The UK government's digital services framework contains contract opportunities that fail to include clear explanations of the problem to be solved or the needs being met, according to a survey of IT suppliers.
The poll, carried out by IT consultants dxw, found 65% of opportunities on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) framework were rated "generally bad" and just 13% were considered "generally good".
Of the opportunities analysed, 71% did not adequately explain the problem being solved and three quarters (74%) did not clearly describe the user needs.
Harry Metcalfe, managing director at dxw, said in a blog: "We believe that this problem has real impact. As a supplier, we often find opportunities frustrating: when a problem is poorly described, it’s hard to propose a good solution. And the procurement process is sufficiently constrained that there’s no easy way to solve the problem after the unclear opportunity is published. Queries are limited to the “questions” mechanism which gives no hope of having a conversation with the buyer."
DOS replaced the Digital Services Framework in early 2016 as part of the shake-up that created the Digital Marketplace, which aims to make life easier for public sector IT buyers.
dxw said it collected all opportunities published on DOS over three weeks in October 2017, a total of 31, and asked people to vote on the quality of them.
The survey, based on 2,998 votes, showed 65% of opportunities did not adequately explain why the work was being done and a third (32%) did not clearly describe the budget.
Metcalfe said the lack of clarity could lead to misunderstandings in documentation that result in bidders losing out on work.
"This is a huge missed opportunity," he said. "The public sector’s supplier base is smaller and less varied than it could be. And in individual procurements, these misunderstandings must surely mean that contracts are not always awarded to the best supplier for the job. Ultimately, this leads to poorer outcomes for users."