ICT Procurement Framework open for feedback

3 April 2018

We’re seeking feedback from government and industry on a draft ICT Procurement Framework.

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What we’re doing

The DTA is seeking feedback from government and industry on a draft ICT Procurement Framework for the digital age.

It will provide the foundation to ensure we deliver a simple and clear approach to government ICT procurement — for both government buyers and industry sellers.

It is essential we spend the time to get the framework right. We’re looking for feedback from people working in government and industry.

This consultation paper includes our findings from user research on government ICT procurement and questions to prompt your thinking. We want your feedback. We’d like to know about your experience with government ICT procurement and how the proposed framework will impact on your work.

We have provided a set of questions to guide your feedback. This will build on our existing research and shape the final ICT Procurement Framework.

Please send your responses to ictprocurement@dta.gov.au by 24 April 2018.

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The government accepted the 10 recommendations of the ICT Procurement Taskforce (subject to some minor adjustments). This included Recommendation 1, which was to adopt a framework for ICT procurement, putting forward ICT procurement principles to guide policy and decision making.

A draft framework has been developed by a multi-agency exemplar team, which aims to make the ICT procurement process consistent, efficient and easier for all.

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What we did

Five icons of a calendar, a group of three people, a government building, two people having a conversation over a table and a stack of post-it notes. Captions under each icon read, four weeks, eight procurement experts, seven Commonwealth agencies, 411 user engagements and 1031 post-it notes.

The exemplar team worked out of the DTA offices in Canberra. It was made up of procurement experts from seven Australian Government agencies who came together to develop, prototype and test the ICT Procurement Framework.

The team conducted a series of research sessions to understand user needs, as well as consultation sessions with multiple agencies and industry bodies.

The result of this work is a single draft framework that incorporates behaviour and cultural change and user needs and preferences. It will make ICT procurement in government consistent, efficient and easier, and encourages a new procurement culture that supports innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit.

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What we found — emerging themes

Panels are good but they could be better

There’s too many, they should be refreshable, complexities with using them if you’re not the lead agency.

One size doesn’t fit all

Each agency is different, each procurement is different.

Everyone welcomes the idea of guidance

A one-stop shop for information and tools could save time and effort.

People learn from other people and experience

But they don’t collaborate outside their agency.

There is a sense that procurement is very restricted

Some of this is myth and some of it is real.

ICT procurement isn’t understood as a specialist field

This varies across agencies as does the level of expertise and experience.

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What we heard 

Panels are good but they could be better

We found many government procurement officers see panels as rigid and lacking flexibility. This can mean new players and emerging technologies are locked out because traditional panels are not set up to bring on new service categories. There is a sentiment that there are too many panels, there is a wide variance in the way panels are managed and it can be difficult to find the panel manager for non-mandated panels.

One size doesn’t fit all

Agencies let us know ICT procurement policy requires flexibility and wide consultation. There was strong support for increasing the $80,000 procurement threshold, which adds red tape for buyers and is seen as a barrier to entry for sellers. This threshold forms part of our international trade agreements making it a complex research finding for us to tackle.

Everyone welcomes the idea of guidance

Agencies told us they would like an ICT procurement ‘One Stop Shop’ from the DTA that includes guidance, tools and reporting. Agencies would like the DTA to create an ICT contracting suite for medium value procurements (targeting SMEs). This could include adding clauses for contractor poaching, piggybacking and others where appropriate.

People learn from other people and experience

We found there is support for and value in like-minded people talking, sharing and collaborating. This could be in the format of a panel manager forum or ICT professional’s forum.

There is a sense that procurement is very restricted

There are a number of myths to bust for agencies to understand their choices when buying goods and services. Agencies are often not making the most out of the flexibility already built into the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. User research highlighted that internal Accountable Authority Instructions (AAIs) and operational processes are seen as restricting procurement practices, but this understanding is often outdated.

ICT procurement isn’t understood as a specialist field by agencies

The user research showed that ICT procurement is seen as a profession that needs to be supported at an agency level to invest in the capability uplift required. Further, this capability has become diluted and has moved towards more generalist procurement skills. The team found a need for training and learning opportunities to support the profession.

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The draft framework

This draft framework demonstrates the principles, policies and guidance work together to help deliver a fair, effective and efficient ICT procurement process.

