UK government sets sights on £8B tech procurement overhaul

Mega framework set to replace earlier deals coming to an end next year

The UK government has launched the procurement of a package of tech deals worth up to £8 billion ($6.36 billion), attempting to consolidate two earlier purchasing arrangements.

Crown Commercial Service, a Cabinet Office unit, has published a notice to initiate an early conversation with suppliers in preparation for launching the procurement of another framework agreement.

The so-called "prior information notice" sets out how the new framework – a purchasing agreement in the UK public sector in which suppliers offer special prices for indicative demand – will replace two existing schemes: Digital Outcomes 6 (DOS6) and Digital Specialists and Programmes (DSP).

"This may result in both frameworks being consolidated into one or staying separate," the notice said. "The current agreements provide access to agile application development services, digital specialists, user research studios and user research participants for use by central government and UK public sector bodies. The scope of services under the new agreement/s will be confirmed following market engagement activities."

Digital Outcomes 6 was awarded to suppliers in 2021 in a deal worth up to £2 billion.

The contract was split into four lots worth between £5 million and £575 million following a competition launched in 2020. The agreement is designed to help public sector buyers – which might include central government departments, local government, NHS providers or third-sector organizations – "find suppliers who can design and build bespoke digital products and services using an agile approach." The agreement is set to end in June 2025 after it was extended for a year.

The Digital Specialists and Programmes framework was designed to help public sector organizations find the skills needed for a "digital transformation/capability project, or to supply individual staff to work as part of an existing team or new team."

"A digital transformation project might include redesigning an existing service, or designing a whole new service for your users or your internal teams, for example," the framework page says. It is set to end in March next year after a 12-month extension.

The UK, like the US, suffers from a legacy tech problem. A report in 2021 showed that almost 50 percent of the nation's tech budget was dedicated to "keeping the lights on" activity on outdated systems.

As the buying arm for the Cabinet Office, Crown Commercial Services takes a 1 percent commission on all public sector spending that is routed through the frameworks it organizes. ®

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