CCS lengthens £3bn contract as it mulls ways to ensure future deals enable more streamlined processes
The £3bn Technology Services 2 framework has been extended by two years to allow the Crown Commercial Service to plan how future iterations can better allow buyers to filter potential suppliers.
The deal’s initial two-year term began on 6 September 2017 and was due to reach its conclusion in five months’ time. Rather than reiterate it immediately, CCS has taken the decision to extend the agreement’s lifespan to an end date of 5 September 2021.
The procurement agency’s technology director Niall Quinn told PublicTechnology: “We are going to extend for the time being while we work out how to make it work better.”
The framework, which came with an estimated total value of up to £3bn, covers services in four areas, the first two of which are technology strategy and service design, and transition and information. Both of these are served by one lot of the framework.
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Lot three, which addresses operational services, and lot four, which covers programmes and large projects, are split into multiple chunks.
The operational services section is divided into sub-lots for operational management, technical management, and application and data management.
The programmes and large projects element is split into two tracks on the basis of required security level, with one sub-lot for government official-classified programmes and one for those at higher than official level.
There are a total of 152 suppliers featured on the framework, with all but the last sub-lot containing at least accredited 70 providers.
Quinn said that the volume of potential suppliers – and the lack of sufficient mechanisms to narrow down the available options – initially stymied use of the framework.
“Tech Services 2 is finally getting some momentum behind it – but it has been very slow,” he said. “And the reason why it has been very slow is really clear to us: it is technically a very well-designed commercial agreement. But operationally… there’s  suppliers on it; therefore, the fear for the departments is… if all of those respond, then they’ll have to evaluate them all.”
Quinn added: “We should really have thought about [whether] there any filters we can put on the front, so you can narrow down the list. We are looking at what we do to either quickly do that, or make sure we bring forward a Tech Services 3 agreement which has those filters in place. Because it is the right construct of a framework – in terms of analysis and design, transition, operational, and big projects. But the filtering bit – either a particular location, or a certain type of company, or a certain field of expertise – that could narrow down those suppliers down to a much more appropriate 15, that are fit for [buyers’] purpose. And that will help the suppliers as well, because they are not bidding on stuff that is a bit vague.”
In addition to working to build in to its frameworks more ways for buyers to filter potential suppliers, CCS is also supporting “communities of practice” to enable procurement professionals to share experiences, feedback, and guidance on how to get the most out of relevant government commercial agreements, and streamline buying processes.
The most recent day-long meeting of the community of practice dedicated to the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework attracted 110 attendees. Some of the key tips shared by community members include describing a problem, rather than a solution, narrowing the budget range as much as possible, using fewer evaluation criteria, and providing feedback to suppliers.
“The community sessions have been really successful,” Quinn said. “And we tell people: if you’re from DWP and you’ve been to one of there – send someone else in your team. We have got suppliers to speak as well, where they talked about what bad DOS procurements look like. That community of practice bit has really, really encouraged [best practice] – we are seeing much better value in that space, and it benefits everybody. We are focusing on that going forward – building more communities of practice.”
The government’s other big commodity IT framework – Technology Products 2 – reaches the end of its three-year lifespan on 31 October 2019. Its replacement, Technology Products and Associated Services, is currently being prepared. A contract notice to commence the bidding process is due to go out by the end of this month.