Guidance

How to hire user research labs on the Digital Marketplace

How to hire a user research lab through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework.

The process for hiring a user research lab through the Digital Marketplace is different from buying digital outcomes, specialists and participant recruitment.

How to hire a user research lab

When you hire a user research lab, you must:

  1. Prepare your requirements.
  2. Set evaluation criteria.
  3. Get approval to buy what you need.
  4. Search for user research labs on the Digital Marketplace.
  5. Create a shortlist.
  6. Contact the labs on your shortlist.
  7. Answer supplier questions.
  8. Evaluate suppliers on:
    • technical competence - based on location, facilities and accessibility
    • price
  9. Find the winning supplier.
  10. Award a contract and give feedback to unsuccessful suppliers.
  11. Publish the contract on Contracts Finder.
  12. Complete the Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyer benefits form.

The evaluation process has to be fair, open and transparent. If you award a contract, you must keep a record of all the stages of the buying process. You should be able to demonstrate a clear audit trail.

1. Prepare your requirements

Write your requirements for the user research facilities you need to hire before you start the buying process.

You must decide which of your requirements are essential and which are nice to have. This will help you filter and evaluate supplier responses later.

Your requirements must include:

  • what you want to call your set of requirements
  • the area and town or city where you want to do your research
  • how easy it is for people to get to the labs, for example within 5 minutes walk of public transport
  • organisation the work is for, for example Lewisham Council
  • facilities needed, for example the size of viewing room or eye tracking software
  • any assisted digital or accessibility needs of your research participants
  • exact research dates or at least when you expect the research to start and end
  • how often you want to do research, for example once a week on Wednesdays
  • any evening or weekend research you want to do
  • how long suppliers will have to respond

You should also think about including:

  • the funds you have to hire the lab
  • how and when you’ll run an optional question and answer session (so you can talk to suppliers and quickly answer any questions they have about the requirements)

Before you start, you can talk to suppliers to help you refine your requirements. You can find a list of lab suppliers on the Digital Marketplace.

Read more about how to write requirements for Digital Outcomes and Specialists services.

2. Set evaluation criteria

You must tell suppliers how you’re going to evaluate them. When you publish your requirements, you need to set the weightings you’ll use for evaluation. You must evaluate on technical competence, for example whether they have the facilities you need.

Read about how to set your evaluation criteria.

3. 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 internal budget approval.

4. Search for user research labs

Search for user research lab suppliers on the Digital Marketplace.

5. Create a shortlist

Create a shortlist by using your requirements to choose the labs that best meet your needs. You can have a shortlist of one if no other labs meet your needs. You must keep a record of your search history for your audit trail, for example by taking screenshots of your search results pages.

6. Contact the labs on your shortlist

You should contact all the suppliers on your shortlist to:

  • check they’re free when you need them to be
  • check they meet your requirements
  • get a quote

You should tell all the suppliers on your shortlist:

  • what your requirements are
  • which of your requirements are essential and which are nice to have
  • how you’ll evaluate them on technical competence and price
  • what you want them to tell you in their response
  • when you need them to respond by

7. Answer supplier questions

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

You must:

  • share all questions and answers with all shortlisted suppliers
  • keep a record of all questions and answers for your audit trail, for example save emails
  • 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

8. Evaluate suppliers

Review all supplier responses after the closing date. You can’t review any responses before the closing date.

Suppliers will apply and tell you:

  • if the lab is available when you need it
  • if they meet your essential requirements
  • which nice-to-have requirements they meet
  • how much the lab will cost to hire

You can exclude suppliers:

  • who don’t have a lab available when you need it
  • who don’t meet all your essential requirements
  • that cost more than your budget

Evaluating technical competence

To evaluate on technical competence, you must score suppliers on how many of your nice-to-have requirements they meet. You must:

  1. Divide the number of nice-to-have requirements the supplier meets by the total number of nice-to-have requirements you asked for.
  2. Multiply this number by the weighting percentage you gave to technical competence.

Example:

You said technical competence is worth 80% when you sent your requirements to suppliers.

Supplier A has 15 of your 20 nice-to-have skills and experience. Divide 15 by 20 then multiply it by 80. Supplier A scores 60 for technical competence.

Evaluating price

You can evaluate price based on how close each supplier’s quote is to the cheapest supplier’s quote. The lower each supplier’s quote, the higher their score. You must:

  • divide the cheapest quote by each supplier’s quote
  • multiply each supplier’s score by the weighting you gave to price when you sent your requirements to suppliers

Example:

  • supplier A’s quote for the lab is £1200
  • supplier B’s quote for the lab is £1000
  • supplier C’s quote for the lab is £900

To calculate a score for supplier A, divide 900 by 1200. Supplier A scores 0.75.

To calculate a score for supplier B, divide 900 by 1000. Supplier B scores 0.9.

To calculate a score for supplier C, divide 900 by 900. Supplier C scores 1.

You said price is worth 20% when you sent your requirements to suppliers.

Supplier A scored 0.75 for price. Multiply 0.75 by 20. Supplier A’s weighted score for price is 15 out of 20.

9. Find the winning supplier

To find the winning supplier, you must calculate a total score for each supplier. Add up their weighted score for technical competence and price.

The winning supplier is the one with the highest total score.

Example:

Supplier A’s weighted scores were:

  • 60 out of 80 for technical competence
  • 15 out of 20 for price

Their total weighted score is 75 out of 100.

What to do if there’s a tie

If 2 or more suppliers have the same score, you can either:

  • use the score from the criteria with the highest weighting, then the next highest weighting until the tie is broken, for example if you’ve weighted price as the most important criteria then the winning supplier is the one with the highest score for price
  • ask the tied suppliers to provide ‘best and final’ quotes

The winning supplier is the one with the lowest quote.

10. 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.

View the:

Notify the successful supplier

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

Read about how to award a contract.

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
  • only comment on that supplier’s scores - don’t share specific details of other unsuccessful supplier’s 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 tell all remaining suppliers that:

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

You may choose to review what you need and then publish new requirements.

11. Publish the contract on Contracts Finder

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

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

This is part of the government’s commitment to open government. Open government means keeping a public record of how government money is spent.

12. Complete the Digital Outcomes and Specialists buyer benefits form

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

Continuing or ending Digital Outcomes and Specialists services

When you agree a contract (or ‘call-off’) with a Digital Outcomes and Specialists supplier on the Digital Marketplace, you’ll need to think about how you’ll work together.

Make sure you both:

  • understand and agree to what the contract covers
  • agree to how and when you’ll pay the supplier
  • know what to do if you disagree about the work
  • know what to do if your requirements change
  • know how to end the contract

Read more about:

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

Published 19 April 2016
Last updated 1 June 2016 + show all updates
  1. Added link to Digital Outcomes and Specialists call-off contract
  2. First published.