Survey finds lack of clarity in majority of Digital Marketplace opportunities

A new survey among UK SMEs by public sector digital specialist dxw has identified a worrying lack of clarity in public sector digital procurement.

Reviewing opportunities published on the Digital Marketplace in a three week period in October 2017, respondents said that 71% of them did not adequately explain what problem was to be solved and 74% did not clearly describe user needs. Just 13% of published opportunities were rated as generally good by most survey respondents, while 65% were rated as generally bad.

dxw carried out the survey as part of a campaign to improve government procurement. Managing director Harry Metcalfe is meeting the Government Digital Service (GDS) to share the results this week. He hopes that providing objective evidence will highlight the common problems with framework opportunities and lead to a constructive discussion on ways to solve them in the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework (DOS3).

“It seems very likely that  the quality of writing in opportunities is putting off SMEs who are more than capable of undertaking these projects,” Metcalfe explains. “Many opportunities are unclear and some are essentially incomprehensible – except perhaps to the incumbent supplier. Clearer opportunities will ensure there is a wider, more diverse pool of suppliers, which will provide greater value for money for the public sector and better services for users.

“We carried out the research alongside our client work, which has limited the time we’ve been able to spend on it, so it should not be considered rigorous. However, we hope it provides a general sense of the problem and makes a useful contribution to the ongoing process of improving procurement of digital services.”

Other survey findings included:

  • 77% of opportunities require six or more essential skills
  • 71% did not clearly explain the pre-tender market engagement, if present
  • 68% did not have a clear summary of work
  • 65% did not adequately explain why the work was being done
  • 45% shortlisted five or more suppliers
  • 32% did not clearly describe the budget.

The complete results are available at

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