Guidance

Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyers' guide

How to find digital outcome, specialist and user research services on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework.

Digital Marketplace overview

The Digital Marketplace helps you find cloud technology and specialist services for digital projects.

It uses 3 frameworks (agreements between government and suppliers). You can find:

  • digital outcomes, digital specialists and user research services through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework
  • cloud services (for example web hosting or IT health checks) through the G-Cloud framework
  • physical datacentre space through the Crown Hosting Data Centres framework

All public sector organisations, including agencies and arm’s length bodies, can use the Digital Marketplace. Check the customer unique reference number (URN) list to see if you’re eligible.

What you can buy on Digital Outcomes and Specialists

You can use the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework to find outcomes, specialists and user research services for digital projects.

There are over 1,200 suppliers on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework. Digital Outcomes and Specialists services include:

  • digital outcomes, for example a booking system or an accessibility audit
  • digital specialists, for example a product manager or a developer
  • user research studios
  • user research participants

If you need a digital outcome

You need to write ‘requirements’ to tell suppliers about the situation or problem and they’ll propose a solution that meets your needs.

Depending on your situation, you may need a team of specialists with:

  • different skills, for example a user researcher, a content designer, an interaction designer and a developer
  • the same skills, for example 3 user researchers

To get the outcome you need, a supplier may suggest a team of specialists to work on different projects in your programme. Using the information in your requirements, suppliers will be able to suggest the:

  • minimum number of people they think you need straightaway
  • maximum number of people they think you may need in the future

If you need a digital specialist

You can only use the Digital Marketplace to find a specialist for a specific piece of work.

You need to write ‘requirements’ to describe the piece of work and ask suppliers to provide a specialist. The specialist can’t work for you outside the scope of your written requirements.

You can only use the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework for workers who meet the rules for working off-payroll (known as ‘outside IR35’). You’re responsible for checking whether workers meet the rules.

If you need to find user research participants

You’ll have to tell suppliers about the types of participants you want to test your service with. They’ll then tell you if they can meet your needs and how much it will cost.

If you need a user research studio

You’ll have to tell suppliers what facilities you need and when. They’ll then tell you if they can meet your needs and how much it will cost.

Who the suppliers are

All Digital Outcomes and Specialists suppliers have:

  • confirmed information about their company and the way they work
  • added information about the services that they offer

Read about how suppliers have been evaluated.

How to work with suppliers

Digital Outcomes and Specialists suppliers provide services – you can’t place these suppliers in permanent or interim roles. Specialists are employed or contracted by the supplier.

Suppliers have responsibility and liability for the work done by their specialists.

If you need to find people for roles where the person enters into a contract directly with the public sector organisation you work for, you’ll need an employment agency. You can find contractors and interim staff through Contingent Labour ONE, Consultancy ONE and Non Medical Non Clinical, but the hirer will be responsible for the outcome of the work, not the supplier.

How to buy

The buying process is different when you buy user research studio services. You should read the user research studios buyers’ guide before you start.

When you buy digital outcomes, digital specialists and user research participants services, you must:

  1. Prepare your draft requirements.
  2. Get approval to buy what you need.
  3. Write and publish your requirements on the Digital Marketplace. They will be publicly available.
  4. Answer supplier questions.
  5. Review and score ‘essential’ and ‘nice-to-have’ skills and experience to create your shortlist.
  6. If your shortlist is too long, ask suppliers for evidence.
  7. Invite shortlisted suppliers to the assessment stage.
  8. Evaluate proposals and presentations to find the right supplier for your needs.
  9. Award a contract and give feedback to unsuccessful suppliers.
  10. Publish the contract on Contracts Finder.
  11. Complete the Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyer benefits form.

The evaluation process has to be fair, open and transparent. You should be able to demonstrate a clear audit trail, including any questions you’ve answered and any evaluation you’ve made.

1. Prepare your draft requirements

Working with both procurement and technical professionals can help you decide on the high-level requirements and how long your project will take.

