DTO enters federal procurement fray

Procurement reform is coming …



The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) has made a bold entrance into the federal government procurement market, issuing a call out to digital services providers to apply for a place on a new supplier panel that will give federal and state agencies fast access to an agile development talent pool.

The move looks to be the concrete first step for the DTO’s wide plan to create a quick service market for government clients trying to rapidly improve their online services and transactions, with “pre-vetted” on-call suppliers expected to be able to stand-up projects in as little as 20 weeks – with as little just five days-notice.

“To set a high benchmark, we’re asking suppliers to show us their strong track record in delivery,” said Phil Webster, the DTO’s senior Delivery Manager for the Digital Transformation Program.

“They’ll also need to demonstrate how they can mobilise resources at short notice, and work rapidly across multiple locations.”

Accelerating both delivery and project turnaround times has been one of the DTO’s core mission objectives right from the outset, especially when it comes to finding ways to overcoming arcane procurement requirements that can take longer than a project itself.

In December DTO Paul Shetler called out procurement as “a major barrier holding back innovation in the way government delivers services” and warned that “current barriers may actually stifle innovation and make it difficult for a new product or great service from being rolled out across government.”

For many smaller digital product and services suppliers, a major barrier to entry into the government market is the often expensive, complex and slow process of repeatedly tendering for individual contracts – a situation that governments like New South Wales have attempted to reform through the establishment of pre-approved vendor panels and ‘marts’.

A key element of the NSW procurement reforms has been opening up access to supplier panels to not only state agencies, but also offering access to pricing and supply to the local and federal sectors to widen the appeal of participation to suppliers.

The DTO is at least partly mirroring that approach by stating up-front that state and territory agencies will be able to tap into its panel (and presumably marketplace) for services it has pre-vetted.

Less clear, at this stage anyway, is whether the DTO and NSW state agencies will be prepared to cross-accredit suppliers or access pricing from each other’s supplier lists.

And to get onto the DTO’s panel, suppliers will first need to respond to a request for tender issued through the Department of Finance’s AusTender platform, the mechanism that presently acts as the gatekeeper for federal deals.

According to the DTO, the categories that the new Digital Specialist Panel will cover are

  • Product Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Delivery Management and Agile Coaching
  • User Research
  • Service Design and Interaction Design
  • Technical Architecture, Development, Ethical Hacking, and Web Operations
  • Performance and Web Analytics
  • Inclusive Design and Accessibility, and
  • Digital Transformation Advisors.

Importantly, the DTO says suppliers won’t need to be able to deliver all of the above, but “can be part of the panel for their expertise in one or more of these skills.”

A major announcement on the DTO’s forthcoming marketplace is expected on Wednesday.

Applications for inclusion on the new panel close on April 4, 2016.

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