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Delivering the earliest usable product

Since Digital Outcomes and Specialists opened for applications, we’ve been working on the buying journey. Through our research, we’ve identified the user needs and worked out the earliest usable product we can build to meet them. It’s important to get a usable product out as early as possible so that our users can start using it and start getting value from it. The sooner we have a usable product, the sooner we’re able to capture data about how people are using it which will help us to iterate and improve.

Researching, listening, iterating

We mapped out a simple buying journey and made a prototype to put in front of buyers and suppliers in user research sessions. We usually hold a user research session once every sprint (fortnightly) but we’ve doubled the amount we’ve been doing recently. We’ve also been visiting users in their offices as well as testing in the lab. This means we’ve been able to test the prototypes, listen to feedback and iterate more quickly.

Deciding what to build

We identified the earliest usable product that we could build for when services are first available to buy. To do this, we started with this user story:

As a buyer I need to be able to publish a brief and then reduce the number of eligible and interested suppliers to a number which I can manage.

With this in mind, we looked at the buying journey we’d mapped out and considered the complexity of building each step and how much that step would improve the user experience. We found that although some of these steps would be good to have on the Digital Marketplace, they weren’t essential for launch so we’ve left them out at this stage.

The buying journey: steps completed on the Digital Marketplace

When services are first available to buy from Digital Outcome and Specialists buyers will be able to:

  • publish their requirements
  • publish information on the way they’ll evaluate suppliers, including their evaluation criteria and weightings
  • publish supplier questions about their requirements, along with a response
  • view a shortlist of suppliers who’ve registered their interest

Suppliers will be able to apply for a specific piece of work.

The buying journey: steps completed outside the Digital Marketplace

Although our earliest usable product on the Digital Marketplace won’t include these features, we expect that later iterations will allow buyers to:

  • evaluate their shortlist
  • notify the successful supplier
  • give unsuccessful suppliers feedback
  • generate a contract (or ‘call-off’)
  • generate a statement of work
  • sign a contract digitally

Guidance for the offline buying journey

We aim to build things that don’t need long sets of instructions about how to use them. When the earliest usable product goes live, part of the Digital Outcomes and Specialists buying journey will happen outside the Digital Marketplace, so we’re working on guidance and templates so users will know what to do.

Improving the product, constantly

When Tony Singleton gave an update on the Digital Services framework early last year, he said that we’d design the new Digital Services framework with the Government Digital Service (GDS) design principles in mind. The fifth design principle is ‘Iterate. Then iterate again.’ This is what we’ll do when users start to buy and sell services. We’ll consider how they’re using Digital Outcomes and Specialists to decide whether there’s a user need to add new features to the journey or build more steps in the Digital Marketplace.

When users will be able to buy and sell services

In our last post, we gave an update on when we expect suppliers to be able to sell their services on Digital Outcomes and Specialists. We estimate that this will be in mid April.

We’ll be blogging more about our user research findings and how they’ve influenced what we’re building shortly. Sign up to the Digital Marketplace blog to stay updated.

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