You should consider the:

  • funds you have to buy the service
  • user needs
  • project’s technical requirements
  • size of the project
  • stage the project is at
  • criteria you’ll base your choice on

Decide on what the ‘essential’ and ‘nice-to-have’ skills and experience are so you can filter supplier responses later. The more specific you can be with these criteria, the easier it will be to find a supplier who meets your needs.

You can talk to suppliers before you start to help you refine your requirements. Most buyers who need a digital outcome do this. You can find a list of Digital Outcomes and Specialists’ suppliers on the Digital Marketplace.

Read more about how to write requirements and set your evaluation criteria for Digital Outcomes and Specialists services.

Download requirements templates.

View other published requirements on the Digital Marketplace.

2. Get approval to buy what you need

You must get budget approval before you start the buying process.

If you’re buying for central government, you have to go through the digital and IT spend control process before you publish your requirements on the Digital Marketplace.

If you’re buying for a public sector organisation outside of central government, you must get any internal approval you need.

3. Write and publish your requirements

You’ll be asked to include different information depending on whether you’re buying digital outcomes, digital specialists or user research participant recruitment services. The details you provide will help suppliers decide whether or not to apply and to provide relevant evidence. They’ll also help you shortlist interested suppliers to find those that best meet your needs.

You can write your requirements in draft and come back later to publish them.

Writing digital outcomes requirements

  1. Filter by location to reduce the number of suppliers.
  2. Help suppliers decide whether to apply by including information about:
    • the problem you want to solve
    • who the users are and what they need to do
    • any work that’s already been done
  3. Set question and answer session details.
  4. Describe ‘essential’ and ‘nice-to-have’ skills and experience to help you shortlist applicants with the right skills.
  5. Choose how you’re going to assess specialists, for example by written proposal or face-to-face presentation.
  6. Set evaluation criteria for:
    • technical competence, for example how well the proposal meets your needs
    • cultural fit, for example how the supplier will work with your organisation
    • price
  7. Set the weightings for how you’ll score suppliers on technical competence, cultural fit and price. The weightings are how much priority you’re giving to each area.
  8. Publish requirements on the Digital Marketplace.

Writing digital specialist requirements

  1. Filter by role and location to reduce the number of suppliers.
  2. Help suppliers decide whether to apply by including information about:
    • the work you want
    • when you want them to start
    • the contract length
  3. Set question and answer session details.
  4. Describe ‘essential’ and nice-to-have’ skills and experience to help you shortlist applicants with the right skills.
  5. Choose how you’re going to assess specialists, for example by interview or code test.
  6. Set evaluation criteria for:
    • technical competence
    • cultural fit
    • price
  7. Set the weightings for how you’ll score suppliers on technical competence, cultural fit and price, for example how much priority you’re giving to each one.
  8. Set how long your requirements will be open for: 1 or 2 weeks.
  9. Publish requirements on the Digital Marketplace.

Writing user research participant recruitment requirements

  1. Filter by location to reduce the number of suppliers.
  2. Help suppliers decide whether to apply by including information about:
    • the kind of users you want them to recruit
    • when you need them to be available
  3. Set question and answer session details.
  4. Describe ‘essential’ and ‘nice-to-have’ skills and experience to help you shortlist applicants with the right skills.
  5. Choose how you’re going to assess specialists, for example by proposal or case study
  6. Set evaluation criteria for:
    • technical competence
    • availability
    • price
  7. Set the weightings for how you’ll score suppliers on technical competence, cultural fit and price. The weightings are how much priority you’re giving to each area.
  8. Publish requirements on the Digital Marketplace.

Read how to:

4. Answer supplier questions

After you’ve published your requirements, suppliers may want to ask questions about them.

