DfE seeks digital partner to help it ‘transform from a policy to a delivery department’

Department embarks upon drive to deliver 250 digital services in a more ‘joined-up way’


By Sam Trendall

11 Jan 2019

Department for Education

The Department for Education is seeking a supplier partner that can help it more closely align as many as 250 digital services as part of a process of “transforming from a policy to a delivery department”.

The department wishes to work with a commercial partner to explore “how DfE should present digital service user journeys and content online”.

Following a mapping exercise conducted in 2017, the department has identified 250 digital services across 60 service lines that it wishes to deliver in a more cohesive way.


It said: “DfE now wants to strategically align our user journeys across the government digital estate – including content and digital services – to provide a better experience for our users and to improve join-up across our various departmental responsibilities, in line with the Secretary of State’s digital ambition.”

In the coming months, the department and its chosen supplier will work together to examine “users' needs for accessing DfE content and services [and] how users interact with the brands that DfE's domains provide, and how they might interact with new brands in future”.

The DfE also wishes to engage with its commercial partner in “co-design exercises to prototype and test new ways in which users could access DfE content and services in a joined-up way”.

The department has issued a contract notice via the Digital Marketplace seeking a supplier to help deliver a two-month discovery process on a £160,000 contract. If all goes well, a £400,000 four-month deal to fulfil the alpha phase will follow.

Bids are open until 17 January, with a contract scheduled to commence on 11 February. Work will primarily take place at DfE’s London headquarters, with the chosen supplier working alongside “a small team of civil servants”.

The moves forms part of DfE permanent secretary Jonathan Slater’s plans to remove the split between policy and delivery and create “a department that is more user-centred, empowered, evidence-based and focused on end-to-end delivery”.

Setting out his plans in an interview with Civil Service World last year, Slater highlighted that unlike departments like justice or defence, where frontline delivery staff are likely to be in the room when decisions are made, in education the voices of teachers and social workers aren’t “instinctively as clear” because they aren’t direct central government employees, Slater said.

Reflecting on what end-to-end delivery means, Slater quotes former Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin. “He was being quizzed on this by Bernard Jenkin’s select committee and he spoke about the need for multi-disciplinary teams of people, who bring different skills to one challenge, with one person in charge. That’s what we are doing,” he told CSW last October.

An example of how the DfE is creating this single-team approach has been the decision to bring parts of the National College for School Leadership into the department, uniting the people responsible for teacher recruitment policy with those who will deliver it. Similarly on the key policies of apprenticeships and T-Levels, Slater has appointed single SROs responsible for both policy and delivery, rather than having different officials leading each of those areas.

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