The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook

Technology underpins every service provided by The UK government, and with the UK spending around £46bn a year on sourcing and contracting related services – there is a big focus on ‘getting it right from the start’.  

Through the Digital, Data and Technology Playbook, 11 new policies have been introduced to transform how the government assesses, procures and manages its tech. The guidance applies directly to central government agencies, and is to be considered ‘good practice’ by the wider public sector – meaning all suppliers should familiarise themselves with this guidance to achieve the best scores when bidding for work. 

We have provided a much shorter summary of the key outcomes and policies of the 98-page playbook.

What does getting it right from the start look like?

The UK government is striving for excellence, and with tech ever-evolving, a lot of consideration has been made to how it can best avoid risk, achieve whole-life value and consistently apply best practice. To ensure it gets things right from the start, the UK government has introduced the following priorities: 

  • Taking an outcome-based approach  
    An outcome-based approach has been adopted to help ensure the government is able to respond quickly to changes, put users first, and continually improve public services.

  • Avoiding and remediating legacy IT  
    Systems that are outside of vendor/bespoke support arrangements have a significant impact on cyber and national security, the operational resilience of critical systems, and public spend. Preventing future legacy IT and remediating what already exists is a vital consideration for the public sector.  

  • Cyber security – Secure by design  
    More products and services are moving towards end-to-end digitisation, and for these new projects cyber security will be a key consideration from the start.  

  • Enabling innovation  
    User needs will drive innovation, from continuous improvement to service delivery to the introduction of transformative new products/services.  

  • Driving sustainability  
    Social Value will be a requirement for all procurements, meaning new projects must help the government work towards its environmental, economic and social sustainability goals.  

  • Levelling the playing field for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)  
    SMEs and voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs) play a significant role in the industry – often leading the way for innovation, helping economic growth, boosting employment and creating investment opportunities in the UK. The government will support these enterprises through procurements that create a healthy, diverse and competitive market. 

The Digital, Data and Technology Playbook’s 11 Key Policies

  1. Commercial pipelines  
    The government will ensure the market is aware of all upcoming projects and publish pipelines for next 18 months as a minimum. This gives suppliers plenty of time to engage with buyers, understand demand, and arrange joint bids before contracts have been published. 

  1. Market health and capability assessments  
    It will work to design strategies and contracts that help to maintain a healthy market by addressing barriers to entry, taking advantage of innovations, and promoting competition. 
    This is good for suppliers as it means more focus will be placed on creating and simplifying access to the market. 

  1. Delivery Model Assessments (DMAs)  
    The use of DMAs will ensure contracting authorities use evidence-based processes to determine the best delivery model for projects. These assessments will offer you pre-engagement opportunities with buyers before contracts get published. 

  1. Cyber security assessment  
    To safeguard public data and the delivery of public projects, cyber-security assessments will be used as part of the selection process. There will be requirements for suppliers to meet minimum standards to maintain the security of government data throughout the commercial lifecycle. Cyber Essentials is mandatory for all new central government contracts which involve handling personal information and providing certain ICT products and services. 

  1. Testing and learning  
    For new services, contracting authorities will undertake a programme of iteration to understand the environment, constraints, requirements, risks and opportunities. This testing will be used to help inform technical specifications. 

  1. Effective contracting  
    Procurement will offer value for all by creating sustainable, resilient and effective relationships with suppliers. This means putting a greater focus into contract types, outcomes and the safeguarding of public data. 

  1. Open and interoperable data and code  
    The ability to share information is a key consideration, with software expected to be open-source and designed to allow access in a platform-agnostic way. Data should be shared using consistent methods, and primarily with APIs which conform to Central Digital and Data Office API technical and data standards, satisfy the requirements of the Technology Code of Practice (TCoP), and are well documented.  

  1. Legacy IT and up-to-date products  
    Future legacy IT will be prevented by ensuring procured products and services are both modern and fit for purpose. Software is to be kept up-to-date and in mainstream support for the duration of the contract – with considerations made for contract end dates and extensions. 

  1. Assessing the economic and financial standing of suppliers  
    The economic and financial standing of suppliers will come into consideration to safeguard the delivery of projects. These assessments will be part of risk management activities for the life of the contract and be tailored to each the specific project. 

  1. Sustainability  
    Products and services will need to comply with current and future obligations to improve environmental, economic and social sustainability – meaning regular assessments are to be expected. While there may be wider sustainability objectives, different departments can have their own strategies which will require careful consideration. 

  1. Resolution planning  
    For critical tech projects, all suppliers must provide resolution planning information. Despite major natural, cyber security, and commercial disasters being infrequent, this requirement limits the risk to the continuity of critical public services, projects and programmes. 

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