Digital Marketplace

Making government buying better

The Digital Marketplace changed the way government finds technology or people for digital projects, it made it easy for more suppliers to sell to government and deliver great digital services.

The Digital Marketplace homepage

The challenge

We should be making it easier for small businesses to work with government but suppliers struggled to justify the cost of applying for opportunities when they didn't know if they stood a chance of winning. We also knew that when large amounts of suppliers apply for opportunities things took forever.

Our challenge:

  • help suppliers calculate their chances of winning work
  • encourage only the most eligible suppliers to apply

Scoping and prioritising the work

We only had 6 weeks to design and implement any changes, we had to identify quick wins whilst laying the groundwork for more long-term changes. We needed to be ruthless with our prioritisation.

Big problems can be solved with small fixes

Release 1 – Open data

I identified that by opening up data we already had we could give suppliers some information to help them prioritise what to apply for.

Showing how many companies were in the process of applying led to suppliers self managing themselves reducing numbers of applications and making it easier for buyers to shortlist.

We had heard from suppliers that they don’t think they stood a chance of winning work, by showing how many small, medium or large companies are applying we dispelled this myth and increased the amount of small and medium supplier applications.

This work was quick and allowed the developers to deliver value whilst we prototyped and tested designs for next releases.

An opportunity showing how many companies have applied
Close up data showing how many small, medium and large companies applied

Release 2 – Feedback

We heard a lot about a lack of feedback, a "black hole" that applications go into. Small or medium suppliers can't afford to keep staff on a "bench" while they wait to see if they won a contract. This release was all about capturing and telling suppliers when the status of an opportunity changed.

We gave buyers the ability to cancel their opportunities, in this release we simply send out a notification for suppliers but this laid the groundwork for allowing us to capture more detailed information from buyers in the future.

An opportunity with a banner showing it is closed
An opportunity with a banner showing it was cancelled

Release 3 – Show what happened

There was a perception that some buyers were giving work to the same suppliers and that work wasn’t starting on the date advertised excluding possible suppliers.

In this release we built on our ability to capture the status of an opportunity from buyers, we now asked them:

  • why an opportunity had to be cancelled
  • who won the work
  • the start date and final spend

By making data open suppliers could compare what was advertised with the outcome. By doing this we dispelled rumours and encouraged better buying. This work was risky, it opened buyers up to scrutiny and potential legal action if suppliers felt the process was unfair. I believe it was a big step towards more fair and open buying in the public sector.

An opportunity with a banner showing who won, the final value and start date
The advertised price and start date