Ways to assess Digital Outcomes and Specialists suppliers

Assessment methods you can use to find the right Digital Outcomes and Specialists supplier for your needs

When you buy Digital Outcomes and Specialists services on the Digital Marketplace, you can use a range of methods to help you find the supplier that best meets your needs. Before you assess suppliers, you’ll need to have:

  • excluded the suppliers who don’t have the essential skills and experience
  • shortlisted the suppliers with the most nice-to-have skills and experience

You must aim to assess at least 3 suppliers. Most buyers find assessing less than 10 suppliers is manageable.

Make the evaluation process fair

The evaluation process needs to be fair, open and transparent. You must:

  • ask suppliers to provide information in the same format, whichever method you choose, for example give suppliers a template to fill in so that it’s easier for you to assess them
  • not look at any supplier responses until after the deadline
  • consider the logistics for each method, for example where the interview will happen or what equipment might be needed for a presentation
  • keep notes for all interviews, tests, scenarios and presentations
  • keep a record of how you’ve marked each supplier
  • score all suppliers against the same criteria using the scoring template
  • use the same team to assess the suppliers at the shortlisting and evaluation stages, but you can use different people to assess different methods, for example if you’re conducting interviews, the same people should be present in each one
  • give feedback to each supplier

Before you start

Choose the most appropriate assessment method to find the right supplier.

Some assessment methods, like interviews, might be more appropriate for an individual specialist, for example a user researcher or a content designer. Some methods, like written proposals, are better if you need a team to provide an outcome, eg a booking system or an accessibility audit.

Use as many of the assessment methods you published with your requirements as you need to. You don’t have to use them all if you find a supplier that meets your needs after the first assessment stage.

Make sure you:

  • don’t ask suppliers to put in too much effort for the size of the job they’re applying for
  • don’t pick too many suppliers to evaluate
  • you leave enough time for each assessment method, for example for a supplier to prepare and deliver a presentation
  • decide who needs to be involved in the evaluation process

Methods you can use to assess suppliers

Written proposal

A written proposal can help you understand how suppliers plan to address your policy goals and user needs. It’s normally the first evaluation method buyers use. You must ask for a written proposal if you need a team to provide an outcome or need user research participant recruitment. You can only open suppliers’ written proposals after the application deadline. You must use the ‘proposed solution criteria’ you included in your requirements to evaluate suppliers’ responses. You can use the written proposal template.

You can ask suppliers questions to clarify their written proposals.


An interview can help you understand whether a specialist or team has the skills needed to work on your project. It will also help you see whether they will be a good cultural fit for your existing team. Follow an agreed format in which you ask all suppliers the same set of questions.


A presentation can help you understand a supplier’s written proposal of how they’ll deliver an outcome. You could, for example, ask suppliers to give a practical demonstration of a prototype or discovery kick-off meeting. Tell the suppliers:

  • where the presentation will happen
  • the available timeslots and how they can be booked
  • that you want the people who’ll be working on the project to be there
  • the maximum number of attendees
  • who suppliers should ask for when they arrive
  • a time limit for all suppliers, including how much time should be spent on the presentation and questions and answers
  • any available equipment, for example a digital projector or whiteboard

Case study

A case study is a good way to see the work suppliers have done before. It can help you understand whether the people who’ll be working on your project have the right skills and experience.

Use the case study template to help you.

Tell the suppliers:

  • how many case studies you’d like them to provide
  • that their case studies must be about the people who will work on your project
  • what they should include in each case study
  • what the word limit is


A reference is a good way of finding out if a specialist has done the work they’ve said they’ve done. Always ask for the contact details of someone who can provide a recent reference, for example work they’ve done in the last 2 years.

If you’re looking for an outcome, you can ask a supplier to provide a reference for a specific project to check the work they’ve done. References must be about projects that have involved the people who will work on your project. If you need a supplier to recruit research participants, you can ask them for references of the people who’ll be doing the recruitment.

Work history

A work history describes the skills and experience of the person who’ll be working on your project. You must ask all specialists to provide a work history. If you’re looking for an outcome, you can ask for work histories of all the people who’ll be working on the project. All work histories should be anonymous and have a word limit.

Use the work history template to help you.

Scenario or test

A scenario or test can help you check a specialist’s skill level and understanding in a controlled environment.

Examples include:

  • a writing test for a content designer
  • a coding test for a developer
  • the approach a product manager would take to solve a problem

You should think about how you’re going to run the test or scenario in advance, for example whether a session will be observed or recorded. The approach you take may depend on the role or capability that you’re looking for.

Read more about how to evaluate.

You’ll need to keep a record of how you evaluate as part of your audit trail. Read more about how to keep an audit trail.

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Published 18 April 2016
Last updated 1 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. Clarifying that buyers must use the same team to assess suppliers at the shortlisting and evaluation stage

  2. First published.