CCS backs down on Agile removal as GDS admits Digital Services Framework isn't working in current form

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan February 17, 2015
CCS has reversed its decision to pull Agile development services from the Digital Marketplace, while GDS concedes that the Digital Services Framework isn't doing what it needs to.

Tony Singleton
Tony Singleton

In a major volte face, the decision by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) to remove Agile development services from the Digital Marketplace framework has been pulled following intervention by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

As Derek highlighted earlier this week, Agile suppliers which had gone through the process of listing their services on the framework had received letters and emails from CCS informing them that they were being removed from the Digital Marketplace. The intention was to get suppliers to list services on the controversial and much criticised Digital Services Framework instead.

But following an outcry from suppliers and amid increasingly visible tensions between CCS and GDS policies, Agile services will remain on the Digital Marketplace as originally intended.

In a blog posting today, Tony Singleton, GDS Director of Digital Commercial Programme and head of the G-Cloud programme, confirmed:

We know that letters have already been sent to suppliers stating that agile services will be removed from the Digital Marketplace. After jointly reviewing this decision and listening to the resounding feedback, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and Government Digital Service (GDS) have decided not remove agile development services available under G-Cloud 5 from the Digital Marketplace, while we focus on improving the Digital Services framework.

Singleton goes on to admit that DSF in its current form isn’t fit for purpose:

The framework was set-up to give the public sector easy access to suppliers of all sizes, with the right digital capabilities, to help them produce public services that are digital by default and focused on user needs. We’re aware that in it’s current form, the Digital Services framework is not achieving this aim.

The problem is that the DSF 2 bid submission has now closed with 280 suppliers having thrown their names in the ring. This, Singleton says, means that DSF cannot be scrapped even in its existing flawed form:

To cancel DS2 would mean those suppliers would’ve wasted a great deal of time and effort in putting those together. It would also mean that improvements we’ve made could not be in place until DS3 is issued later in the year. For these reasons, it’s been decided to let DS2 stand and put all of our efforts into what might replace it. DS2 will expire as soon as a replacement is in place.

He adds:

We will ensure that the guidance around the use of DS2 clearly addresses buyers needs and is very clear on how DS2 will be used. There will also be a joint GDS and CCS team ready to assist commercial teams where needed, so they can be assured the way DS2 is being used is legally compliant.

So all eyes now turn to DSF 3 and how CCS and GDS will work with the supplier and buyer communities to get it in working shape. As Singleton says:

What’s obvious to me, is that there’s a great deal that needs to be done to put the Digital Services framework right.

To that end, a number of commitments have been made:

  • The formation of a multi-disciplinary team, made up of people from GDS, CCS and Treasury Solicitors (TSol)
  • Sourcing views from private sector experts
  • Consultation with ‘Digital and Technology leaders across government’.

Singleton promises:

We’ll think out loud by blogging about what we’ve discovered and what we’re proposing. All this will allow us to take account of the widest range of views possible to ensure that DS3 is developed in line with the GDS design principles and meets all user needs, regardless of who that user is.

My take

A step back from the breach - and a sensible one at that - but one that still leaves a lot of questions hanging in its wake.

It’s been increasingly clear that for whatever reason, GDS and CCS have not been operating on the same wavelength.

While the idea of a multi-disciplinary team is a good one, we’d hope that CCS in particular will take a long, hard look at its culture and mindset to ensure that it meets the challenges of the digital revolution in government.

This has been a bad week for CCS. We’d hope that today is the start of the process of getting things back on track.

More on G-Cloud and DSF from diginomica

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