Awarded to Parity Consultancy Services Ltd

Start date: Friday 1 February 2019
Value: £4,500,000
Company size: SME
Education and Skills Funding Agency (DfE)

Funding and Contracting Service (FCS) systems agile development

13 Incomplete applications

9 SME, 4 large

32 Completed applications

21 SME, 11 large

Important dates

Monday 29 October 2018
Deadline for asking questions
Monday 5 November 2018 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Monday 12 November 2018 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
We are looking for a development partner to help deliver our Funding and Contracting digital transformation. This will be a mix of continuous improvement to existing systems and delivery of new systems though GDS phases.The supplier will work alongside the in-house digital team to cover all digital service roles.
Latest start date
Wednesday 2 January 2019
Expected contract length
Two years
West Midlands
Organisation the work is for
Education and Skills Funding Agency (DfE)
Budget range
The budget could range up to a maximum of £4.5m consisting of multiple SoWs, but that scope could expand or contract. DfE does not commit to any minimum spend at this point. A pricing template will be given at the proposal stage to those suppliers we shortlist.

About the work

Why the work is being done
The Education and Skills Funding Agency is responsible for delivering all school and Further Education funding in England. The Funding and Contracting Service (FCS) is undergoing a digital transformation and looking for an agile partner to assist in delivering this. The challenges will range from bringing new products to live as well as shaping mature systems to support this transformation. The aim is to build an in-house capability across the three service lines. Each will have their own contract but flexibility to provide resources to the other service lines if necessary. (Details of this will be provided at proposal stage).
Problem to be solved
The FCS service line needs to be enhanced and developed to meet the evolving business and policy needs as well as meet the interface requirements of other ESFA systems. This may require the spectrum of GDS agile roles (e.g. development, testing, business analysis, user research, design) and these could become either part of existing teams or potentially form discrete delivery teams (discovery, alpha, beta) to address a specific need. We are looking for a partner to transition knowledge, skills and experience to help build this. Specific roles and skills required are detailed in the GDS Service Manual (
Who the users are and what they need to do
As an ESFA Contract Manager
I need to issue and performance manage contracts and calculate payments to providers that providers can receive funding to deliver learning.
I need to collect information from the data collection system and manage the data flow to the Provider Portal so providers can digitally sign their contracts.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
The FCS underwent a digital transformation two years ago and is being continuously improved to meet ESFA policy amendments and evolving service needs. The system builds and manages contracts with training providers and profiles £6bn of payments to them a year. All the users are internal to the ESFA as it is a back office system with interfaces to our data collections, contract signing, financial allocation and payments systems.
Existing team
The existing teams comprise of multi-disciplinary agile delivery skills. These teams are involved in continual product improvement as well as providing brand new digital services. Typical team size is up to 12 with a skills mix such as product/service managers, business analysts, developers, testing, architecture, user research and design professionals. These teams can have a mix of internal and external staff. The new supplier will be expected to provide resources across all or any of these roles according to the business need for the initiative.
Current phase
Not applicable

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Primary location will be Cheylesmore House Coventry. There is the potential for some work in Sanctuary Buildings, London.
Working arrangements
This will be a 5 day per week (Monday to Friday) commitment and detailed working arrangements, including team location, size and make-up, will be contained within each statement of work. Day to day delivery will be governed by standard agile delivery techniques. These could be either a Kanban or a scrum approach (depending on the work) but the standard agile ceremonies appropriate to those will be undertaken. These will be monitored by the Delivery Manager and the Product Owner will be responsible for prioritising backlogs in refinement sessions.
Security clearance
Personnel from the Service provider need to have both BPSS and an enhanced DBS check.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Expenses must be pre-agreed and comply with DfE Travel and Subsistence Policy. Any expenses shall be submitted in line with DfE standard T&S policy. Primary work location stated in SoW will not attract expenses. No parking is available on site.

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 in building services to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard
  • Experience building scalable server-side cloud-based web applications (preferably Microsoft Azure) detailed knowledge of the C#, .NET, ASP.NET MVC programming languages
  • Detailed understanding of front-end web development (HTML/CSS/JS)
  • Experience in Agile Business Analysis and product backlog creation and management
  • Demonstrable experience of working in multi-team agile delivery programmes
  • Experience in Agile software testing
  • Experience of conducting user research, interpreting and presenting results
  • Experience of agile development, software patterns, continuous integration and Test Driven Development. Please provide examples of successful implementations of these skills
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Experience in building customer or staff facing digital services
  • Experience of passing GDS service assessments
  • Experience in designing services that meet both user needs and business objectives

