Why the DOS Framework hasn’t worked for this UK SME supplier

An open letter to Crown Commercial Services to explain why I’m discouraged from using this framework as a supplier

I was really excited when I first heard of the public sector Digital Outcomes and Specialists procurement framework (aka DOS) for sourcing digital and agile oriented suppliers. This was circa 2016 when the future of GDS had a question mark hanging over them and the IR35 public sector rollout was looming.

I had missed the DOS1 cutoff but my understanding of the framework from reading blogs and conversations with my procurement colleagues was that it offered a lightweight, transparent way for buyers to list opportunities, suppliers to bid for opportunities – and the whole thing to cater for “Outside IR35” gigs and the government’s drive to award more work to UK SME enterprises (25% of all future govt spend was earmarked / targeted for SMEs at that point I believe…)

Having waited patiently I then managed to get onto the DOS2 framework, but was a bit shocked to find out that each submission expected a tailored textual response with no supporting collateral, but never the less excitedly applied for several good matches. There was no guidance as to how to best respond, and all my efforts in previously wording my relevant experience in CV / Linked in job descriptions didn’t offer much help (nb. I’m a UK SME remember, not a big 4 firm).

Here’s a screenshot of the three opportunities I applied for, one of which remains Submitted and the other two as Opportunity cancelled – and currently I’m still non the wiser as to what actually happened to them (nb. from my time in procurement, I believe that it is / was illegal / unethical (?) to publish an opportunity and solicit responses, without the actual means or desire to award…)

(Link to larger screenshot)

I don’t mind not being selected for roles that other suppliers are a better match for, but what I think is sincerely unprofessional is not receiving any feedback or even being notified about what happened to my submissions.

And just to give you an idea of the effort I went to with each submission, here are screenshots of each submission:

Submission 1Submission 2Submission 3

(nb. after this experience, I stopped using the framework but every month got an automatic “nag” email saying I needed to log into their reporting system and submit a return – which is unnecessary as all awards are published so another part of government already knows this information)

Update as of 8 Aug 2019

Earlier this year, I put my foot back into the DOS pool and applied for a role which looked like a 100% match. Since I had let my supplier account expire when DOS2 finished, this time I submitted it through an agency which I trusted and who was on the current DOS3 framework (screenshot of the opportunity, direct link to the opportunity)

This one also entailed a significant amount of work to prepare a bespoke submission, an 1852 word submission to be exact, but given the advert had a firm timetable for evaluating the responses I guessed that the framework had been improved over time.

Last week I followed up this submission, having heard absolutely nothing, and wrote openly about it and posted it on twitter looping in HEE directly. Their response:

“Hi Frank – thanks so much for your message – I’ll ensure this is all passed on to the relevant team. ^DP”

The HEE response

I’m still waiting to hear back from them…


Frank Ray

Did you know successful projects depend upon healthy relationships between the people involved? Trust, honesty and openness are required so that problems and issues can be frankly discussed and nipped in the bud. This is how we conduct business at Frank Ray & Associates, a software engineering consultancy I founded. You can also reach me directly at info@frankray.net

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