The Digital Marketplace – a central, online procurement platform for digital projects in the public sector – has been in place for over 18 months now, yet there remains a level of uncertainty over how and why it should be used. This uncertainty is particularly prevalent when looking outside of central government, which currently accounts for 77% of total sales managed through the Marketplace’s G-Cloud framework and 73% of Digital Services framework sales – highlighting the lack of penetration among local authorities and other public sector organisations.
However, the Digital Marketplace has the potential to deliver great benefits to institutions of all shapes and sizes, as an efficient and effective way to access the technology and people needed to achieve key digital outcomes – especially in light of plans to launch an updated and enhanced version of the service in 2017.
So, in advance of that key milestone, we wanted to highlight some of the reasons why you should consider using the Digital Marketplace for your digital projects, if you haven’t already…
One of the core ambitions of the Government Digital Service (GDS) is to create services that are ‘so good that users prefer them’, and the Digital Marketplace is no different. It’s been created in collaboration with real-world buyers from both central government and the wider public sector as well as suppliers, to ensure that the service meets the needs of those teams and individuals that will actually be interacting with it (or, as GDS puts it, “user needs, not government needs”).
As part of a user-centred, design-led approach, GDS has also undertaken usability testing throughout the development of the Digital Marketplace, to back up the insight they’ve gathered from research with quantitative evidence of how well the service is performing. (And, as advocates of user-centred design ourselves, we definitely approve of this approach – visit the Usability Testing section of our site to find out more about why.)
As a result, the Digital Marketplace provides a usable and useful shop window for nearly 3,000 suppliers – a massive step forward from the often complex and unwieldy spreadsheets that many public sector organisations have had to use previously!
Not only is it now easier to sift through the list of approved public sector suppliers, there is also a much more diverse range of suppliers available than before. This is the result of the way the Digital Marketplace has reduced barriers to entry for smaller organisations to offer their services, along with increasing the focus on transparency and equality to help ensure suppliers are treated fairly. Indeed, recent statistics show that, of total G-Cloud sales to date, 53% by value (and 62% by volume) have been awarded to SMEs, with this figure standing at 40% for the Digital Services framework.
This means public sector organisations have better access to specialised services such as usability testing and Agile coaching, helping ensure they get both the very best supplier and solution for their particular needs (for full disclosure, I should point out that Box UK provides both of these services through the Digital Marketplace). There are also greater opportunities for innovation on offer, as these smaller organisations are often better placed to leverage the latest trends and technologies to deliver value – particularly if they’re committed to exploring new opportunities, and are nimble enough to respond rapidly and steal a march on the competition.
Of course, beyond the positive impact a wider pool of suppliers has on the public sector organisations themselves, in supporting small businesses the Digital Marketplace is also helping strengthen the wider economy, by facilitating job creation and revenue growth across the country in this crucial area of the market.
As mentioned in the introduction, there are plans to introduce a new version of the Digital Marketplace next year. However, this latest launch date has been pushed back from an initial timescale that was supposed to be nearing completion right around now – leading to (perhaps understandable) frustration from buyers and suppliers alike.
However, considering the vital role that the Digital Marketplace will play in the public sector procurement process, it’s crucial that GDS ensures the solution they eventually deliver is the right one. After all, well over a billion pounds’ worth of sales have gone through the service already, and this figure is only going to grow as more and more is invested in its usability, diversity and visibility. Looked at in this way, the time currently being taken to define, test and implement an effective strategy must be seen as a necessary step in creating a solution that’s truly fit-for-purpose, and which delivers against the public sector’s core digital goals.
Additionally, with the improvements and enhancements being promised in GDS’s future vision for the service – which include plans to deliver an end-to-end user journey, make procurement data more open and transparent, provide organisations with the capability to open and award their own frameworks and much more – it certainly sounds like it will be worth the wait.
The GDS has taken a bold step with the Digital Marketplace, but the signs are positive that it will deliver great long-term value for both buyers and suppliers operating in the public sector. So, if you’re looking for technology or people to fulfil your own digital project, why not explore the service today – and to find out how Box UK may be able to help you specifically, have a look at our capabilities.