Under the framework, agencies retain their responsibility for ICT procurement. The DTA is responsible for providing a unified set of principles, policies and guidance to agencies on how best to carry out ICT procurement.

The framework will apply to ICT procurement by both Commonwealth Corporate Entities and Non-Corporate Commonwealth Entities.

The framework will be available for all Australian, state and local governments to use, for all categories. It is mandatory for Non-Corporate Commonwealth entities to procure through coordinated arrangements, where these exist.

The framework will support the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda by simplifying and standardising the way agencies operate across all aspects of ICT procurement, improving the user experience for buyers and sellers.

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The framework includes four policies (two new and two existing).

Fair Criteria Policy (new)

The objective of the Fair Criteria Policy is to encourage competition and support SME participation. It could include considerations around insurance, limiting liability, security, and separate financial criteria for large enterprises and SME, where appropriate.

ICT Consider First Policy (new)

The objective of the ICT Consider First Policy is to make sure all options are considered before procurement starts. It could include consideration of Cloud First, Open Standards, Cybersecurity, Shared Platforms, Digital Service Standards and Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS).

ICT Portfolio Panels Policy (existing)

The new focus of the ICT Portfolio Panels Policy is to encourage competition and support SME participation. This policy is an update and reinvigoration of the existing policy considering areas such as refreshable panels and endorsement from DTA.

ICT Capped Term and Value Policy (existing)

This is a review of the existing ICT Capped Term and Value Policy to determine if the policy is delivering the intended benefits. This aligns with the taskforce report which recommends regular review and renewal of the ICT Procurement Framework and Policies. The review would be based on evidence and informed by data.

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Our user research revealed the significant role guidance will have in changing behaviour and delivering the principles and desired outcomes. The framework includes a range of guidance to make the ICT procurement process consistent, easier and more efficient. This includes:

Information — a central repository for ICT procurement information, such as:

  • departmental guides
  • guides to support procurement teams engaging with business
  • myth busting

Tools to make ICT procurement easy, such as:

  • model contracts
  • centralised registers
  • platforms, panels, AusTender
  • checklists
  • an annual benchmark on prices
  • decision tree: finding the right procurement approach

Forums for ICT procurement professionals to stay in touch across agencies:

  • This would include a range of virtual and physical forums such as an ICT procurement bulletin and potential new seller and government buyers groups.
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Reporting should focus on data that can be easily tracked and monitored, that measures both the principles and the policies.

Where data is not available via AusTender, further consultation with entities will be required to understand:

  • If it is possible to obtain this information
  • What it would cost agencies to collect (i.e. time, resources)

The value that the information would provide would then be assessed to see if it offers enough value to warrant the resources taken to collect it.

There is work to do with AusTender to ensure that the information captured is reliable and holistic. Not everything is captured on AusTender, and it is heavily reliant on the quality of input from agencies.

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Questions to prompt your thinking

The DTA is seeking responses to the following set of questions. This will help us build on previous user research findings.

Please send your responses to ictprocurement@dta.gov.au by 24 April 2018.

Questions on the framework for buyers and sellers

  1. List the parts of the framework that are most important in what you do. Why are these important?
  2. How could you use the framework to make an effective procurement decision?
  3. What else would you need from an ICT procurement framework to make an effective procurement decision?
  4. Is there anything else you would need within a framework to make an effective procurement decision?

Additional questions for government buyers

The intended purpose of this framework is to guide ICT decision-making

  1. How are decisions in your organisation made about ICT procurement?
  2. What do you consider when making an ICT procurement decision?
  3. Do you consider SMEs when making an ICT procurement decision?
  4. Who is involved in these decisions?
  5. Do you report on these decisions? How? To Who?
  6. Do you use any tools or guidance to help inform your decisions?
  7. How have recent ICT policy decisions impacted procurement?
  8. How are you made aware of policy changes that relate to ICT procurement?
  9. Is procurement valued within your entity?
  10. What is the structure of procurement and contract management within your agency?

Additional questions for people selling to government

  1. How do you think the proposed framework will change your procurement experience with government?
  2. Which is the most important principle to your business, and why?
  3. Which is the most important proposed policy for your business, and why?
  4. What type of industry/government forums have you seen work well, and why did they work?
  5. What is the one thing you would change about how government procures products and services, and why?
  6. What elements of the framework have the most potential to save you time?
  7. How does your experience of ICT procurement differ to general procurement?
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For other enquiries email us at info@dta.gov.au