Digital Sourcing Panels Policy

We’d like your feedback on 8 principles that will be part of our Digital Sourcing Panels Policy. The policy will make it easier to buy and sell digital products and services.

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The aim of this policy

We’re putting together a policy on using panels to buy and sell digital products and services.

The draft Digital Sourcing Panels Policy aims to:

  • help agencies source digital products and services — this includes information and communications technology (ICT)

  • help government buyers use digital panels

  • enable new sellers to join panels more often than at present

  • make using panels easier and clearer

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Why we’ve released these principles

The Australian Government’s ICT Procurement Taskforce report identified the need for a framework to underpin all digital procurement across government.

This framework would simplify a range of agency practices and include reforms to digital (including ICT) panels.

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What we did

In response to the taskforce report, representatives from 6 agencies took part in a 4-week project to find out how to make it easier for buyers and sellers to source or provide digital products and services.

This project developed, prototyped and tested a set of principles for a Digital Sourcing Panels Policy. During this process they carried out desktop and interview-based research with a range of buyers and sellers.

This research helped us understand what currently happens when agencies source their goods and services. It also identified areas where we could improve.

We listened to the needs of buyers and sellers during the 4-week project and developed a user-centred policy based on our research.

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What the user research told us

Centralised information would be useful

There are too many panel options for the same product or service. Inconsistencies in terms and conditions, contract management, pricing and reporting confuse both buyers and sellers.

Sellers often need to apply to be on multiple panels so they can access work in all parts of government. This can restrict or even lock them out from applying for government opportunities.

Panel refreshes are confusing

There’s uncertainty about how panel refreshes take place and this leads to a feeling that the process is inconsistent.

It’s not as simple as adding or removing a seller to the panel but this is often believed to be the case.

The 4-week project identified the need to develop standard panel refresh clauses and processes.

Discussing new technologies

There are a number of myths surrounding probity, so government buyers are cautious about talking directly to sellers.

More informal engagement between buyers and sellers could help to make sure buying decisions are based on cutting-edge market knowledge.

This type of engagement could also help sellers to better understand the needs of government buyers.

There’s no single definition of digital and ICT

People are unclear about how to define digital (including ICT) products and services. This is especially true for services and labour hire.

There’s a need for a common understanding and definition that includes all digital products, services, consultancies, labour hire and other digital components.

This common definition of digital will help reduce duplication, make it easier for buyers and sellers to find each other and improve collaboration.

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Greater oversight of digital panels

Our research showed a need for more oversight of the panels.

We found that buyers and sellers are frustrated by the number of panels, the duplication of services across panels and the way that panels seem to be managed in different ways.

The 4-week project recommended there should be more oversight of digital sourcing to create a single whole-of-government approach. This would:

  • help avoid duplication

  • reduce costs

  • standardise the management of each panel

Having greater oversight would also make it easier for sellers to find the right panels and encourage the best-value outcomes — not just the lowest price.

The body responsible for oversight would do the following:

  • maintain a central register of panels

  • administer the policy

  • help agencies consolidate or renew their panel arrangements

  • help buyers follow the principles within the policy

  • provide advice and help to agencies and sellers on the policy

  • encourage co-design and collaboration between buyers and sellers

  • provide advice on ways to simplify digital panels for both buyers and sellers

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Principles of the draft policy

A set of principles will guide the process of creating and refreshing a panel. A government oversight body will coordinate, oversee and report on these principles.

The following 8 principles are proposed to underpin all digital (including ICT) panels:

  1. avoid duplicating existing panels or categories within panels

  2. be for commonly used, clearly defined products and services

  3. be regularly monitored and assessed

  4. be open to all agencies with multi-agency access clauses

  5. be open more often for sellers to apply to join

  6. allow for updates of pricing and categories

  7. be registered on a single cross-government digital platform

  8. look for ways to have consistent and user-centered design for requests for quotes, templates, terms and conditions and reporting

All panels should align with these 8 principles where possible. This includes established panels and those in the process of being created.

Panels should also be registered on a central register managed by a government oversight body.

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Scope of the draft policy

The government remains responsible for the digital panels it has established and the purchases made through those panels.

It’s important to note that:

  1. The policy will not supercede any terms and conditions in existing panel head agreements. When the policy is finalised the refresh clauses and standard definitions will apply to future panel head agreements. They will not apply to existing agreements retrospectively.

  2. It will not change the requirements of mandatory whole-of-government digital panels.

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