Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy guidance

We have developed this guidance to help buyers apply the Digital Sourcing Consider First Policy and complete the Consider First Assessment Tool.

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Principle 1: Be user-centred and prioritise usability

What does this principle mean?

Users are the most important consideration in seeking to achieve your desired investment outcome. Every solution has users, even those that are internal. Two concepts apply to ensure your investment delivers for its users, user-centred design and usability.

User-centred design means involving users in an investment from the start, all the way through to operation and management. By involving users from the start of the process, the end product is less likely to have moved away from solving the issues faced by users, due to problem-solving throughout the build.

Usability means that a solution is developed to be easy to use. All solutions should be usable, including solutions that use off-the-shelf products. A product that meets all the business requirements of users, but requires an intensive investment of time to learn, has likely not prioritised usability.

Why is this principle important?

Investments need to be easy to use and have a consistent user experience. Achieving these goals requires a rethink of government’s traditional ways of investing.

Designing your investment in a user-centred way with a focus on usability encourages use of the solution which helps reduce duplication. By encouraging users to stay in the digital channel you can also avoid them moving to more expensive channels, such as phone or face-to-face.

Greater usability can result in fewer mistakes being made by users and better data quality. You can read more about usability on our blog

How might I meet this principle?

  • Hire user research and service design specialists, who can help you to make your investment more user-centred.
  • Use the Australian Government Digital Service Standard which helps you understand user needs in addition to providing approaches and guidance (especially regarding user research). Pay attention to standard one, “Understand User Needs”.
  • Create metrics (such as user satisfaction) and measurements to evaluate how you are meeting user needs.
  • Involve users in research, testing, proof of concept or prototypes.
  • Involve users in your implementation.
  • Consider internal users and their needs. Even hardware and components supporting a broader solution have a user.
  • Ensure your investment is accessible. A major component of usability is accessibility (covered in more detail at Principle 5.1).
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Principle 2: Allow room for innovation

What does this principle mean?

Digital investments need to be open to innovative solutions from the very start. Taking an outcomes-focus and using descriptive requirements early in an investment provides more opportunities for innovation.

Why is this principle important?

Innovation is essential to delivering better, modern digital products and services, whilst reducing cost. Overly prescribed solutions are less likely to meet intended outcomes and do not allow room for innovation.

Being open to innovation through having an outcomes-focus allows a greater range of solutions to be offered. You may discover an innovative solution exists to solve your problem that you had not thought of.

How might I meet this principle?

  • Start by describing the outcome you are trying to achieve rather than starting with a solution. Avoid specifying activities, tasks or assets when describing your outcome.
  • Use an outcome-based approach by focusing on the result of the work to be performed (the ‘what’) rather than specifying the way it is to be performed (the ‘how’).
  • Use descriptive requirements to promote discovery and innovative solutions when describing your desired outcome, such as seeking a 10% increase in user satisfaction or a 5% increase in productivity.
  • Avoid prescriptive requirements by not specifying the way in which that outcome is to be achieved, such as rolling-out a specific brand of video platform or AI assistant.
  • Instead of focusing on a brand or product, prioritise factors like integration, training, efficiency, effectiveness, ease of use and adaptability of business processes.
  • Adapt your business processes to meet innovative commercial solutions, rather than engineering a bespoke solution that fits your existing processes.
  • Avoid using custom solutions, which can become expensive and difficult to support and adapt over the life of an investment.
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Principle 3: Engage early and consult widely

What does this principle mean?

Get better outcomes by learning from technology, industry and procurement experts. Learning from others allows you to challenge traditional practices and explore new possibilities. Be curious by seeking out those who have solved similar problems, as they may be able to provide you with useful advice or reusable solutions.

Why is this principle important?

Many challenges are not unique to your agency, they are faced across government. Seeking advice from others early will give you access to a range of potential options for your investment, opening the way for innovative solutions.

Failed investments are often the result of not receiving the right advice at the right time. The later you seek advice, the more likely you will spend additional time, resources and effort retrofitting your investment. 

Early advice gives you more options, opportunities to collaborate and helps you find innovative solutions. Getting the right advice early, can help you make better investment decisions, informed by relevant expertise.

How might I meet this principle?

  • Engage with others in government who can help you consider whether you need to invest in a new solution. They may have an existing solution that you can reuse.
  • Engage with industry to help you access product and technology experience that is not readily available in government.
  • Use an outcomes-based approach to combine agency knowledge of the problem with industry expertise in providing solutions.
  • Engage with industry to help you avoid a preconceived solution that may be more expensive and less effective at addressing your business needs.
  • Engage with your corporate or IT area to help determine whether your investment would work with your agency architecture and technology roadmap.

If your investment becomes a sourcing activity, the following options give your investment the best chance of being informed by expertise in the market:

  • Using an outcomes-based brief or the Seek Proposals for Digital Outcomes option under the Digital Marketplace. This will enable industry experts to offer you relevant advice and solutions based on the outcome you want to achieve.
  • Conducting a Request for Information (RFI) process where there is a commensurate benefit in adding an extra stage to your sourcing activity. Running an RFI process can use more time and resources from all parties in a way that exceeds the benefits gained from the process.

It is never too late to seek advice. While it is not always possible to seek advice at exactly the right time, the earlier you seek it, the more options you will have for your investment.

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Principle 4: Consider the whole-of-life cost

What does this principle mean?

When investing, consider the whole-of-life cost. Whole-of-life cost is much more than the initial price. Whole-of-life cost includes the initial purchase price of a solution, maintenance costs, transition out costs, licensing costs (where applicable), the cost of additional features added after the initial investment, consumable costs and disposal costs.

Why is this principle important?