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Technical competence in the identified technologies and agile practices
  • Experience and methodology in approach to agile project using both Kanban and scrum
  • Demonstrable experience of working alongside clients in co-located, integrated teams, together with representative CVs of key roles
  • Demonstrate understanding/ability to deliver digital products/services to government Digital Service standards
  • Demonstrate approach to knowledge and skills transfer
  • Ability to scale up to full team and flex resource when needed on-site
  • Value for money
  • Demonstrate understanding of the challenges of implementing user centred design in a government agile environment
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work as a team – Collaborate, establish good working relationships, generate team spirit
  • Innovate – Act on initiative, drive improvements, balance risks
  • Build capability – Encourage learning, share knowledge, address capability gaps, act on feedback
  • Focus on delivery – Focus on goals, set stretching targets, take responsibility for delivery
  • Approach to developing a "One Team" approach
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Reference
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. You've asked for representative CVs, how do we submit those as I don't think it is currently possible to submit them through the DOS portal (unless things changed on DOS 3).
Representative CVs would only be needed at the second stage of evaluation.
2. Could you confirm whether there is an incumbent supplier currently providing this service
Yes, there are a number of suppliers that have been engaged, and currently continue to support delivery
3. Are you using a particular scaled agile framework e.g. SAFe
No scaled agile framework is being used.
4. Are you using a particular scaled agile framework e.g. SAFe
As 3 above
5. The last essential question refers to software patterns. Can you give an example of such a pattern
Standard patterns (those associated with SOLID principles) are used. An example would be a Decorator pattern.
6. What is the average duration (envisioned) of a SOW mentioned
There is no mandated period. It could be a discrete piece of work which needs a team (e.g. a Discovery) and may run for up to eight weeks. An Alpha or Beta phase is likely to be considerably longer. Alternatively, a SoW to get a specific skill to support an existing team could be up to six months.
7. Will the selected supplier be given a lead time to plan for resourcing the required team for each SOW?
A two to three week lead time would be envisaged for such a SoW.
8. Can majority of the team allocated to an SOW work remotely whilst a few team members will be available at the mentioned premises
The prefered approach is to have the team members working collaboratively on sit
9. We note you have existing teams do you have existing suppliers providing similar services? Can you share the names of the suppliers
The existing suppliers are Parity and Ten 10.
10. We note you have existing teams do you have existing suppliers providing similar services? Can you share the names of the suppliers?
The existing suppliers are Parity and Ten 10.
11. Will the buyer accept a supplier who has worked to the Digital by Default Service standard on behalf of clients as opposed to being the account holder themselves
We are open to ideas you present to us.
12. You ask for "examples of successful implementations of these skills" on the last Essential Skill Question, do you want more than one example, which is typical of a DoS Matrix?
It is up to the supplier whether they wanted to choose one or a range of best examples as long as the example(s) meet the requirements.
13. You ask for "Demonstrable experience of working in multi-team agile delivery programmes" Do you require more than one example within the 100 word answer?
It is up to the supplier whether they wanted to choose one or a range of examples as long as the example(s) meet the requirements.
14. Can you please give your definition of “Capped T&M” and how you see it working in practice.
The definitions for Capped Time and Materials can be found on the GDS How to pay for Digital Outcomes page

