Government as a Platform highlights from Sprint 16

As Stephen Foreshew Cain said Sprint 16 was a great day and Government as a Platform was very much at the heart of it. As the Sprint 16 hashtag trended all day, it was gratifying to see the enthusiasm and interest in the products and components we’re building.

So in case you missed it or weren't there, here’s a quick recap on the Government as a Platform highlights from Sprint 16.

Before the event even started, the BBC published an article by their Technology Correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, on GOV.UK Pay and GOV.UK Notify. It described how these products will make people’s lives easier when they interact with government, and the money they’ll save.

Back at the venue, Minister for the Cabinet Office Matthew Hancock, opened the event by highlighting the work of the Government as a Platform teams and its pivotal role in ‘changing the relationship between the citizen and the state’.

Solving common problems once

Chris Ferguson, GDS Director of Digital Group, and Kevin Cunnington, Director of Transformation at DWP,  had a slot on transformation. They emphasised how the work on Government as a Platform’s products and services, is a truly collaborative effort across government departments and agencies.


Chris Ferguson summed up the purpose and ambition of Government as a Platform in this popular analogy:


And the video ‘Solving common problems once’, echoed that ambition (the transcript for this video to follow soon is at the end of this blog post). It shows how service managers, product leads and developers across government are working together to make this plan a reality and making sure that products meet user needs.


As the speeches ended, the live demos of platforms and new digital services began. This gave the audience a first-hand look at some of the platforms being built in collaboration with and used by departmental teams across government.

The Government as a Platform programme had 2 presentations on the main stage and 2 demos in the breakout session. Each of which was in partnership with the teams across government who are helping shape our thinking and learn from their experiences of running services in their departments.

Easier for users and more efficient for government

Till Wirth, who is a product manager at GDS, gave a live demo of GOV.UK Pay. He talked about how it will make it cheaper for government to manage payments by procuring and integrating with payment providers. This will free up service teams and make it faster for new service to start taking payments.

APhoto of Lauren Toombs, product manager at Office of the Public Guardian, presenting at Sprint 16voiding a thousand calls into call centres on a daily basis

As well as stealing the show with his shirt, Pete Herlihy, product manager,  explained the motivation behind, and the benefits of, GOV.UK Notify. He described how easy it will be for developers and service teams to use GOV.UK Notify using a web interface to send notifications.

Lauren Toombs, product manager from Office of the Public Guardian, showed how service teams can easily send texts to Lasting Power of Attorney applicants to tell them their application has been received. This will massively reduce call volumes and costs but most importantly put users minds at ease.

Joining up the justice system

In the Digital Justice session, Arif Harbott - Chief Digital Office for Ministry of Justice - showcased and explained the work behind the brilliant maps that depict the complexity of the Digital Justice system from a user’s perspective. Here’s a video with a full transcript of Arif’s talk.

Audience feedback audience showed how valuable they found a simple map of a really complex system of services and technology

Making licencing  easy

As the guests moved to the show and tell sessions; the Licensing show and tell was hosted by DEFRA’s Edward Lockhart-Mummery and Harry Trimble from GDS.

Harry set the scene for the session by defining what service patterns are and how they’re comprised of lots of smaller interactions. Edward Lockhart-Mummery explained why it made perfect sense for DEFRA to run a discovery with GDS; DEFRA run over 100 transactions most of which give permission to do something eg licences, permits, exemptions, certificates, accreditations. The alpha will explore how platforms and good service design could create faster, cheaper, more efficient ways of dealing with licences.

Awarding government grants more efficiently

Anna Byrne, one the Digital and Technology Transformation leads at BIS, talked about how BIS and GDS are collaborating to reduce the complexity of existing grant funding arrangements. We're also trying to improve what is currently a very poor user experience. Anna will be talking more about this research in a guest blog soon.

We’ve recently published Government as a Platform content on GOV.UK providing more details and clear explanations of our products, and how service teams can get in touch if they want to learn more. We’re really keen to make sure Government as a Platform products and patterns are grounded in real user and service team feedback. So please tell us about your experiences and how we can make sure what we’re building helps you do your job better. If any of the topics rang a bell with you and you’d like to learn more, please drop us a line or comment below.

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Transcript for the video 'Solving common problems once'

Neil Barlow, Service Manager, DVSA

Many of our services are very similar, they might be in very different applications, to do with transport, health, but often we’re trying to do the same sorts of things. Be it in this case remind citizens to do something, in other cases it might be requesting a payment from citizens.

Sharvari Pandya, Programmer, NHS Business Services Authority

At the moment, all the government agencies, they take payments by different methods. They go to different suppliers and every time, if they have to renew the licence, they need to go to other suppliers.

Rory Smith, Associate Product Manager, GOV.UK Pay

The great thing about a platform is that we do all the hard work once, and then every department across government, and in the wider public sector, will eventually benefit from that work. So they don’t have to do it all again every single time.

Lauren Tombs, Deputy Product Owner, OPG

I think it’s a brilliant idea. Being able to prove and integrate with something like Notify, it’s going to have massive benefits for OPG.

Neil Barlow

The feedback I’ve had from the team is, “That’s great, we can use that. Of course we would use that.”

Lauren Tombs

It was just like, “Oh my gosh, the sooner we can do this, the better. We want to prove it as soon as possible.” If we can send them a text or an email, that will avoid a thousand calls into the contact centre on a daily basis.

Paul Heskins, Service Manager, DVLA

People are going to look at the service and think, I want to use Verify, not only for View Driving Licence, but for everything else it brings and the other services that are going to come onboard as well. It’s been tried and tested across a number of other services already. Why build our own security authentication when there’s a government-branded one that’s going to work for everybody,

David Mort, Lead Developer, Companies House

I’ve been through the pain of writing a payment service myself and I didn’t want to do it again, so this made me very happy that I don’t have to do that anymore.

Neil Barlow

To have a core range of simple products to enable us to do those things that are common to government. That makes a lot of sense to me just from a logic point of view. It absolutely seems the right thing to do, sort of question, “Why wouldn’t we do it this way?”