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Completing 25 ‘discoveries’

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We’ve recently completed discovery for all 25 exemplars and over the last 10 months have travelled over 50,000 miles to run workshops with departments based all over the country.

IMG_0667RPA analysis workshop 1photo (9) Discovery workshops with BIS, Defra and DWP

Discovery is the first phase of delivering a digital service and for GDS it was about working with departments to work out what a digital service might look like and agree a shared understanding of who the users of the service are, then working out the delivery options.

Most of the 25 exemplars proceeded as planned at initial discovery workshops, however some changed course during this scoping phase, here are two examples of this:


HMRC have four exemplar projects: PAYE for employees, digital self-assessment, business tax dashboard, agent online self-service. During discovery the team soon identified lots of common technologies and user experiences across the four projects. As a result, it was decided to build the four exemplars in a consistent way and on a shared platform.

Home Office Visit visa applications

This exemplar set out to put a new visa application process  in place for overseas visitors. During discovery it soon emerged as more beneficial to create a product catalogue, which following its successful proving in Alpha will become the extensible solution for the Home Office to define all visa, immigration, and nationality products based on policy and legislation. The new product catalogue would then provide the platform to enable dynamic customer journeys (for applicants) to be developed.

So what did we learn?

Collaboration and collocation works: the agile manifesto promotes collaboration and working software over process and documentation and we learnt how beneficial this can be when working with departments, and that it should include everyone involved - front line civil servants, policy makers, suppliers, development teams and users.

Start small: a simple working prototype during discovery, to explain what a digital service is about and how it could work proves to be very powerful in winning hearts and minds - from ministers to staff to users.

Keep on delivering: constant refresh and iteration during delivery means that what you’re doing or building evolves to meet the changing needs of all users.

What's next

As well as completing discovery  many services are now into alpha and beta and being tested and used by the public already. The next thing we’ll see is another wave of public betas, many of which will change and improve the way in which citizens can interact with government.


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