Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy consultation paper

The contents of this page relate to the Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy consultation paper and development of the Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy. Consultation has now closed. You can now access the Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy, which takes effect on 1 July 2019.

The government accepted the 10 recommendations of the ICT Procurement Taskforce (subject to some minor adjustments). The Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy consultation paper was developed in response to one of those recommendations.

What we did

We brought together technology and sourcing experts from across 5 government agencies. Over 4 weeks, the multidisciplinary team produced a draft policy. The team developed, prototyped, tested and re-developed the policy. This process aligned with our Service Design and Delivery Process.

Over 4 weeks:

  • 10 consultations with agencies and 8 with businesses were held
  • 25 interviews were conducted with 32 individuals
  • 20 usability tests were conducted
  • 5 iterations of draft policy were created

What we heard

The user research uncovered 4 main themes:

  1. Advice is not sought early enough in the buying process. This adds to a lack of awareness and understanding of whole-of-government connected policies. 
  2. We desire greater industry engagement, but buyers often start with solutions, not problems. This approach reduces opportunities for collaboration.
  3. Probity has led to buyers becoming too risk-averse. Buyers would benefit by collaborating more across and within agencies. 
  4. Current policies lack implementation, consistency and guidance. There is also a lack of strong measurable ICT strategies behind procurement. 

What we found — emerging themes

Buyers want better guidance on when, what, and how to consider first

A resource providing best practice examples, frameworks, tools and templates would reduce confusion. This will be valuable and help users work according to best practice. 

Buyers want clear next steps

Clear guidance on what a user needs to do next will fit the policy into the digital sourcing process. This will provide value to users of the policy.

Buyers value formal networks to collaborate on best practice and network with peers

We should provide access to a formal network of users in similar roles. This will reduce duplication across whole-of-government. It will also provide an important framework for peer-to-peer support.

Buyers are task-focused

Providing clarity and guidance on where the policy fits in a user’s current workflow is valuable. This will also enhance engagement.

Buyers want structured and contextual content

Content that is concise and helps to clarify intent. You can identify the priority of content through a clear hierarchy. This allows for enhanced readability and clarity.

Buyers under time-pressure follow the letter, not the intent, of policies

Users of policies need support to innovate in a time-sensitive environment. This is being driven by two factors, users being asked to do more with less, and the view that established processes are less risky.

Awareness and understanding of procurement process is not a factor of agency size

It depends more on the experience of the buyer. The policy provides a set of mandatory principles and supporting guidance. This makes it valuable for both novice and expert users. 

Our research showed the need for clear and targeted supporting guidance

This will support users of the policy to deliver on the principles. We invite feedback on the usefulness of this suggested guidance.

Why we released this consultation paper 

The discussion paper proposes principles covering the first stage of an investment. This stage comes before choosing product or provider. 

The aims and principles of the draft policy

The Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy helps agencies make user-centered and outcomes-focused investment decisions. 

We built the draft policy under the Digital Sourcing Framework. The Digital Sourcing Framework underpins all digital sourcing across government. It was recommended by the ICT Procurement Taskforce report. The report recommended the framework include supporting policies, guidance and tools.

The principles, outlined below, aim to enable clear and consistent digital investment decisions. 

Principle 1: Be user-centred and outcomes focused

Understand why you need an investment. Understand user needs and consider innovative solutions. Focus on outcomes, not prescribed solutions. This drives competition, better value and innovative outcomes. When starting with a solution, you can discover too late that you won’t meet user needs. Prescribed solutions are unlikely to meet intended outcomes. They also often fail architecture and business needs. 

The Australian Government Digital Service Standard helps you understand user needs. It also provides approaches and guidance.

Principle 2: Engage early, consult wide, and use innovative approaches 

Seek advice from procurement and technical experts early. Early advice gives you more options and opportunities to collaborate. Early advice will help you find innovative solutions. The later you seek advice, the more likely you will need to spend more time, resources and effort. 

Be curious and seek out those who have solved similar problems. Get better outcomes by learning from technology, industry and procurement experts. Learning from others allows you to challenge traditional practices and explore new possibilities.

Principle 3: Prioritise usability and total cost of ownership 

You will only achieve value for money if you realise your outcome. This must consider architecture, fit-for-purpose and whole of life cost. Assess value for money through section 4.4 of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. Consider benefits and whole-of-life costs to deliver better, sustainable outcomes. 

Consider whether you need to invest in a new product or service. Government may have an existing reusable solution. If reuse is not possible, buy off-the-shelf products before building solutions. Adapt business processes to meet technology before engineering a bespoke solution. Supporting and optimising custom solutions is expensive and difficult.

Broaden your application of value for money.  Avoid equating value for money with cost. Value for money includes usability, satisfaction and other ‘intangibles’. Consider that while the immediate costs may be low, total cost of ownership may be high. Consider architecture, administration, integration, support, training and disposal.

Principle 4: Align with technical requirements to improve user and business outcomes

Failing to plan for technical requirements can lead to issues like:

  • delays
  • unexpected costs
  • increased sustainment
  • integration costs 
  • unnecessary effort

4.1 Accessibility

Design digital investments for all users. Users include people with disabilities, older people, and those who struggle with technology. The Digital Service Standard requires WCAG 2.0, AA (best practice is WCAG 2.1, AAA). The APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19 requires accessible work environments. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992, requires information and services be accessible and non-discriminatory. The Commonwealth Procurement Rules mandate AS EN 301 549:2016.

4.2 Privacy and security 

Consider privacy and personal data. Ensure vendors adhere to relevant conditions and follow Australian Privacy Principles. The Information Security Manual and Protective Security Policy Framework also apply. 

4.3 Cloud first 

The Digital Transformation Agency has released the Secure Cloud Strategy. The strategy explores how cloud reduces costs, lifts productivity and delivers better services. 

4.4 Open standards, common platforms and make source code open and allow Government reuse

The Government has committed to open standards, open source and common platforms. This commitment is in the Digital Service Standard

Consultation has now closed the Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy is now available and takes effect 1 July 2019.

Get in touch

If you have any questions you can send an email to or call 02 6120 8705.