Digital Marketplace: sharing ideas at the roundtable

Montage of images showing audience and presenters at the Digital Transformation Roundtable

In the Digital Service Standard, ‘understanding user needs’ is the first criteria in the list. Arguably it’s the most important.

During face-to-face meetings with buyers and sellers, we talk through their experiences and see how users respond to the site. We also use phone calls, hangouts and emails with people who are harder to reach. This approach gives us valuable insights we’ve already used to iterate our Beta service.

On 25 October we added a new approach. The first Digital Transformation Roundtable brought together government buyers, sellers and industry leaders for an open discussion and workshop. The purpose was to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. To ensure our project road map takes us to the right place, we workshopped 4 questions:

What are the top 5 priorities for the Marketplace in the next 6 months?

Decorative image of top 5 priorities

Question raised by Catherine Thompson from the Digital Transformation Agency.

The feedback indicated priorities should be:

  • Open up the Marketplace to new sellers
  • Create more opportunities for conversation
  • Modernise contracts in line with agile projects
  • Allow for fresh ‘unsolicited’ ideas from sellers
  • Improve the visibility of deal flow

The most common piece of feedback was that we need to open the Marketplace to new sellers. Self-service seller onboarding is our top priority. We want to expand the range of services available in the Digital Marketplace and give all sellers the chance to offer services to government. We will announce the release date for this feature soon.

Creating more opportunities for conversation between buyers and sellers is something we’re addressing through improving seller case studies** and through our ideation platform which will include real life and online opportunities for buyers and sellers to share ideas.

We’re also working on modernising contracts. We’ve recently released the digital work order feature that allows for contracts to be created in the Marketplace. The work order allows flexibility over the work and payment approach. In future, we’re also looking at bringing more of the payment steps online with e-Invoicing and procure to pay.

Allowing unsolicited ideas from sellers is already an option of our Digital Marketplace Beta release. Admittedly, this is currently only a basic capability, but it’s one we will expand with the creation of our ideation platform.

Improving the visibility of deal flow is something we’re addressing through our metrics and dashboard which will make Digital Marketplace interactions more transparent.

What are the rules cultural and capability issues that make it hard to deal with government?

Decorative image of capability issues

Question raised by Faye Liu from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Most of the feedback we received was about a lack of communication, in summary, that government:

  • feels like it has to do it alone
  • rarely takes part in early market engagement
  • rules are hard to understand and negotiate
  • rules can vary from agency to agency

The vision of the Digital Marketplace is an ‘environment that accommodates a level of simplicity, creativity and structure appropriate to each procurement interaction’. To facilitate all types of procurement interactions, clear communication is key. This feedback is timely as we consider how we can iterate the Marketplace to encourage better communication at each stage of the procurement process.

What emerging technologies can shape or revolutionise procurement — on or off the Marketplace?

Decorative image of technology issues

Question raised by Lindsay Holmwood from the Digital Transformation Agency.

The most surprising feedback received wasn’t the request for bleeding-edge technology to help us build the Digital Marketplace. It was far more human:

  • “Help us share stories…”
  • “Help us start a dialogue, between government agencies as well as buyers and sellers…”
  • “Remember common courtesy…’tell sellers ‘thanks but no thanks’ and give feedback”
  • “Please use the internet…” (some sellers still respond to tenders by completing spreadsheets)

Let’s just say, we hear you and we’re on it.

As a bonus, this discussion included a question that has changed our road map.

‘How does someone in government know if code has already been written to solve a problem?’

Good question. How do we stop people reinventing the wheel across government? In response, we’ve kicked off a Discovery around an open source code repository that will perhaps become part of the Marketplace. We’ll let you know how this new feature progresses.

What would an ideal procurement system look like and how would it meet the needs of government, business and national policy?

Decorative image of procurement issues

Question raised by Suzanne Roche from the Australian Information Industry Association

In response to this question, the day’s major themes reemerged:

  • The ideal procurement system would allow for good communication, like a conversation.
  • The ideal procurement system will be flexible in terms of contracts and regulation, allowing buyers to experiment with new ideas before making a full commitment.
  • The ideal procurement system would be collaborative, where the solution is developed over time instead of setting a requirement at the outset that is then delivered as a conclusion.

We also learned that education is critical. We need to ensure government buyers feel confident using more open and more collaborative approaches. We need sellers to feel confident in sharing ideas and helping solve government problems at an earlier stage. And we need to build this education into every experience in the Marketplace.

We’ll continue to build and iterate the Digital Marketplace, refreshed by new ideas and richer understanding of the needs of all our users.

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