The guide 1. Plan

Use digital buying tools

Use digital buying tools to enable faster buying and attract a broader range of suppliers.

Why it’s important

Digital buying tools can speed up the buying, contracting and supply process considerably. Without them, buyers and suppliers may be forced to rely on paper documents, sealed bid envelopes and returning contracts by post or in person.

As well as accelerating the buying process, digital tools can help:

  • increase transparency by publishing open data at all stages, from planning to delivery
  • attract a more diverse range of suppliers, for example women-owned SMEs
  • reduce administrative costs
  • increase value for money through aggregating demand

What this means

Buying departments should invest in or scale up digital tools including:

  • e-Procurement systems that allow ‘end-to-end’ digital buying, that is from publishing an opportunity online and receiving bids to allowing electronic signature and invoicing
  • supplier databases that include details of supplier capabilities, how they have performed in the past and who they are owned by and stands to benefit from the award of contracts
  • digital frameworks - online lists of pre-qualified suppliers that can bid to provide specific goods or services
  • online catalogues or purchasing platforms - allowing fast ‘off-the-shelf’ purchases of products such as laptops, tablets, software and accessories

When choosing a digital buying tool you should make sure that it:

  • meets user needs, based on research with your users (including staff and suppliers)
  • is easy to share or ‘interoperable’ with other government systems
  • is easy to maintain and scales for future use
  • meets your security and data requirements, for example by providing information on where data is stored if in the cloud
  • is less dependent on single third-party suppliers

You should also:

  • make sure your staff have suitable training to use any e-Procurement system
  • tell suppliers about any new systems and show them how to use them if necessary

Do's and don'ts


  • use digital buying tools to enable faster procurement and attract a broader range of suppliers
  • make sure any digital tools you choose can be shared easily
  • inform suppliers about any new digital tools you would like them to use


  • do not choose digital tools that require you to be ‘locked in’ to use a certain provider over a long period