New updates to the Sourcing and Digital, Data and Technology Playbooks

9 minute read
27 June 2023

On 20 June 2023, the Cabinet Office published a fourth update to the Sourcing Playbook and a second version of the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Playbook, containing new policies and guidance for the procurement of public services.

Released last April, the DDaT forms part of the suite of Playbooks that have been developed by the Cabinet Office Sourcing Programme. Covering 11 key policies and six cross-cutting priorities, as outlined in our earlier article, it changed how DDaT products and services are assessed, procured and managed. In this article, we highlight the key changes to note in this latest version, alongside changes to the updated Sourcing Playbook and what else to look out for on the horizon.

The Sourcing Playbook: what has changed?

Key updates in the fourth version of the Sourcing Playbook include:

  • TUPE: More guidance has been given around the provision of Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) data during the procurement process to limit supplier risk pricing and to provide better value for money to the taxpayer: accurate employee records should be kept up to date and TUPE data should be put into a template and provided to bidders at the tender stage; contracts should include exit provisions for the smooth transition of TUPE information between outgoing and incoming suppliers; where good data is not available, the use of allowable assumptions should be considered, such that the contract price will only change if an identified risk materialises.
  • Embedding playbook policies in frameworks and guidance for call-offs: Guidance is provided about how the principles of the Sourcing Playbook are to be applied to framework agreements.
  • Making the playbook more accessible to local government and wider public sector colleagues: The language in the Sourcing Playbook has been updated to make it more accessible to local government – moving away from references to 'departments' to the wider 'contracting authority'.
  • Impact of bid delays: The impact of bid delays is highlighted, and the risk that such delays lead to rushed bid submissions of lower quality and increased costs.
  • Pipelines: The importance of publishing pipelines as early as possible is given renewed emphasis and it is noted that the current intention under the Procurement Bill is that the requirement to publish information on governmental procurement pipelines will be expanded. The move will extend the requirement to all government bodies who expect to spend more than £100 million in a financial year for all contracts (exemptions apply, such as private utilities and national security contracts) over £2 million within 56 days of the start of the relevant financial year. It is envisaged that this information will be provided on a pipeline notice and be available on the single, central platform.
  • Refreshed Supplier Code of Conduct: The Supplier Code of Conduct has been refreshed – driving collaborative relationships between government and suppliers. Tender documentation for outsourcing projects should include a statement that the Supplier Code of Conduct applies.
  • Financial viability assessments: The ongoing responsibility of contracting authorities to keep the financial status of suppliers under review is underlined. As part of the procurement reforms, suppliers will submit their financial information to a centralised system, which will filter suppliers who do not meet the threshold for the tested criteria.
  • How to deal with inflation, including contract indexation: Unsurprisingly, given inflation, guidance has been added about the use of indexation. Authorities are to distinguish between costs that are within the supplier's control and those that are not. The contractual cost drivers that are outside of the supplier's control should be linked to an appropriate index. Those within the supplier's control should remain a supplier risk. Open book contract management may be used to manage costs and provide transparency as to the indexation approach.

The Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Playbook: what has changed?

The second version of the DDaT Playbook 'sharpens our commercial focus' on a number of key areas to ensure that it remains relevant in a fast changing sector:

  • Innovation: Contracting authorities should use early market engagement to access novel solutions to problems and to set evaluation criteria in a way that is proportionate to the risk profile. Guidance is provided on deploying rapid decision-making and agile processes, which are critical to innovation.
  • Agile delivery: New guidance on agile delivery is provided. As part of the DDaT service assessment, new DDaT data services are required and an agile approach to development of these services is required (including testing and developing ideas).
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: Useful guidance is provided on what contracting authorities should consider when investing in AI and machine learning to achieve improved value for money. Contracting authorities should consider assessing bidders on topics such as the transparency and explainability of the AI, ethical considerations (including data limitations, fairness and bias), the approach to consent and control throughout the product lifecycle and privacy and cyber security. It also highlights key risks that contracting authorities should consider in AI and data procurements, including data bias, false negatives, model drift, safety, lack of explainability and potential liabilities.
  • Cyber security: The Government Cyber Security Strategy should be implemented to manage the risk of cyber security threats affecting contracting authorities and suppliers.
  • Sustainability: The delivery of digital, data and technology contracts should be inherently sustainable, adopting sustainability into the procurement process and into the performance of the contract.
  • Intellectual property rights: The ownership of intellectual property rights (IPR) developed during the lifetime of a contract should sit with the party best placed to deliver the long-term benefits of those rights. A new guidance note has been created solely focused on achieving the right balance in the approach to IPR.
  • TRL scale: Contracting authorities should consider using the TRL (technology readiness level) scale to assess the availability and maturity level of a particular technology within a market.

What is next?

Both Playbooks acknowledge the fact that major reforms are due over the next year when the Procurement Bill receives Royal Assent. The Playbooks flag throughout those areas that are likely to change when the Procurement Bill comes into force, and we understand that the Cabinet Office plans to launch new versions of the Playbooks at that time. We also understand that an update to the Model Services Contract is forthcoming – likely to be announced in July 2023.

To find out more about the Sourcing and DDaT Playbooks read our earlier articles below:

If you'd like to discuss any of the points raised here further, please contact Alexi Markham or Alexandra Poynter in our Government Sector team. For more insight you can also sign up here to essential updates from our Public Sector team.

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