Crown Commercial Service eyes shake-up of deal for civil service PCs and tablets

“Technology Products 2” framework will launch later this year – and CCS has begun conversations with departments and suppliers about improving the £1bn-a-year arrangement for buying in hardware and software.

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has put the feelers out for a “fit-for-purpose” replacement for the £1bn-a-year framework that departments and local authorities currently use to buy their IT.

“Technology Products” was introduced by CCS at the end of 2014, and allows departments to buy both software and hardware – including PCs, laptops, tablets and servers – from 35 separate suppliers through a single online catalogue.

The two-year arrangement was part of wider government efforts, led by CCS, to use Whitehall’s combined purchasing power to drive down costs and reduce duplication in procurement.

CCS has now started pre-market engagement with government buyers and tech firms in a bid to iron out some of the shortcomings of the current deal before the launch of the replacement “Technology Products 2” framework in November.

A series of workshops – jointly-organised by the Cabinet Office and industry body Tech UK – took place in London and Manchester earlier this month, with a presentation given at the workshops setting out some of the thinking behind the new framework.

Under a section marked “lessons learned”, CCS said the current online catalogue had “user friendliness issues and adaptability”, and said pricing “does not self regulate” because the platform is not “an open and publicly visible market place”.

Terms and conditions can also be “confusing for customers and supplier alike”, the presentation said, while the CCS also stresses that it is “keen to ensure that customers receive the best possible price while also protecting them against suppliers taking excessive profit margins”.

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According to CCS, the first iteration of Technology Products was used by public sector organisations in its first 18 months to get hold of some 1.23m items, at an average price of £109

CSS expects to open up TP2 for bids in May, with the new agreement awarded in September 2016 in time for the November expiry of the first iteration. The next workshop on the future of the deal takes place in London on February 23.

The new framework comes as Whitehall’s central tech team, the Government Digital Service, steps up its efforts to improve the IT available to civil servants. GDS’s Common Technology Services programme was launched late last year, with the aim of ironing out common frustrations with tech faced by officials.

Speaking at GDS’s annual conference last week, the government’s Chief Technology Office Liam Maxwell said he wanted the CTS team to focus on furnishing “the stationery cupboard of government”.

That meant, he said, giving officials “a network that is easy to deploy“, “collaboration tools to allow people to work together” and the ability to share their diaries more easily with colleagues across departments.

Colin Marrs

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