Do you mean development which is user centric?
Yes. The test strategy, both for the platform and HMRC in general, is aligned with the test pyramid (and not the ice cream cone). At its most fundamental, this means an emphasis on unit tests as part of a TDD approach, no E2E testing and with the tests written from a user’s perspective; i.e. an awareness of how real users interact with working software.
19. ''Have demonstrable experience of providing the relevant skills, roles and resources against a variety of technologies required to form a Scrum Team.'' - Please can you clarify what you mean by ''technologies'' here? Are you referring to technologies that are in use on the project or software tools like JIRA, Bitbucket?
This refers both to the particular technology stack that a platform team/technical specialism is responsible for, such as ELK or Splunk, as well as the tools required to deliver (Jira/Confluence, GitHub, etc).
20. Will the supplier be responsible to provide full scrum teams or augment existing teams
Teams are typically 6-8 in size, although a couple are larger. The supplier may be expected to provide entire team(s), or the supplier will be required to work within and along side teams made up of HMRC and/or other suppliers dependent upon the proposed solution to the problem.
21. What is the typical size of the existing scrum teams and what is the resource split? For example, the number of senior developers, developers, BA, Testers in each team.
Every team has a Product Owner and Delivery Lead,one of whom is a permanent staff member.The seven core platform teams or technical specialisms are primarily focused on building infrastructure,with far more engineers than developers, although two contain 2-3 scala developers. A couple of teams are responsible for a large number of legacy java services,typically containing four developers,1 x QA and 1 x BA but no engineers.Each contains a handful of senior technicians, and smaller number of mid-level.Cross-platform resource is 1 x BA and 1 x QA .However, suppliers are expected to provide their own outcome based solution to a problem.
22. If the statements of work are expected to be ‘outcome based’, please could HMRC define what this means or give an example of a typical outcome?
Example outcomes are:
• Migration from GitHub Enterprise to new solution delivered by…
• Build Environment migrated into AWS by...
23. Do suppliers need to have undergone and passed a GDS assessment or is experience delivering to GDS standards sufficient?
Delivering to GDS Standard is sufficient.
24. Please clarify the number of roles required to deliver this opportunity?
The number of roles will be dependent on the solution proposed by the supplier to deliver the SoW.