Guidance

How to answer supplier questions about your Digital Outcomes and Specialists requirements

Answering supplier questions, or 'clarification' questions, on the Digital Marketplace.

Supplier questions: what they’re for and when suppliers can ask them

When you post your Digital Outcomes and Specialists requirements on the Digital Marketplace, all eligible suppliers can apply for the work. If a supplier needs to clarify something in your requirements, they can ask you a question, also known as a ‘clarification’ question, through the Digital Marketplace. You must respond so the supplier can decide whether a piece of work is right for them and whether to offer their services.

When you publish your requirements, suppliers will be given a date by which they must ask any questions they have. This should give you enough time to answer them.

How you’ll know if a supplier has asked a question

When a supplier asks a question, you’ll be sent an email to the address you gave when you created your Digital Marketplace account. Ensure this email address will be monitored. If you’re away during the time when suppliers can ask questions, you should make sure your emails are forwarded to a colleague.

Answering questions in an open and transparent way

You must make sure that suppliers have access to the same information about the work. This means all suppliers will have an equal opportunity to win the contract. All questions and answers will be published on the Digital Marketplace so anyone can see 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

You should answer questions:

  • within 2 to 3 working days
  • more frequently when the deadline is approaching

Giving useful answers

You should make sure you answer every part of a supplier question as they often include several queries. Providing links to supporting information can be helpful.

Difficult, confusing or commercially sensitive supplier questions

If you receive a question that you don’t understand, you can ask the supplier to explain what they mean in your answer. All suppliers will see your response, and the supplier can then rephrase their question and ask it again.

You must not reveal commercially sensitive information when you answer a supplier question, for example the supplier’s price for the work or how they plan to solve your problem.

Holding a session to answer supplier questions

You can hold a question and answer session to answer a lot of supplier questions at the same time. This should mean that suppliers don’t ask duplicate questions.

If you give suppliers 1 week to apply to a specialists requirement, your question and answer session must be in the first 2 working days after you publish. This will give suppliers time to review the additional information provided before applying.

If suppliers have 2 weeks to apply, it’s best to hold a session 3 or 4 days after you publish your requirements so suppliers have a chance to think of questions to ask.

Types of question and answer session

You can hold a:

  • webinar
  • conference call
  • meeting

How a question and answer session works

Suppliers who attend a question and answer session can ask questions through a chat feature in the webinar software or over the phone during a conference call. You should appoint someone to run the session. They should:

  • make each question visible to everyone in the session
  • not disclose the name of the supplier

You should make sure the right people are available to answer questions, for example a technical person should be present to answer technical questions. If you need to ask for information from a team member who isn’t present, you should tell the supplier you’ll publish an answer on the Digital Marketplace later.

After a question and answer session

You must post all questions and answers from each session on the Digital Marketplace so suppliers who didn’t attend aren’t at a disadvantage.

Software for a webinar

Your software should include these features:

  • dial-in: so the buyer and suppliers can join the webinar
  • chat: so suppliers can ask questions
  • recording: so questions and answers can be transcribed and shared with other suppliers through the Digital Marketplace
  • screen-sharing: so the buyer can share a presentation

Read more about how to buy Digital Outcomes and Specialists services.

Published 18 April 2016
Last updated 10 August 2016 + show all updates
  1. Added: 'If you give suppliers 1 week to apply to a specialists requirement, your question and answer session must be in the first 2 working days after you publish. This will give suppliers time to review the additional information provided before applying.'
  2. First published.