A low initial cost does not necessarily mean a solution will represent Value for Money. Costs incurred after the initial purchase can often change the whole-of-life cost. This means a solution with a low initial cost could have a high whole-of-life cost. Considering whole-of-life cost is a key component of assessing Value for Money

How might I meet this principle?

  • Consider that while immediate costs may be low, whole-of-life cost may be high. Consider factors including the initial purchase price of a solution, maintenance costs, transition out costs, licensing costs (where applicable), the cost of additional features added after the initial investment, consumable costs and disposal costs.
  • Consider  technology costs such as architecture, administration, integration, support and training.
  • Confirm your investment is the most effective and efficient way of meeting your desired business outcome, this will help you avoid wasting time, money and resources.
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Principle 5: Align with whole-of-government requirements

What does this principle mean?

The Australian Government has important whole-of-government requirements which are directly relevant to investments. Some of the most important whole-of-government requirements are included as part of the Consider First Policy. Other whole-of-government requirements may apply to your investment.

Why is this principle important?

Aligning with whole-of-government requirements as early as possible will help your investment succeed and help you collaborate with other agencies on common solutions. This will also help your agency meet its responsibilities in line with the expectations of the Australian Government.

Failing to plan for whole-of-government requirements can lead to issues including project delays, unexpected costs, increased sustainment costs, greater integration costs and unnecessary effort.  For example, retrofitting accessibility is costly, but it can often be included for no or low cost as part of the initial design.

How might I meet this principle?

To meet principle 5, consider the 4 whole-of-government requirements below:

  • 5.1 Accessibility
  • 5.2 Privacy and security
  • 5.3 Cloud first
  • 5.4 Open standards, common platforms and make source code open and allow Government reuse

More information on how to implement each requirement is listed below.

5.1 Accessibility

Accessibility is not limited to government websites, it applies to a broad range of digital solutions, including, but not limited to, software, hardware and services.

Seek to make your investment accessible from the start. Retrofitting investments in order to meet accessibility requirements is costly and time-consuming and unlikely to deliver a suitable product.

Key accessibility standards are linked below. Other accessibility standards may be applicable for your investment.

Please note that these accessibility standards are mandated by regulation or legislation outside of the Consider First policy and you may need to implement them even if you are not covered by this policy.

The major requirements are the Disability Discrimination Act 1992The APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016-19 and the Australian Standard for accessibility (AS EN 301 549:2016)

The Commonwealth Procurement Rules contain mandatory requirements for applying Australian Standards, this is relevant to most investments subject to this policy. If the Australian Standard for Accessibility (AS EN 301 549:2016) is applicable to your goods or services being procured:

  • Tender responses must demonstrate the capability to meet that standard.
  • Contracts must contain evidence of that standard, and include periodic auditing of compliance.

Please refer to paragraphs 7.26 and 10.11 of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules for more information.

You can find more information about this requirement at Standard 9 (Make it Accessible) of the Digital Service Standard

If you are still unsure how these standards can be implemented as part of your investment, seek advice from an accessibility expert.

5.2 Privacy and security

Privacy, security and the proper use of personal data is relevant for all investments.

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring secure delivery of government business and continuing to build trust and confidence in its engagement with and management of security risks.

It is important to note that your responsibilities do not end with your agency, but also extend to sellers you engage. Make sure your investment is set up to ensure sellers adhere to relevant conditions and follow Australian Privacy Principles.

You can get more information about your security responsibilities at the links below.

  • Agencies must meet the four security outcomes set out in the Protective Security Framework. Agencies can do this by implementing the framework’s requirements and using security measures proportionately to address their unique security risk environments.
  • The Australian Government Information Security Manual (ISM) helps agencies use their risk management framework to protect information and systems from cyber threats. The cyber security guidelines within the ISM are based on the experience of the Australian Cyber Security Centre within the Australian Signals Directorate. When addressing privacy and security, keep in mind your records management obligations. More information about requirements for records management is available from the National Archives of Australia

5.3 Cloud first

Under the Australian Government’s Secure Cloud Strategy, when you consider your investment, you must find out if it could be delivered using the cloud, before considering other methods of delivery.

The Strategy makes it clear why agencies should first consider the cloud:

“The case for cloud is no secret to industry or government. A move to cloud computing - away from on premise owned and operated infrastructure - can generate a faster pace of delivery, continuous improvement cycles and broad access to services. It can reduce the amount of maintenance effort required to ‘keep the lights on’ and refocus that effort into improving service delivery.”

Agencies must consider cloud first, before other types of investments. This does not mean you must use the cloud for your investment, but it must be considered ahead of other solutions.

As described in Principle 2, the simplest way to enable the use of the cloud in your investment is to avoid over-specifying the solution you are seeking. An outcomes-based brief will enable technology experts in the private sector to create innovative solutions using modern technology, such as the cloud.

For example: avoid specifying that a solution to your business need must be several software licences or an on-premises data storage centre. You can instead put out a brief for the outcome that the software would deliver or the outcome that would address your data needs.

5.4 Use open standards and common platforms, 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

Principle 5.4 of the Digital Service Standard relates to two Standards, Standard 7 - Use open standards and common platforms and Standard 8 - Make source code open.

These standards ensure government investments are easy to use, reuse and upgrade.

Standard 7 helps you to:

  • Meet the needs of your users by building with proven solutions.
  • Make users’ experience of government more consistent, which generates trust.
  • Save time and money by reusing things that are already available.
  • Be more efficient by sharing data appropriately.
  • Move between different technologies when you need to, avoiding vendor lock-in.

Standard 8 helps you to:

  • reduce costs for your project and others’
  • avoid lock-in
  • stop duplication
  • increase transparency
  • add benefits from improvements by other developers

The Digital Service Standard contains further information on how to implement and assess these Standards.

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