Awarded to Paper

Start date: Monday 17 September 2018
Value: £309,000
Company size: SME
Department for Education

Service design team to deliver an alpha for the Buying for Schools Digital Platform (optional beta)

3 Incomplete applications

2 SME, 1 large

17 Completed applications

13 SME, 4 large

Important dates

Monday 16 July 2018
Deadline for asking questions
Monday 23 July 2018 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Monday 30 July 2018 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
The schools commercial team are looking for a service design partner to prototype and test potential solutions with end users to demonstrate that an accessible service can be built to meet user needs, and if successful, work with us to deliver the end-to-end solution in Beta
Latest start date
Tuesday 28 August 2018
Expected contract length
The Alpha phase will be 12 weeks but there is an option to extend up to 12 months
Yorkshire and the Humber
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education
Budget range
Please only provide costs for a 12 week alpha.
Up to a maximum of £140K.

About the work

Why the work is being done
We want to help schools save money on procurement. The Department for Education has a Schools Buying Strategy aiming to help schools save £1bn of their current £10bn spend on non-staff costs by 2020. Developing a Buying for Schools digital service will be a critical enabler for work under this strategy, and act as a catalyst for behavioural change in schools to encourage better resource management.
Problem to be solved
Schools can struggle to manage their resources effectively and deliver value for money. During the Alpha phase, we are looking for a service design team to iteratively design prototypes to meet our identified user needs. This may include the following: prototypes to search and compare deals that would provide best value for money for schools; a networking capability that will form part of an end-to-end digital customer journey. Beta will focus on building an end to end service in partnership with a technical delivery team who will be brought on board, going live, and iterating further.
Who the users are and what they need to do
Our primary users are Schools Business Professionals. Others include anyone else involved in the schools buying process. Our users need a single starting point for the buying journey. They need to be able to search for DfE approved deals that meet their requirements. They need to access networks of other schools to work collaboratively, and need specialist help on complex procurements. The goal is to help schools avoid making poor commercial decisions, engage effectively with suppliers, enable aggregation with other schools and access help when lacking specialist procurement expertise.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
We passed an internal Discovery assessment in May. Previously, there were 2 other Discovery phases for this work. We've therefore validated user needs through three rounds of user research. We outlined hypotheses and product vision, and have started to test hypotheses through continuous user research. We have started to map user journeys for access to deals.
Existing team
The Digital team is in the Schools Commercial Division. Currently this includes two civil servants (Product manager & fast streamer) and two contractors (User researcher & delivery manager). This team will be in place through Alpha and beyond as required.

The supplier will also be expected to work with the wider Department (Engagement, Marketing, Networking, Policy, DFE digital, Digi-comm's and Category teams) and with a wide group of stakeholders up to director level.

If the supplier continues to work with us through Beta they will be expected to work with a technical delivery partner.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Department for Education, 2 Saint Paul Place, Sheffield, S1 2FJ
Working arrangements
Co-located with the team in Sheffield at least 3 days a week to maximise opportunity for engagement with DfE users and stakeholders. Some travel to other DfE sites and schools to meet users is expected but must be in line with the DfE travel & subsistence policy. Expenses must be included in the contract sum, there will be no separate budget for expenses. We will operate using agile methodology including daily stand ups, sprint planning, sprints, retrospectives and show and tells. Face to face attendance at all Show and Tells is expected. There is some flexibility for remote arrangements.
Security clearance
BPSS (Baseline Security Level) BPSS is standard; the level of security needed will depend on the sensitivity of the data the supplier will have access to.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
By issuing this invitation, the Department is not bound in any way and does not have to accept any tender. The Department also reserves the right at its sole discretion to award a contract for the Alpha stage only. The framework operates on a statement of work (SOW), if the final SOW for Alpha is complete, and a decision is taken not to proceed to Beta, the contract can be terminated. Additional contractual clauses expected include: GDPR, Departmental Security Standards (for departmental data) & clauses on issued property and use of premises.

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
  • Work to GDS service standards.
  • Use Agile methodologies.
  • Have significant experience of rapid prototype iteration based on ongoing user research.
  • Have significant experience of conducting user research & usability testing sessions (face to face and remote) based on a robust methodology.
  • Have experience of recruitment of user research participants (including users with accessibility and assisted digital needs).
  • Have experience of analysis of existing research, analytics and insight to ensure good understanding of users and their needs.
  • Have experience of delivering high quality content and information architecture design for complex user journeys across multiple touchpoints, that meets user needs.
  • Have experience & capability of creating plans for Beta from both a design and technical perspective.
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Show evidence in leading, coaching, mentoring and upskilling people in agile techniques and roles to build agile capability within existing teams.
  • Understanding of the education & schools landscapes.
  • Experience in designing citizen-facing digital services.
  • Experience in taking services successfully through the GDS Service Assessment.
  • Experience of working in partnership with technical delivery teams.
  • Experience of using the design system.

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Design solution – recent example of experience working on digital projects that have met user needs and can demonstrate sound knowledge of GDS Digital Service Standards
  • Approach and methodology – examples that demonstrate a solid understanding of Agile and core principles and how these were applied.
  • How the approach or solution meets user needs – an example of where the supplier has tested competing design hypotheses in Alpha to deliver a successful outcome for users.
  • Value for money- examples where the supplier has applied a transparent financial structure and fair pricing for the service
  • Proposed team structure and members, including expected members from DfE, explaining the justification for each member
  • Explain your approach to identifying and managing risk within the project
Cultural fit criteria
  • Provide an example where the supplier has worked collaboratively in a multi-disciplinary team with other service providers.
  • There is a need to be transparent and collaborative when making decisions. Explain your understanding of a transparent and collaborative environment.
  • Provide an example of where applying agile core values has enabled timely delivery of a product.
  • Provide an example of how you would quickly join the team and understand user needs, to maintain continuity between existing discovery work and alpha.
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. How similar is this to the Crown Marketplace platform that CCS will shortly be building? See Would there be an option for DfE to use that instead?
We have identified a number of specific user needs for a service that supports schools in making the right buying decisions from a variety of sources. CCS are developing a transactional buying tool which is quite different to the user need DfE are trying to meet, however, we will be working in partnership with CCS and other Public Sector Buying Organisations throughout to achieve our aims and objectives.
2. When you say there is some flexibility for remote arrangements, could you expand on this? You've mentioned a 3dpw minimum onsite requirement, do you expect flexibility around this also?
We have seen the greatest success from teams who work together as a co-located arrangement. The only flexibility we could offer would be occasional working from home arrangements for individuals on a case by case basis.
3. When you mention a technical delivery team for beta (and working with them), do you have a specific one in mind e.g. an in-house team? Or will you be looking to procure a team who can do technical delivery for beta (which could potentially be the alpha supplier if they have the right capabilities)?
We have not identified a technical delivery partner at this stage. We will be looking to procure a technical delivery partner should Alpha determine the need to do so, and this could potentially be the Alpha supplier, assuming they can demonstrate the skills and capacity required.
4. is the co-location negotiable?
We have seen the greatest success from teams who work together as a co-located arrangement. The only flexibility we could offer would be occasional working from home arrangements for individuals on a case by case basis.
5. Could you confirm the contract length?
The contract length is expected to last up to 12 months. The alpha phase is expected to last 12 weeks, private beta is expected to last 16 weeks.
6. Can you clarify the total budget for the project?
The total budget is £328k to cover Alpha and Beta
7. Do you want suppliers to cost for Beta as well as for Alpha?
For suppliers that go through to the evaluation stage, we will ask for an estimated cost model for Beta based on a specific number of roles and days. We will supply this as additional information at the second stage.