Typical projects #
Most of our projects are to research, design, build and support digital services for the public sector and organisations focused on work for ‘public good’. Broadly speaking, they are usually transactional services (making payments, bookings, reporting things) or informational services (corporate websites, campaigns, intranets). Sometimes they’re a bit of both.
In so doing, we try to make sure that the organisations we’re working with will be able to operate their new services well and sustainably. This sometimes involves work that an agency might not normally do, like advising an organisation’s leaders on how their teams could be restructured, or on what their digital strategy could be.
With the development of dxw’s strategy team, we are increasingly targeting more strategy-shaped opportunities, to help our clients prepare for, or improve the delivery of digital projects.
We also help clients host some of the services that we build, and by selling subscription-based products that are related to the rest of our work.
We bid on opportunities through a range of channels.
Some of our opportunities arrive directly, often via email, as a result of recommendations, word-of-mouth or through our active engagement and networking in the digital and public sector community.
We also take on work that is received for existing services via helpdesk tickets.
Most of the larger opportunities we bid on arrive via more formal channels like public sector framework agreements such as the Digital Marketplace.
When any opportunity arrives, we record it in our CRM tool, Hubspot. This happens automatically for opportunities published on the Digital Marketplace Outcomes and Specialists framework. Other opportunities are entered individually into Hubspot if they arrive to a specific person.
We record as much information as we can about opportunities when they arrive. An opportunity should be described in enough detail that someone else in the team could pick it up and work on it if needs be. That means that we always record a sensible name, the details of the organisation and where possible, we associate the opportunity to the Hubspot contact and company record of the person we’re talking to. If they have provided any documents, we upload those into Hubspot as well.
Opportunities go through several stages during their life, to show whether we’re waiting for more information, waiting for a meeting, writing a proposal and so on. For opportunities that we’re bidding on via the Digital Marketplace, our process mirrors the timelines buyers publish in alignment with these standard procurement rules.
Screening potential projects #
At dxw our mission is to help create public services that improve people’s lives. Whether we achieve this depends a lot on the work we choose to do. We encourage an open and honest discussion about which work we take on. And we actively seek different perspectives, both inside and outside of dxw.
To decide whether a potential project is ethical and supports our mission, we consider:
The work is beneficial to the public, the client and dxw.
We can produce a great result within the likely constraints.
Matching people to projects #
We understand that members of staff may have ethical, religious or other concerns about working on a particular project. If you do have concerns about a project, please raise them with your line manager or head of profession.
Clients aren’t always able to talk about their budgets, but we do need to know. If they absolutely can’t tell us, we do our best to estimate what it probably is, based on the information we have.
Where we don’t think we could do what the client needs within their budget, we explore alternative options with them that are more affordable. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s ok. Where it does, it tends to be because we’ve made a good case that it’s better to have a small feature set that works really well than a large one that’s slightly disappointing.
Where clients have a larger budget than we think they need, we say that too. This usually means explaining why we’re able to do the work for less than they thought. We also think about what extra things we could do to improve their chances of success and suggest extra work they could do.
Where a budget is disclosed that’s more than we think is necessary, we usually propose a piece of work that uses that budget fully. But we’re always open, and tell them that we’ve done this, and that we’d be delivering more than the minimum. And we’re always happy to win a smaller bit of work than the client thought they’d need. We try to structure these proposals so that the extra work is easy to remove.
Sales meetings #
Wherever possible, we meet prospective clients before writing a proposal. This is because face-to-face conversation is the most efficient way to communicate, and the projects we bid for are often complex. Sometimes, this meeting is the way we qualify an opportunity.
By the end of this meeting, we should make sure that we understand:
- Who the client’s users are
- The user needs the client is trying to meet
- Their current vision for how those needs will be met
- Any notable technical requirements
- What the project’s budget and deadlines are
- How many suppliers are likely to be bidding
- When they need to receive our proposal by
This meeting usually involves quite a bit of discussion about the project. In those discussions, we speak freely and openly, offering advice where appropriate and making any suggestions we might have. We always try to be as helpful, positive and creative as we can.
It’s important that we use this meeting to find out the information that we need to write a good proposal. But it’s just as important to prove our expertise, to deliver value early and to leave the client with a positive first impression.
Proposals and tenders #
If the project is being tendered via a fixed process (such as the Digital Marketplace, ) we’ll respond by following the process that the client requests.
Bid writing is a team sport at dxw, so it’s important to involve the potential delivery team in the planning, writing and reviewing of the bid. This is important as it helps to set the team up for a successful pitch (if we need to do one) and eventual delivery if we win the work.
Whilst the process tends to be similar, not all opportunities are exactly the same, for example, sometimes we’ll be provided with a form to complete, and other times we’ll have more flexibility on the format of our proposal.
If we’re writing a proposal following our own format, we often start from a proposal template. The main things we’ll often need to write are:
- A description of the project’s background. How did they get to the point they’re at now?
- A description of the client’s vision. What are they trying to do?
- An initial set of user needs. How does the client believe their service or project will make things better for these people?
- Details of how we’ll approach the work
- A proposed team to do the work, their roles and profiles.
- How many sprints we estimate we will need to deliver the work.
- A timeline for when we expect the sprints and other work will happen.
- A cost for the work.
There are lots of examples of these proposals that anyone at dxw can read if they like.
Winning work #
When we win work, we mark it as Won in Hubspot. We amend the budget, closing date and services sold if necessary. We write to the client to thank them and ask them for a convenient time to meet and talk about how and when we’ll start the work. We talk to the scheduling team and add the project’s sprints and other work to our scheduling tool, Productive, so that the team can see who’s working on what. And we talk to the finance team so that invoices can be created as drafts in our finance system Xero, so we don’t forget to bill them.
Losing work #
We don’t always win work we bid for, particularly when it is run via a competitive tendering process, such as on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework.
When we lose work, we mark it as Lost in Hubspot. We write to the client to thank them for their interest and ask them for any feedback they might have. We usually also say that we’d be happy to talk about any future work they might have. We record the main reason we didn’t win the work in Hubspot along with the detailed feedback.
We do our best to incorporate this feedback into future bids.
Some opportunities, upon review with the team or following discussions with the client, turn out not to be dxw-shaped things. This could be for lots of reasons - capacity, capability, location and so on. This is okay. When this happens, we update the client as soon as we can, explaining the reasons for our decision. We mark these opportunities as No bid in Hubspot, recording the main reason we made this decision, along with any context.