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The Digital Service Standard: how to get it right first time

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Service assessments

For the last year and a half, I’ve helped Home Office teams build good digital services that meet all the points in the Digital Service Standard.

I’m now moving on from the role, making it a good time to share some thoughts so I can help other Home Office delivery teams.

To that aim, I’ve put together some guidance to help teams get it right first time.

A screenshot of the Digital Service Standard homepage

Do the reading

Do the reading before starting a new digital project – you’ll gain a lot if you do.

GOV.UK has lots of guidance on building and maintaining digital services, including the Service ManualDesign Principles, the Technology Code of Practice and the Digital Service Standard.

It’s incredibly useful, but people don’t always know it’s there.

Reading the guidance will help you think and work through what needs to be done in each phase, who’s needed to do it and what good might look like.

If you still have questions, you can talk to the Digital Service Standard team or your professional community.

Be part of a professional community

Be part of your professional community and encourage others in your team to be part of theirs. These groups of specialists are the best people to talk through specific questions.

They meet regularly to share knowledge and best practice, are the voice of authority for what good looks like and are intrinsic when building knowledge and capability – in individual departments and across government.

Act on recommendations

After a service assessment or health check, you may get feedback in the form of ‘must do’ actions and recommendations. Sometimes these aren’t carried out and teams turn up for the next assessment only to fall down because they haven’t followed through. This can be frustrating for all involved.

After an assessment or health check, have a retro, talk about the recommendations and put them in the backlog.

Ask ‘Why?’

We come under all sorts of pressures to get things delivered quickly – an expiring contract, a legacy system, a new piece of legislation. Sometimes the pressure to deliver means it’s hard to find the time to take a step back and ask ourselves, ‘What is the problem we’re trying to solve and how do we know if we're successful?’

The Government Transformation Strategy sets the wider context for what we’re trying to achieve – transforming services for the public and the way government operates.

We need metrics to demonstrate the impact of the services and products we build. Metrics tell us when we're getting it right and when we need to change something. Last year, 60% of government services failed point 16 of the Digital Service Standard, identifying performance indicators, so it’s something we need to keep working on.

Before you start building your service, make sure every member of your team knows why you’re building it, what you want to achieve and how to measure success. Draw from user needs and existing baselines as your starting point.

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