In June, Warren Smith, our Head of Strategy, blogged about how the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) were working together to redesign the Digital Services framework. He also wrote how creating simpler and clearer contracts is a huge part of this process. Since then, GDS, CCS and the Government Legal Department (GLD) have applied user-centred design principles to improve the tender and contractual documents for Digital Outcomes and Specialists. This is the framework that will replace Digital Services 2.
Challenging the rulebook
One of the GDS Design Principles is ‘Do the hard work to make it simple’, and that’s exactly what our multidisciplinary team has aimed to do. We know from talking to suppliers and buyers that procurement can be a time-consuming and complicated process, especially for smaller businesses, so we wanted to try to make things simpler, clearer and faster.
We questioned why legal documents are often lengthy and written in complex language and we wondered if we could meet the user need better by challenging the traditional procurement rulebook in order to create simpler, clearer contracts.
How we did it
Using the Digital Services 2 documentation as a template, we held several ‘design jams’ to look at every section of each document. We cut out duplicated material, grouped related subjects, reordered things and rewrote the documentation in plainer English. Then we tested it by putting it in front of buyers and suppliers as well as commercial lawyers. If it met the user need better, we kept the new version. If it didn’t, we iterated.
Shorter and simpler
For the redesigned framework, we’ve reduced the length of the documentation significantly by hosting boilerplate sections of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) online.
The new documentation includes 6 tender documents rather than the 11 we had for Digital Services 2. We’ve done this by grouping things together. For example, because they’re linked, we grouped the Declaration of compliance and the Terms of participation together and put them into the ITT document.
The Digital Outcomes and Specialists tender pack, which includes the contracts, has around 50% fewer words than the Digital Services 2 tender pack. It’s also 123 pages shorter.
If the average adult reading speed is around 250 words per minute, the old documentation would have taken around 9 hours to read, and that’s assuming a reader understands everything on a single read-through. We estimate that the new Digital Outcomes and Specialists documents will take around 3 and a half hours to read.
Iterating to meet user needs
Another GDS Design Principle is ‘Start with user needs’ because without understanding them, you won’t design the right thing.
As we’ve been designing the supplier journey, we've gathered user feedback and we’ve iterated, sometimes wildly, in response. We also collected user feedback when we published the draft documents ahead of the open for applications date. This feedback helped us iterate again before the framework opened. We blogged about our findings here.
Creating standards for the future
Our multidisciplinary team and our user-centred design approach have challenged how procurement traditionally works. Working in this way is a first in government procurement and we hope that we’ve set a new standard. In 2016, we intend to work in a similar way for the next iteration of G-Cloud (G-Cloud 8) as well as for any new or redesigned frameworks coming onto the Digital Marketplace in the future.
We think that meeting user needs is important for all government procurement, not just for digital and technology services. We want to share our approach and the lessons we’ve learnt from delivering Digital Outcomes and Specialists for the Digital Marketplace. We’ll blog more about this next year.