Early this year, the Government of Ontario released a Market Sounding Exercise for a new Contingent IT Resources Solution. This exercise will be part of the process to replace Tender-12075 – The Managed Services Provider for Contingent IT Resources Vendor of Record (VOR). This VOR is enterprise-wide, which means that it is available to all ministries and a set of approved agencies within the Government of Ontario. The current Managed Service Provider on the VOR is Flextrack, who then sources fee-for-service IT consultants to participating government entities.
The market-sounding has two initial components. The first is a Respondent Response Form, which will be used to inform the second step, the Market Day. Following the Market Day, the Government may consult the market further through focus groups or one-on-one meetings. This market-sounding exercise represents a significant departure from the government’s common practice of issuing RFI’s when seeking input from the vendor community. It is a positive step towards increasing engagement with the vendor community ahead of replacing a VOR. Instead of just seeking information, the government is running a consultation process with vendors that will include a Market Day and will work with vendors to understand innovative approaches that could be baked into the requirements as they design the structure of the next Contingent IT Resources Solution.
The market-sounding exercise comes on the heels of an Ontario Auditor General’s report on the Office of the Corporate Chief Information Officer (CCIO) that was released in November. In the report, the Auditor General highlighted that the CCIO paid consultants at a level above recommended market rate levels as set by the Treasury Board. It was recommended that the CCIO conduct a cost benefit analysis when external consultants are hired, and that they are paid within the Treasury Board’s goalposts, which the Ministry has committed to doing, when possible.
The market-sounding leaves room for vendors to bring forward creative solutions and indicates an openness to assessing multiple models for securing I&IT consulting services. The government’s main priorities are acquiring skilled resources in a cost-effective way, such as through benchmarking contractor rates or optimizing a cost structure. The government is also open to hearing about the use of technology for end-to-end process enablement and ways to streamline the procurement cycle and access resources in a timelier fashion.
The tender points to a potential future state that the Ministry is expecting through centralized procurement. They recognize that a category management approach is likely on the horizon, and they are developing what they call an “IT Contingent Resources Category Program.”
A key distinction with the category program compared to the previous VOR is that the government will be looking to move on additional objectives in their centralized procurement program, such as creating ease for the end-user client, and ensuring that the economic benefits of the tender remain in Ontario.
Additionally, the government has the authority under the Supply Chain Management Act to regulate adherence to these new contract vehicles to many non-OPS entities; this includes school boards and agencies, and as new categories are onboarded the government may consider leveraging this policy lever.