Applying design thinking to CDPS procurement
How to open up bidding to as wide as possible a range of providers? Make the paperwork a model of simplicity and clarity
26 August 2022
Content designer Amy McNichol and Harry Webb from CDPS’s commercial partners Curshaw have been trying to make CDPS’s procurement documents less complex. The aim of the work is to make bidding for commercial opportunities less daunting and time-consuming for providers.
Our assumption is that, if we make procurement easier to understand and less arduous, providers of all sizes will feel more confident about bidding. That supports CDPS’s overarching goal of helping the Welsh economy to grow, which is the intent of mission 4: digital economy in the Digital Strategy for Wales.
Purposefully designed, not cobbled together
We see buying or selling goods or services as, itself, an end-to-end service. So, we’ve been designing a process linked by standardised, succinct templates, guidance and email communication.
Here are 3 examples of the changes we’ve made to the existing process and an explanation of why we made them.
- Email inviting providers to bid
We’ve created an email template for CDPS to send to providers who might be interested in bidding for a particular opportunity.
After ‘pre-market engagement’, where a buyer puts feelers out for what’s available on the market, this standardised email is the first contact the pool of providers gets from CDPS.
There was no template previously. That meant having to redraft an email each time, which was haphazard and time-consuming.
The new email template has 6 attachments. That could be overwhelming, so it’s super-important that the email communicates clearly and concisely what each attachment is for. We have to be transparent with providers about the tasks involved in bidding so they can make an informed decision, quickly, on whether to bid.
- used numbered bullet points that act like a step-by-step guide, to make the volume of documents feel more manageable
- frontloaded each step with a verb (either ‘read’ or ‘complete’), to make clear that it’s actionable
- included what happens next – apart from being considerate of providers, we hope that will lead to fewer people needing to get in touch with us to ask
- highlighted the parts CDPS colleagues need to fill in
- Bidder declaration form
The declaration is a form a bidder must complete and return to CDPS when they bid for a commercial opportunity. The form asks questions to do with the legitimacy of the company, as well as the people who work for or with it. It is part of CDPS’s due diligence that we must avoid awarding a piece of work to a bidder with criminal connections or who is socially irresponsible.
The previous version of the declaration asked bidders to answer 28 questions, many with several parts to them. CDPS wants to encourage a diverse pool of suitable providers to bid for opportunities. So it’s in our interest to make this part of bidding as light-touch as possible to save both bidders and CDPS (when processing the form) time.
- thought about the need behind each question – exactly what’s needed to verify providers’ legitimacy, for example, and what data it would be useful to collect (such as whether a provider is based in Wales)
- linked to guidance and other resources to make it easier for providers to give us the information we need – for example, the Companies House website, in case people don’t remember their company number
- removed the need for supporting documents that CDPS would have to verify (but stated that CDPS might ask for them later)
- linked to useful supporting information previously taking up space as footnotes
- CDPS’s requirements
At the start of a procurement, a buyer sets out their requirements of providers. Providers should be able to work out if the contract is of interest quickly, without wading through lots of preamble.
For that reason, we’ve frontloaded the information that experience shows providers look for first, including:
- the buyer’s budget
- contract length (plus possibility of extension)
- location providers would work in
However, the biggest change we’ve made surrounding the requirements document is to provide guidance on how to write requirements themselves.
In many procurements, as Harry has seen, organisations buying goods or services are prescriptive about the solution they’d like. It’s better for buyers to explain why they’d like to buy something – which often means describing a problem they’d like to solve.
The guidance we’ve added encourages CDPS buyers to think of the outcomes they’d like (the ‘problem to be solved’), because specifying a solution might limit providers too much. A provider, not the buyer, is best placed to suggest a solution because they will be expert in that area.
Unfinished (but so far, so good)
We’ve made a solid start on the supplier-facing documents, and we’re beginning to use them within CDPS and with bidders. We’ll iterate (refine) them in response to feedback from both groups of users.