GDS adds two suppliers to help fulfil ‘urgent’ digital projects in £7m deals
In the last two years the digital agency has retained six firms to provide on-demand personnel
The Government Digital Service has signed contracts worth a cumulative £7m for two suppliers to provide extra resources to the agency in its work assisting departments with urgent technology projects.
Newly published procurement documents reveal that GDS recently signed two-year engagements with Opencast Software and Made Tech. The respective deals came into effect on 17 January and 21 April and are expected to be worth up to £3m and £4m to the two UK-based tech consultancies – who join a roster that now includes six companies retained by the digital agency over the past two years to provide on-demand support.
The two contracts are both intended to fulfil a “need for a flexible supplier to respond to urgent requests received by GDS from departments”.
Over the course of the two-year deals, the suppliers will be asked to serve as a “a delivery bridge where there is a lack of capability and/or capacity and no time go to market and procure a supplier” to fill in the skills gaps.
The two firms will tasked with providing “agile multidisciplinary teams” within a typical timeframe of five to ten working days. Key skills likely to be required include user researchers, software developers, user experience specialists and designers, data and performance analysts, experts to support delivery of live services.
The contract notice said: “Government needs access at short notice to supplier teams that can design, build, and deliver digital services. We are looking at placing teams within two weeks to deliver clearly defined digital outcomes. Departments [and] ALBs… need to run discoveries and develop digital services to design, build and run services within five to ten working days. [They] need the supplier to quickly understand [their] problem and work with [them] to define outcomes, deliverables and milestones to ensure [they] meet key delivery dates.”
It added: “This contract will allow time-critical work to commence while alternative arrangements are made.”
The projects for which GDS seeks support “will be at various stages and suppliers will be briefed relative to specific statements of work”.
Opencast and Made Tech will be required to “work with government departments and ALBs from a range of disciplines, including architecture, security, policy, service and product management, finance, and delivery management”.
“Where required in the development cycle, collaboration with other suppliers may be necessary,” GDS added. “This contract will not prevent us from using other commercial arrangements, including using capability contracts, to pull together a team from a range of suppliers.”
The two companies will be expected to deliver “knowledge transfer back into” government in order to enable departments “to improve internal capability to build and support the services” into the future.
Opencast is based in Newcastle upon Tyne and Made Tech is headquartered in London, although both firms operate from offices across the UK.
The companies are the latest additions to a growing roster of suppliers retained by GDS to provide on-demand support with urgent digital projects.
Recrutiment specialist LA International Computer Consultants was signed to a two-year deal in April 2020, while contracts were put in place with Thoughtworks in September 2020, another deal with LA International in July 2021, and Nomensa in September 2021. All four are expected to be worth up to £4m to the companies in question. A one-year £1m contract with Engine ran from December 2020 to 2021.
These five engagements and the two new ones are all near identical in the services covered by the contract – which represent an archetypal example of a so-called bench arrangement, in which a supplier is retained to provide on-demand support at short notice for as-yet-unspecified urgent delivery needs.
Such agreements are typically unpopular with SMEs, as they require suppliers to be able draw on large teams of spare technical staff at any given time, rather than setting out clear requirements upfront, allowing providers limited resources to better plan where they are dedicated.
In the last two years, the six bench deals signed by GDS are worth a cumulative £24m. Other departments – including the Home Office and BEIS – have also put in place similar multimillion-pound contracts.
The most recent contract notices said that the continued use of the model by GDS comes "following on from the success" of the previously awarded deals.
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