Government Commercial Function seeks to improve Whitehall procurement info with £1.5m data lake

Information resource seeks to bring in more data from a greater range of departmental sources
Dorothe from Pxhere

By Sam Trendall

26 Aug 2020

The Government Commercial Function is seeking to “optimise” Whitehall’s use of procurement information by expanding its data lake to include more information from a greater range of sources.

The Contracts and Spend Insight Engine (CaSIE) was first established in 2017 to bring together in one place two information previously separate sources, on government contracts and spending levels. The goal was to “perform data-cleansing on this data and to display this in a useful way for commercial colleagues through interactive dashboards”.

In the last year, the data lake – a term for a large repository of unprocessed information – has grown to incorporate data on organisations’ planned future procurement, and range of info on suppliers, including news, financial performance,  and risk ratings.

“Supplier matching has also been introduced to improve the quality of information,” GCF said. “The next stage is to ensure we optimise the use of this information across government and provide useful visual data views of this system focused around different user needs.”

Improvements to the platform will focus on “increasing the number of interfaces from departmental systems into CaSIE”. This will chiefly be through better use of APIs to provide regular updates pertaining to various “key defined metrics” of government’s commercial and procurement operations.

The goal is to allow GCF to continually monitor and improve the quality of data, as well as enabling more effective practical use of information by departments. 

“The development of alternative methods of data-set upload such as a user-friendly way for departments to submit flatfiles for ingestion is also required,” the commercial unit said. “[There] is an ongoing aim to optimise re-use of the information held, improving visual displays of the data in line with user needs and ensuring clients can quickly hone in on the key data they require to inform commercial decision making.”

To support this improvement work, GCF – which sits within the Cabinet Office – is seeking to appoint a specialist supplier to a 20-month contract worth up to an initial £1.2m. A further £300,000 could be spent on a potential five-month extension.

The chosen provider will work alongside by an internal team that currently consists of six people, but will likely be expanded in the coming months.

“The team comprises of a mix of data and systems specialists, a reporting lead, a data scientist and a data analyst,” the contract notice said. “The CaSIE work is also supported by the GCF network across government including commercial leads and super users within each central government department.”

The data lake is hosted in a Microsoft Azure environment, and GCF is seeking a supplier that holds the vendor’s Gold partnership badges in data platform, data analytics, and cloud platform technologies.

Bids for the work are open until midnight on Friday 4 September, after ahead of a scheduled contract start date of 5 October.

Sam Trendall is the editor of CSW's sister site PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.

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