Big Ben

A guide to the UK government’s digital marketplace

Or… How to be in a position to bid for UK government open digital contracts

(Note: this doesn’t mean you might not be able to get work with government in other ways.)

Big Ben

To apply to be a new government digital service supplier under the digital marketplace at the moment is difficult until January or may be even February 2017, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.

Anyone can add their very basic company details to the digital marketplace (have that elusive DUNs number to hand when you do).

This doesn’t get you very far.

To become a supplier you are required to register either as a GCloud and/or Digital Outcomes & Specialist supplier under a current framework.

In reality this means that GCloud and Digital Outcomes are not fixed registration processes, but temporary opportunity windows under which contracts are made available. I won’t bore you here with why.

Each framework will have a set of agreements that a supplier will need to adhere to in order to register and then pitch for contracts. These agreements may include compliance standards, such as accessibility on the web, or ways of working, such as user testing.

Roughly, speaking…

GCloud Framework is for tech services that already exist on the internet. Defined in four parts: platform/software/infrastructure as a service and specialist cloud services (which aren’t necessarily what you’d think they’d be).

Digital Outcomes and Specialists Framework – is mostly for people as services and ancillary services. For example designers, user research. Lots of the contracts might elsewhere be described as job ads.

Applications for GCloud or Digital Outcomes are done by applying to a their relative ‘framework’ or contract notice, which only open for certain, very short, periods of the year. For example, GCloud Framework 8 has closed for applications, and was only open for a few weeks.

The next GCloud Framework (9), won’t now open until early 2017.

Once you have signed a framework agreement (example), it lasts for a year, unless stated otherwise in the framework.

It is currently unclear when the next Digital Outcomes framework will open.

Only once you have a signed framework agreement can you then bid for contracts on the Digital Marketplace, under the relative framework.

So to sum up:

  • Add your basic details to the Digital Marketplace so that you are ready to apply to a framework (takes about 10 minutes).
  • Understand which framework applies to you.
  • Check if your systems/services adhere to expected standards in the agreements, such as government’s Technology Code of Practice (go to the framework pages listed above to find out what these are likely to be for your organisation).
  • Update systems/services accordingly in preparation for your application (do not underestimate how long this may take).
  • Be alert for when the next dates when applications to the frameworks open.
  • Be ready to fill in the details required quickly, as the opportunities are brief and infrequent.
  • Only once you have a signed agreement can you then bid for contracts on the Digital Marketplace.

Image of Big Ben by Rik.