New Government Digital, Data and Technology Playbook published

7 minute read
04 April 2022


The UK Government has just released its Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Playbook, setting out its guidance on getting DDaT projects and programmes right.

The DDaT Playbook forms part of the suite of Playbooks that have been developed by the Cabinet Office Sourcing Programme – sitting alongside the Sourcing, Consultancy and Construction Playbooks. Given the public sector spend on digital is estimated at £46 billion in 2021/22, it seems an obvious successor.

The DDaT Playbook follows a similar format to the Sourcing Playbook, being built around a typical procurement and project lifecycle and underpinned by 11 key policies. As with the Sourcing Playbook, it is the result of a collaborative exercise between industry and Government and, most importantly, is mandated to all new DDaT projects procured by central government departments and arm's-length bodies on a 'comply or explain' basis.

Key themes are around enabling innovation, tackling the issue of legacy IT and technical debt, enhancing SME market participation and delivering sustainable, resilient DDaT products and services which focus on user needs rather than specific solutions.

We will be digesting the DDaT Playbook over the coming weeks, but in the meantime have set out below its 11 key policies and six cross-cutting priorities.

The 11 key policies

The 11 key policies are designed to transform how Government assesses, procures and manages DDaT products and services. Not all are unique to DDaT procurements - those familiar with the Sourcing Playbook will recognise the first five of the policies:

  1. Publication of commercial pipelines - Departments should publish their pipelines of DDaT contracts and commercial activity, looking forward at least 18 months but ideally three to five years.
  2. Undertaking market health and capability assessments – Departments should conduct an early health and capability assessment of the market and engage with the market to develop a clear, outcome-based specification that enables innovation.
  3. Undertaking delivery model assessments - Departments must decide whether to outsource a service or deliver it in-house prior to the Strategic Outline Case stage and support it with a thorough evidenced-based analysis.
  4. Assessing the economic and financial standing of suppliers - Departments must assess bidders' financial capacity in a proportionate, fair and not overly risk averse manner. Assessment is to be undertaken during the procurement but on-going financial monitoring will occur throughout the life of the contract.
  5. Resolution planning - Suppliers of critical DDaT contracts are required to provide corporate resolution planning information and keep such information up-to-date throughout the contract life.
  6. Cyber security assessments – Cyber security assessments are to be part of the supplier selection process and inform contract design. All suppliers will be required to meet minimum standards throughout the commercial lifecycle. The Cyber Essentials Scheme is mandatory for all new central government contracts which involve handling personal information and providing certain ICT products and services.
  7. Testing and learning – Iterative programmes are to be used where a service is to be delivered in a different way in order to understand the environment, constraints, requirements, risks and opportunities.
  8. Effective contracting – Contracts are to be designed to drive collaboration, improve value for money, and deliver a sustainable, resilient and effective relationship, focussed on outcomes and the safeguarding of public data.
  9. Open and interoperable data and code - Interoperability is a key priority, and software should be open-source. Data should be shared using consistent methods, and primarily with APIs which conform to Central Digital and Data Office API technical and data standards and satisfy the requirements of the Technology Code of Practice (TCoP).
  10. Legacy IT and up-to date products - Departments should ensure that all software is kept up-to-date and in mainstream support for the duration of the contract and plan early for when contracts end, including any extensions.
  11. Sustainability - Departments should ensure products and services comply with obligations to improve environmental, economic and social sustainability and organisational strategies should be put in place and regularly assessed to measure progress against these.

Cross-cutting priorities

The DDaT lists the following six cross-cutting priorities setting out the ethos for the Government's DDaT work:

  1. Taking an outcome-based approach, with agile ways of working enabling users to be put first.
  2. Take an outcome-based approach to the delivery of products and services focusing on user needs, not specific solutions
  3. Avoiding and remediating legacy IT – The financial burden of legacy IT systems (i.e. those that are outside of vendor support) is to be reduced/avoided.
  4. Cyber security – Services are to meet robust cyber security standards to maintain operational resilience.
  5. Enabling innovation – Innovation is to be enabled through open and interoperable standards, continuous improvement of ways of working and a pragmatic approach to risk.
  6. Driving sustainability – Using the Social Value model, DDaT procurements should be designed to drive sustainability in the DDaT environment, commercial practices and economy.
  7. Levelling the playing field for SMEs within DDaT projects to enable economic growth, employment and investment opportunities

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Read our previous articles on the Sourcing and Construction Playbooks:

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