The Office of Government Procurement (OGP) has selected a new supplier to provide the national tendering platform, eTenders. This system is a key enabler for the transparent, efficient, and effective public buying of goods, services and works.
With almost 180,000 registered buyers, suppliers, and other stakeholders, eTenders supports approximately €20 billion annually in public service tenders alone enabling the delivery of critical services and infrastructure to society.
Following extensive stakeholder consultation and a comprehensive tendering process, European Dynamics will provide the new eProcurement platform from mid-2023. The contract was signed in July 2022, and the implementation phase is now underway.
Both buyers and suppliers should be aware that there will be no changes to the current platform during this phase, and procurement competitions can continue to be conducted as normal. The OGP will communicate any updates as part of the switch on its website at gov.ie/ogp
Chief Procurement Officer for the State, and OGP CEO Paul Quinn is pleased with how the project is progressing and paid tribute to the teams involved: “Well done to everyone involved in the procurement process for securing this service which will greatly benefit the public, business, and the State over the next decade. This new contract offers increased functionality and value for money for the State.”
From plans to progress
From the outset, planning for the procurement of the new platform was intensive and detailed. A design authority was established to support the procurement of the new system, made up of public servants, including input from commercial semi-states. A comprehensive specification was developed, taking into account the different requirements from all sectors, to support goods, services, utilities, and works procurements. Suppliers also took part in a survey to help inform the process.
A cross-sector steering committee was formed to oversee the project, and this group meet regularly to provide insights, guidance, and support. Three major work streams have been established to ensure the success of the switch over: data migration, communication, and training. Industry will be kept up to date on the eTenders rollout via the SME Advisory Group, chaired by the Minister of State for Public Procurement Ossian Smyth TD.
The go-live date for the new platform is early April 2023 and a robust project plan is in place in an effort to reach this target. Mags O’Callaghan, eTenders programme lead at OGP, says: “For a number of reasons – including risk mitigation, protecting the integrity of live competitions and business continuity – there will be a period of time when there will be two platforms active, an overlap.”
The current platform will continue until May 2023 to facilitate completion of competitions that are already in progress when the new platform goes live. All competitions must be completed on the current platform by the deadline of 19 May 2023. All new competitions will start on the new platform once it is live. Framework Arrangements and Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) will be facilitated to continue on the new platform from go-live also.
Data migration is critical to the success of this project. The layout and structure of the new platform, although similar, will be different to the existing service. This changeover presents a good opportunity to review and clean up data where necessary, for example to ensure that registration details, contact names, numbers, emails addresses and Eircodes are up to date. The OGP will shortly begin to issue ‘countdown checklists’ to ensure all data is in order to support the successful data migration from one system to the other.
Mags O’Callaghan says: “From a practical perspective, a webpage has been set up on gov.ie/ogp where updates will be posted. The message functionality within the existing platform will also be used for issuing some updates. Communications will be centred on project milestones and support procurement planning for contracting authorities. Messaging will focus on key areas such as training, go-live and post go-live.”
O’Callaghan continues: “From a supplier point of view, in addition to the webpage, updates will be provided to the SME Advisory group at quarterly meetings with industry bodies. In addition, the communications sub-committee to the SME advisory group has been reformed and eTenders roll out will be one of the key topics for that group.”
To support the flow of information about this changeover, representatives from across the public sector, nominated by the Steering Committee, have come together to form a group of Sector Implementation Leads. This group will distribute information using their own internal communications channels. They will also determine and co-ordinate training requirements for their sectors as well as supports for user acceptance testing.
A training programme consisting of different knowledge levels will be put in place to include, online and classroom-based training sessions for public bodies and user manuals, videos, and webinars for both bidders and buyers.
OGP CEO Paul Quinn concludes: “This is the first time in a decade that the national eTendering platform will change, which presents a golden opportunity, not only to improve take up of the different functionality of the new platform, but also to promote all that is positive about public procurement reform.”