Digital Panel Policy to ease sourcing of digital product and services for Australians

An announcement made by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) highlighted their draft Digital Panel Policy. Feedback was requested for the released draft that resulted from months of research done by a team composed of representatives from different government agencies. Engaging buyers and sellers helped the team understand the situation of the current environment thereby allowing them to pinpoint areas for improvement.

An exemplary team made up of representatives from the DTA, Australian Tax Office, Digital Health Agency, Department of Finance, Department of Human Services and Department of Home Affairs have been working together for the past few months.

They have been doing research on how the existing ICT Portfolio Panel Policy could be updated to better meet the needs of buyers and sellers of digital products and services.

The team had to research on the buyers and sellers as well as engage with them in order to better understand the current environment and be able to pinpoint areas for improvement.

Some of the results that were gathered include inflexible existing panel arrangements. The panel arrangements were also described as hard to join, complicated to use and lacking oversight.

The draft policy principles have been released and are in need of feedback from those who work with digital and ICT panels from government agencies, from the industry, especially those selling digital to the government or interested with doing so in the future. This is in order to improve the experience of buying and selling digital products.

The new draft Digital Panel Policy aims to help agencies source digital products and services including ICT. It also aims to help government buyers use digital panels. It should allow new sellers to join panels more often, especially small and medium enterprises. Lastly, it should help consolidate panels and make them easier to use.

A set of principles of the draft policy will guide the process of creating and refreshing a panel. A government oversight body will coordinate, oversee and report on these principles.  There are 8 principles proposed to underpin all digital and ICT panels. They are:

(1)    Avoid duplicating existing panels or categories within panels

(2)    Be for commonly used, clearly defined products and services

(3)    Be regularly monitored and assessed

(4)    Be open to all agencies with multi-agency access clauses

(5)    Be open more often for sellers to apply to join

(6)    Allow for updates of pricing and categories

(7)    Be registered on a single cross-government digital platform

(8)    Look for ways to have consistent and user-centred design for requests for quotes, templates, terms and conditions and reporting

In a related announcement made by the DTA, they are requesting for information for a proposed new category on the Software Licencing and Services panel.

The new category is Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) software, which includes products such as analytics, project management and workflow tools, data migration, software integration, and system testing software.

Feedback is requested from businesses that are already selling these types of products to the government.

The new COTS software category is intended to replace most of the software procurement which is done through a Department of Finance panel which expires on 31 August 2018.

The goals of the Digital Sourcing Framework principles and policies are simplifying and consolidating digital procurement panels. This framework will help interested consumers buy digital products and services.

It was initially called the ICT Procurement Framework but that limits the framework only to ICT. The new name reflects the fact that the term digital is broad and includes ICT. Therefore, this framework covers many areas that fall under the digital umbrella such as policy, data, and design to build and maintenance, and digital marketing.

Under the framework, the agencies remain responsible for buying their own digital products and services. But principles were developed to guide them when sourcing for these products. They are:

(1)    Encourage competition

(2)    Be innovative and iterate often

(3)    Be structured in a way that enables small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to compete fairly to provide components of large ICT projects

(4)    Be outcomes focused

(5)    Use open standards and cloud first

(6)    Minimise cyber-security risks

Avoid duplication by not building platforms that other agencies have already built

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