Technology Assurance Framework – effective procurement and contract management

January 23, 2024 by No Comments | Category Digital Assurance Office, Digital Scotland, Technology Assurance Framework

Guest blog by Laura Johnstone, Continuous Improvement team, Digital Assurance Office.

The Digital Assurance Office (DAO), who administer the Technology Assurance Framework, share the lessons learned from their assurance reviews to support others to deliver.

This blog shares our insights on where projects had to make improvements to undertake successful procurements and deliver effective contract management. This is our third insights blog.  You can catch up on the previous DAO assurance insights on our blog page.

Major digital project reviews

Between 2017/18 and 2022/23, 196 major project reviews have been completed under the Technology Assurance Framework (TAF), resulting in 1748 recommendations. Pre-procurement is a key project stage for assurance and makes up around a quarter of all major digital project reviews undertaken. However, each stage review includes the consideration of procurement and commercial matters. This analysis includes the recommendations made around effective procurement and contract management from all major digital project reviews, not just those at the pre-procurement stage.

Analysing these recommendations we found three distinct themes relating to procurement and contract management.  17% of all recommendations made relate to one of these themes, and 51% of reports have recommendations relating to one or more of these themes.  The themes are described below alongside recommendations made for improvement from the reviews. 

Invitation to tender (ITT) and evaluation criteria correct

  • have appropriate evaluation criteria, with weightings reflecting requirements and their relative importance to the successful delivery of the project
  • ensure the Statement of Requirements is sufficiently clear and detailed, meeting the requirements of the project and providing a good basis to support effective contract management.  Arrangements for contract management will vary depending on the project
  • make sure the ITT is detailed enough for a realistic and value for money estimate of costs with appropriate consideration given to the split between price and quality
  • take appropriate professional advice to ensure tender documentation is correct and meets guidance/regulations (procurement, legal, information officer etc)
  • ensure that readiness for issue of the ITT is plan based and not date driven
  • the plan should include time to quality assure procurement documentation. For larger or less routine procurements, it is good practice to get a specialist review of ITT documentation  g. a peer review by a procurement expert or from another project
  • ensure that any necessary changes are made to ITT documentation once recommendations from assurance reviews are addressed
  • have clear and transparent instructions for tenderers and evaluation guidance to ensure the fair treatment of bids.

Procurement strategy and planning

  • Have a procurement strategy in place and ensure that it:
  1. is linked to overall project planning/prioritisation
  2. is outcomes focused
  3. is clear on what is being bought and the drivers for it and provides options for the MVP to be achieved
  4. reflects best practice and is informed by specialist advice
  5. sets out evaluation approach and evaluation team
  • plan out the timing of procurements and how ITT sign off will be achieved, be realistic and build in sufficient contingency.  There is a specific focus in the recommendations from reviews on having pre-determined criteria in place for sign off, as opposed to being time driven.
  • be clear on the scope of what is being procured, the implications of the commercial model and ensure programme sign off (by all stakeholders)
  • understand what support services will need to be procured
  • ensure appropriate engagement (informed by the procurement approach) with suppliers both during the procurement strategy development and the tendering process.

Contract management and supplier relations

  • make sure that the project team (including the SRO) has a clear understanding of contract values, deliverables and terms
  • make sure that there is clear ownership of the supplier relationship and supplier monitoring mechanisms.   Regular contract management meetings are essential, with a defined person, to ensure continuity and consistency.  This needs to be supported by suitable, trained resources in place at the right time.  This includes actively managed contract change/extension/exit points to secure leverage and mitigate risk and review of contracts to ensure they remain fit for purpose and/or include relevant standards.
  • put in place contractual and commercial mechanisms that effectively balance risk between the parties and incentivise/penalise contractors to deliver to pre-defined, evidenced milestones
  • ensure effective collaboration (informed by the type of contract in place) between the project team and contractor, with ways of working clearly defined and agreed
  • have a robust exit plan in place (including a clear definition of what “done” looks like) and ensure that the plan allows for effective knowledge transfer.

The Digital Assurance Office are working with organisations who have had assurance through the TAF to share insights which might help others deliver digital projects.

If you want to get involved – or have thoughts on what insights would be helpful to share – contact us at

For advice and signposting on available digital commercial expertise, resources and support in the Scottish Government, visit the Digital Commercial Service on the Digital Support Hub.

The Procurement Journey website is the main source of procurement best practice guidance for the Scottish public sector.

The Scottish procurement: policy manual provides guidance on the procurement policies that apply to the Scottish Government as well as guidance on Contract and Supplier Management (CSM).

For further information and signposting to advice and support on programme and project management contact the Programme and Project Management Centre for Expertise.

The Scottish Government programme and project management principles are available and apply to any project of any size.

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