You must:

  • post all questions and answers on the Digital Marketplace
  • remove any reference to the supplier’s name or any confidential information about the supplier
  • give an individual response to each question, even when questions are similar
  • answer all questions at least one working day before the deadline to give suppliers time to decide if the work is right for them
  • get commercial or legal advice if you don’t think you’ll be able to answer, or haven’t answered, all the questions at least one working day before the deadline

Read more about how to answer supplier questions.

5. Shortlist interested suppliers

After you’ve published your requirements, suppliers will apply and tell you:

  • when they can start work
  • if they have the essential skills and experience
  • which nice-to-have skills and experience they have
  • how they meet your essential and nice-to-have requirements
  • how much the specialist costs (specialist suppliers only)
  • how to contact them

You can shortlist the suppliers who:

  • can start work when you need them to
  • can work within your budget (specialist suppliers only)
  • meet all the essential skills and experience
  • provide the most nice-to-have skills and experience
  • provide the highest-scoring evidence of their skills and experience

Read more about how to shortlist suppliers.

6. Invite shortlisted suppliers to the assessment stage

You can use a range of assessment methods to help you find the supplier that best meets your needs. You must only use the assessment methods you said you’d use when you published your requirements. You don’t have to use all of these methods. Depending on the type of service you’re buying, you can choose:

  • a written proposal
  • an interview
  • a presentation
  • a case study
  • a reference
  • a work history
  • a scenario or test

Read more about assessment methods.

7. Evaluate proposals to find the best supplier for your needs

You must evaluate shortlisted suppliers to find the one that best meets your requirements.

You need to use the methods and criteria you published with your requirements to:

  • assess suppliers, for example in an interview or with a written proposal
  • score suppliers

You can then award a contract to the supplier with the highest score.

Read about:

Overview of evaluation (PDF, 22.4KB, 9 pages)

How to score

To evaluate consistently, you must mark all questions out of 3 and apply the relevant weighting for that particular criteria to get a score. Use the scoring template to help you.

Scoring by price

When you score by price, the lower the price, the higher the score.

You can’t change the criteria or their weightings after your requirements are published.

Keep an audit trail

Document the reasons for awarding scores to each supplier and the reasons for choosing the criteria and weightings. You must be able to explain how you decided which supplier to award.

Read about how to keep an audit trail.

8. Award a contract and give feedback to unsuccessful suppliers

Once you’ve identified the winning supplier, you must notify all remaining suppliers of your decision at the same time. You can notify suppliers by email.

You should also update your account on the Digital Marketplace to let suppliers know the contract was awarded.

Notify the successful supplier

Tell the winning supplier you’ll award them a contract.

Read about how to award a contract.

View the:

Notify unsuccessful suppliers

Suppliers need to know if and why they weren’t successful so they can plan for other work and improve any future applications they make.

You must:

  • tell unsuccessful suppliers that you won’t be awarding them a contract and why
  • not share details of other unsuccessful suppliers’ scores
  • give positive feedback where appropriate
  • give only the final agreed scores, not individual evaluator scores
  • give the scores of the winning supplier

What happens if you don’t find the right supplier

You don’t have to award a contract if you can’t find a suitable supplier. You should update your account on the Digital Marketplace to cancel the requirement.

Suppliers will be able to see that the contract wasn’t awarded. You also need to get in touch with all remaining suppliers to give them feedback and tell them:

  • you haven’t found a supplier that meets your needs
  • you’re not going to award a contract

You can review what you need and then publish new requirements.

9. Publish the contract to Contracts Finder

You must publish details of all completed contracts on Contracts Finder.

You’ll need to sign in to your account first. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to register as a buyer on Contracts Finder.

10. Complete the Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyer benefits form

Once complete, email a copy to cloud_digital@crowncommercial.gov.uk

Read more about:

If you have any questions about the Digital Marketplace, email enquiries@digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk.

Published 20 April 2016
Last updated 19 April 2017 + show all updates
  1. Added information about supplier feedback
  2. Specialists requirements can now be open for 1 or 2 weeks.
  3. First published.