We will provide further information at the evaluation stage (second stage) around how to set out the pricing structure.
15. Does criteria 1- Experience in building services to meet the Digital by Default Service Standard means experience of implementing project through DOS 3 framework or does it mean that we should have experience in meeting the set of 18 criteria as stated in Digital Service Standard(in implementation of other similar projects)?
The Digital by Default standard we refer to is the one specified by Government Digital Service.
16. Can you confirm the associated commercial timelines for this opportunity beyond Stage 1?
It would be anticipated that successful supplier invites would be made around week commencing 26th November 2018. The interviews for the 2nd stage will take place week commencing 10th December 2018 and while we will attempt to keep to this timetable we reserve the right to amend these dates.
17. In an addition to the specified GDS agile roles, do you expect the partner to include other roles such as Project Management, Test Management and Governance, or is the expectation that we will work under the direction of the Authority? Test Management, Technical Architecture and support resources, or will the supplier be working under the direction of the buyer
Although it is expected the work will require GDS roles only, should any additional roles be needed, they will be specified within each SoW.
18. Is the Authority expecting multiple Discovery-Alpha-Beta projects to be undertaken in parallel during the contracted period?
It is unlikely that there will be more than two projects running concurrently although detailed plans are not formed yet for the entire period and final work packages will be subject to change. Each SoW will inform this.
19. Can you provide a rough split of how the work will likely be divided between Coventry and other locations?
A significant majority of the work will be in Coventry.
20. Are there other third party suppliers which the partner will need to work alongside?
ESFA has a number of third party delivery partners, and, if required, the winning supplier would be expected to co-operate with.
21. Essential skills and experience (Question-1)
Can you please share the Standards & Guideline (S&G) for the Digital by Default Service
The Digital by default standards can be found at
22. Essential skills and experience (Question-3)
Can you please share the expectations if any from native mobile / mobile first approach for front-end development roles
All front-end designs will follow GDS principles so are expected to function via a browser across the spectrum of devices but there is no mobile application development anticipated.
23. Essential skills and experience (Question-4)
What tools is currently being used for Requirement Management and Agile Management
Azure DevOps (Visual Studio Team System) is used for recording requirements and source control. Backlog management is also carried out through this too.
24. Nice-to-have skills and experience (Question-2)
Can you please share the high level assessment and its successful criteria for the GDS service
Further information will be supplied to shortlisted Suppliers at the second phase.
25. Will ESFA be providing a Product Owner full time for the duration of this project?
It is expected that there will be an ESFA Product Owner for the project.
26. In order to compare suppliers, how will price be evaluated?
Further information will be supplied to shortlisted Suppliers at the second phase.
27. Will scoring from the evidence stage be taken through to final evaluation scoring? As opposed to being used solely for the purpose of shortlisting.
ESFA will evaluate the Essential Skills & Experience and Nice to Have Criteria to shortlist for the Evaluation Stage on a 'highest scoring' basis. The suppliers taken through to the Evaluation Stage will be provided details of the relevant requirements, and will be invited to submit a more detailed proposal, pricing and presentation for assessment. Each stage of scoring will follow the Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyers' guide.
28. Is this opportunity outside of IR35?
29. When suppliers are asked to submit evidence, the following advice is given: "You should only provide one example for each essential or nice-to-have requirement (unless the buyer specifies otherwise)." Do you want suppliers to provide one example for each evidence answer?
It is up to the supplier whether they wanted to choose one or a range of best examples as long as the example(s) meet the requirements.
30. Can we ask what criteria ESFA will be using to judge whether an evidence answer 'exceeded' requirements and therefore scores full marks (3)?
ESFA will follow the Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyers' guidance and scoring methodology.
31. What is the timeline for procurement after the first stage (suppliers to providing evidence to the listed skills and experience)?
It would be anticipated that successful supplier proposals would be around week commencing 10th December 2018 and this is subject to change.
32. What phase in the GDS lifecycle is this service in?
The Funding and Contracting Service is advanced in its digital journey and there is a cycle of policy change and continuous improvement. Other initiatives presently being considered may require a discrete team to be set up to go through each GDS stage.
33. What is the first package of work ESFA foresee the winning supplier delivering?
The most immediate need will be to support the existing Funding and Contracting Service (FCS) in developing its current product. The supplier would need to provide skills that are not presently available in-house and then undertake skills transfer if we are successful in recruitment to those roles. Plans for additional initiatives are not yet fully formed and subject to central policy directives.
34. What roles will ESFA be providing for this project?
Service Owner and Product Owner at minimum. Other roles will be described in each SoW. Other suppliers provide service support roles such as DevOps and Service Management.
35. Can ESFA confirm whether only one supplier will be awarded this contract?
36. How will other resources for this project be procured and will the successful supplier have any input in these procurements?
The expectation is that this contract will provide all resources for the FCS project. Any additional contracts will be setup through their own separate procurement exercise following the GDS Buyers Guide and adhere to the procurement regulations.
37. What accountabilities will sit with the winning supplier and which will remain with ESFA?
Each statement of work will agree accountabilities between the Supplier and ESFA.
38. You mention an in house digital team, what roles are in this team and will they work on this project full time?
Wherever feasible, we will try and use in-house staff to support these roles. The present FCS team have a Service Manager, Product Owner, Delivery Manager and one Senior Developer who are permanent. They all work full time on the project but are supported by other temporary resources.
39. Is there an incumbent supplier currently delivering the work that this procurement outlines and are they able to bid for this piece of work?
The existing suppliers are Parity and Ten 10.
40. Your brief highlights "three service lines" – what are these please?
The service lines are the Funding and Contracting Service, the Educations and Skills Funding Service and the Calculate Funding Service.
41. What existing systems do you have in place please? Who currently has responsibility for maintaining and enhancing these existing systems?
The existing systems are the Funding and Contracting Service, the Educations and Skills Funding Service and the Calculate Funding Service. These are managed and maintained by three in-house teams who have a mixture of in-house and external resource.
42. With regards to question 5 of essential skills and experience, could you please provide a little context around how we should interpret “multi-team agile environment?”.
Is the expectation that we demonstrate experience of working
• within a multi-team structure focussed on delivering aspects of the same programme,
• within an agile environment where multiple teams are delivering functionality to different areas of the business,
• using multi-disciplinary teams on agile delivery programmes, or
• something else
The environment is one of multiple agile teams delivering functionality to different areas of the business. These agile teams comprise of a variety of GDS roles.