Last week, techUK hosted a group of digital service suppliers to inform them on how to make the most of DoS3 and all three speakers shared some great insights for anyone looking to do business on the framework.
Firstly we heard from Niall Quinn, the director of Strategic Technology for CCS, who discussed the functionality of DoS3 and ways to further implement this within the framework. “Not everyone who registers actually completes it,” says Niall. In fact, about 10-15% don’t. “It’s important to get everyone through who will contribute.” Completing the application for the framework has proven to be difficult for some – reasons for this include suppliers filling in the wrong application, or simply disqualifying themselves by making mistakes such as not being attentive to qualifying questions. Niall emphasized that in order to pass the application, one probably shouldn’t answer “Yes” to ”Are you employing slave labour?” Either the suppliers truly are felons, or they rushed through the questions and accidentally clicked the wrong option. If the answer is the latter, then it’s very advisable to pay attention to details going forward (and avoid looking like a war criminal!)
Niall also touched on the fact that in September, they will begin thinking about Dos4 and looking at the feedback on the current framework and make begin to make relevant iterations.
Following Niall’s talk, was Chris Farthing, founder of Advice Cloud. “This is a groundbreaking piece of work,” he says proudly of DoS3. He explains that the contract is very simple and reasonably small. This is something of great importance for suppliers who are tired of reading through a long, drawn-out contract, or who worry about missing critical information in the fine print.
Chris explained, “People buy from people.” This statement made a significant impact and was referred to throughout the rest of the seminar. He expressed the importance of understanding how people go about winning business, as the marketplace is busy and many suppliers are vying for the same opportunities.
- Get to know buyers and how they buy: Understand how the buyers will be evaluating the framework
- It’s fine to ask the job title or name of the decision maker/s
- Build relationships: Network! Attend events; get to know your potential clients and how they work
- Pick your battles: Start small and grow from there
- Understand the Government Service Standard
- Ensure your organisation is agile
Why Chris favours the framework:
- It’s SO easy to apply – takes on average 15 mins to apply ( and only six to reapply)
- Opportunities are published out in the open – you can see who’s buying from whom, what trends are and exactly what is being bought.
- Spend data is open
- The opportunity it provides for suppliers, with over £333m spent so far
- Target: £2.5bn worth of spend planned for DOS and G-Cloud by June 2019
- 2000 suppliers
- A great CCS team who are constantly increasing buyer capacity and capability.
Pros and Cons of DoS3
dxw digital’s own Harry Metcalfe was up next. Harry stayed honest with his view of DoS3, and explained that although it is a great framework, there are still some aspects that need fixing. He shed light on the blurred communication with buyers, explaining, “It’s often hard to understand what the buyers want, and therefore difficult to properly meet their needs if we don’t know what they are” drawing on some of the findings from our Great British Digital Outcomes Armchair Audit of last year .
Specific challenges included buyers not clearly explaining why the work is being done, not providing a clear summary of the work, and not clearly stating their budget. In order to fix this, Harry explains that as suppliers, we must ask if the buying teams need help, as they find this framework just as strange as suppliers do. “If you understand the buyer, you will do a much better job.”
Another point that Harry stressed was to give good feedback when the government does well. It’s important to acknowledge this, as they are working hard to make better technological decisions.
Improving the framework
He touched on a few points where DoS3 could be improved, these being:
- The buyer shortlisting too many suppliers. Ideally, they should be shortlisting around three rather than 5 or 6
- 100 word answers: these can cause problems, for example, if you have 6 or more ‘essential skills’ it’s very complex to squeeze these into 100 words
- Government can also get involved. If they see a dud opportunity on DoS, they should help the buyer rewrite it. At the same time, we, as buyers, when we see government doing good work, should give positive feedback and shout about it.
Encouraging suppliers to “Hang in there!”, Harry gave reassurance that losing a bid in no way means giving up. It’s crucial to ask questions and get feedback from buyers. Challenge them. If you don’t win, ask them who did. Look at the people who won it and see how you could have done better.
The floor was opened up to (quite a few!) questions, so we’ve summarised the answers to those here:
Registered/being accepted isn’t the end of the process. You need to understand the process, understand buyers’ language and the language and culture of government organisations. If you don’t get shortlisted, you need to ask questions.
There’s no harm in asking who won a piece of work that you missed out on (that information will become public knowledge in due course so take a look at their site and read up on how they work. If they’re a health-specialist supplier and the project was for a health organisation, then that may be a good indication of why they won.
Learn the language used by buyers in their bids and reflect that language back when you’re making your bid. Answer the questions that are being asked – this IS an exam!
And finally, if you’re a supplier and see something wrong with a published opportunity, or if the buyer refuses to answer your questions or give you feedback, get in touch with CCS, or Tweet Emilia (@EmiliaCedeno82) who will get in touch with the buyer on your behalf.