https://identityassurance.blog.gov.uk/2016/07/14/a-lesson-from-gov-uk-verify-blog-your-way-towards-live/

A lesson from GOV.UK Verify: blog your way towards live

The Service Standard ensures digital teams build high quality government services. In April 2016 GOV.UK Verify became the first transactional service built by GDS to be assessed against the 18 points of the standard before going live.

The GOV.UK Verify team used the criteria of the Service Standard as a tool for development throughout GOV.UK Verify’s beta phase as it encourages iteration and quick learning. We decided to blog against the criteria as the assessment date approached.

Honest to blog

There were a number of practical reasons for doing this:

  • We want to be open as open as possible about our work and share our experience with other teams across government
  • GOV.UK Verify is a complex programme to explain and we knew our time in the room with the assessors would be limited; blogging helped us clarify our own thoughts, and gave the panel access to a lot of information about our work ahead of the assessment
  • We could only have a limited number of people at the assessment but wanted to demonstrate that team members from across the programme had been involved in preparing for live

We commissioned posts from 11 authors in the team, some regular bloggers and some who’d never written for an online audience before. For those who were new to blogging, we’re hoping this will be the first of many, as we really want to make sure blogging is a team sport, not just for those who are particularly comfortable with it or for whom it’s a substantive part of their job. All contributors were given a template as a starting point. This made clear the purpose and audience for their individual pieces and encouraged them to structure their posts around the prompts for live assessment.

Over a period of 3 months we published posts covering security, Agile methodologies, open source code and more. The process was resource-intensive but it helped to focus the team on the requirements of the live assessment and proved a useful exercise in helping us make sure we had all the evidence and information we needed for the assessment and had thought each point through well in advance. We also think it’s useful to have a record of our thinking on these points towards the end of our beta - we will no doubt come back to these issues over time as we continue to iterate the service. Finally, we want to serve the interests of all the people who might want to follow our progress, whichever particular aspect they are interested in.

When a blog becomes your evidence

The assessors referred to the blog posts during the live assessment and commented that “The approach used to manage this large programme and the openness evidenced by blogging about progress against points of the standard are exemplary and could be adopted by other services and programmes as good practice”. They were impressed by a blog post featuring a video of the Minister for the Cabinet Office explaining how he used GOV.UK Verify on his mobile phone, as evidence that we had met point 18 of the Standard (that our minister has used our service). The assessors considered it “an excellent example of best practice and should set the benchmark for others to follow”.

The full assessment report will be published soon. In the meantime, we’ve gathered our series of posts against the criteria under a single tag on this blog for ease of reference: service standard.

Do you work in service delivery? We’d love to know if you took a different approach to your assessment or have any thoughts on what we did. Let us know in the comments below.