18th November 2015 London, UK

Legalisation: from alpha to beta

Throughout the alpha phase of our legalisation work we were measuring our work against the digital by default standard, and – inspired by the work of colleagues working onemergency travel documents – we set up a github wiki to document our work and evidence. By the end of the 7 weeks we were ready for our alpha assessment, and after a gruelling four hour grilling we were very pleased to pass the standard and are now moving onwards into the beta phase.

The mainstay of the work in the next few weeks will be to take our technical proof of concept and the lessons from prototyping and build them into the full product (while continuing to prototype and test design changes in parallel). We’ll also focus on bottoming out assisted digital and business user needs, and plan for a private beta release.

Business account
Early iteration of the business account

In tandem, behind the scenes the work will begin on replacing the workflow software used by staff. We will be replacing a custom solution with a new software as a service solution from Iizuka, and are very excited about the potential to speed up processing and have the ability in future to make configuration changes without delays or additional costs. We will also be integrating the application data customers type in on the web site, to avoid re-keying.

Logical architecture
What lies ahead

More broadly, as we move forward we’ll be thinking about how to meet the multidisciplinary team requirements of point 3 of the digital by default standard.  As a small digital team without dedicated designers or researchers this is a real challenge for us – we have had to be creative, wear several hats at once, and use shared resources where available. On the one hand, a standard is a standard whether you have 2 people in the team or 200; on the other, I do wonder whether there should be more emphasis on the outputs (show an understanding of user needs) rather than the methods (have an embedded user researcher); what you did rather than how you did it – which will necessarily differ by department and resourcing. Just as a service must include users at different points on the scale of digital capability, we need to ensure the standard can include departments at different points on a scale of resourcing. We are looking at what options we have to bolster the team in any case, be that by borrowing expertise from GDS or elsewhere, sharing resources with other small departments, or filling skill gaps through our existing suppliers or new suppliers – all while keeping the project within budget.

At this point there is still a large amount of work ahead, and we can expect a few surprises and bumps in the road. However, the momentum is building and there’s a palpable sense of a product taking shape. We have a close-knit team with complementary skills and a shared purpose. There have been some happy coincidences too –  while none of us have worked together before, it turns out two of the team swam on the same swimming team 10 years ago, and another two lined up on opposing sides in a football cup final 15 years ago. Before a statistician steps in and explains away the magic, let’s move on: I’m looking forward to the next phase of work.

Follow Mark at @markbarlow