Saturday, 12 April 2014

Digital government – the customer is always wrong 2

We noted, a couple of months back, an open letter to the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Government Procurement Service (now the Crown Commercial Service). The letter was orchestrated by Skyscape Cloud Services, please see G-Cloud – Animal Farm, and included this suggestion:
There is little, if any, transparency of forthcoming opportunity to the supplier, which can in turn lead to negative speculation about how long-lists and shortlists are compiled. We recommend that transparency principles are applied to all areas of G-Cloud transacting:
  • That an opportunity pipeline is published so that suppliers can see who is planning to buy and when (Contracts Finder would be the logical channel);
  • That suppliers are informed if they have been long-listed – and that reasons for failing to make the shortlist are communicated to the supplier. Suppliers can then improve their products and pricing which will in turn benefit the market as a whole.
Skyscape and their 14 fellow signatories want to force prospective customers to tell suppliers what new business is available and they want to force them to explain why they rejected all the other suppliers in favour of the lucky ones who were shortlisted.

"10 out of 10 for trying", you may say, "a bit pushy, unlikely to work – what sanction do suppliers have if customers simply refuse to explain themselves? – but, who knows, they might get away with it. Someone might fall for the it's-in-your-own-best-interests argument, prices will fall and quality will rise. There again, do Skyscape and their friends really want to get into a public shouting match about why they were rejected, how bad their products are and/or how stupid the customers are for rejecting them? The customer is always right, isn't he? ..."

Never mind all that.

How could suppliers be notified of new business opportunities? "Contracts Finder would be the logical channel", say the Skyscape 15, referring to the venerable Contracts Finder website on BusinessLink.gov.uk, a domain which isn't supposed to exist any more but does, like Direct.Gov.uk, don't tell GDS.

Someone has had a better idea.

We refer once again to GDS's Designing the Digital Marketplace, a blog post which includes this:
On commercial retail websites it’s common to favourite or bookmark things (like a house for sale on Rightmove, or a book on Amazon). Adding something to your shortlist on the Digital Marketplace is similar, except it would also allow you to record your reason for including it, for the purposes of an audit trail.

We’re currently testing Projects as a way to organise multiple shortlists. For example, if you’re working on creating a website you will need multiple things; including a CMS [content management system] and hosting. A Project page, which contains shortlists, is one means of organising choices and recording how decisions are made. Later we’ll be designing and testing what adding collaborators to a project (or a shortlist) might look like.
What looks like a facility to help customers manage the product selection process could easily be transformed into a way of giving prospective suppliers detailed information about new business opportunities and the prospective customers' innermost thoughts about them.

It may be advisable not to use this "Projects" facility. Unless you want Skyscape and 14 other suppliers ringing you up every day to badger you.

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