Transforming government through #VerifyLocal pilots – 1 month in

29 Nov 2016, 9:52 am

Update by Linda O’Halloran, #VerifyLocal Pilot lead at Government Digital Service

On 18 October we hosted our first event with participating local councils to kick-off our #VerifyLocal pilots. One month later, both the residential parking permit pilot and the older person’s concessionary travel pilot are underway with the input of 17 councils, many of which we hope will be using GOV.UK Verify by Summer 2017.

In this blog post, we’ll provide an update on how we’re collaborating with local councils, and how you can track our progress online.

Learning through collaboration

The #VerifyLocal project is the first time GDS has had the opportunity to pilot the use of one of its platforms in an end-to-end service transformation across local and central government boundaries.

The first 2 pilots will help us learn how service design between local and central government can work, and help councils realise economies of scale as they transform common services.

We’ve designed the pilots to allow as much local autonomy and collaboration as possible. We’ve done this in 4 ways:



Older person’s concessionary travel teams plan their discovery phase service design activities, 2 Nov 2016

1. We’re doing the work no individual council can do to produce common products

One of the reasons councils don’t often co-design reusable products, services and standards with each other is that, despite the savings and potential for transformation that more commonality could bring, working together does not happen spontaneously. As the 2015 business case for local waste service standards shows, someone needs to make the plan, organise meetings and events, and develop the common products. So, this is where GDS comes in. We have a dedicated product owner and delivery manager for each pilot to make sure this join-up work happens.

2. We’re testing a scaled version of agile service transformation

Service transformation works best when it’s done iteratively. We need to do user research to understand needs, build a minimal viable product around these needs, get feedback, modify the product, and continue the cycle until the service is running smoothly. For a small team, working in one place, that means less long-term planning, more figuring it out as we go.

However, we’re aiming to allow teams across the country to create a standardised approach to secure online identity that works for all of their services. So, the ‘figuring it out as we go’ approach isn’t enough.

While we want to encourage transparent, iterative, collaborative working, we understand that service teams in local government have a need to plan further ahead than a typical 2-week ‘sprint’. Therefore, we’ve published our roadmap and resource requirement for the full pilot upfront.


Parking permit pilot Trello board on 18 Nov, where you can see all our ‘discovery phase’ tasks

We have also started to map out the details – all the discovery phase tasks – into fortnightly ‘sprints’ further in advance than on a standard, isolated service transformation project. The plan isn’t set in stone; at the beginning of each fortnight, partner councils and GDS can revise and tweak the plan, agreeing what activities teams need to complete in the next 2 weeks. That way, GDS can plan to deliver common products while local teams are developing their local service plans. You can see all the parking permit tasks here and all the concessionary travel tasks here.

3. We have designed co-planning into each phase of work

The project is broken into 3 main phases:

  • Discovery (now to Feb 2017): the research and early design phase where we research what’s working and what’s not working about the existing service, and map out how we think the future, end-to-end digital service should look and work
  • Alpha (Feb to Mar 2017): the prototyping phase where we build 1st examples of the new services using test data
  • Beta (Apr to summer 2017): the testing phase, where we further develop the new service and test it with real users

Each phase begins with a group co-planning event which we and the local councils plan together. This means that web, IT and digital staff, customer services staff, parking and concessionary travel service staff, service design and user research leads and relevant suppliers are talking and planning together from the beginning.


Residential parking permit teams plan their service design and user research activities at the discovery kick off event on October 18th

During our 2 ‘discovery phase’ co-planning events, the council teams talked through each task using templates for user research and service design activities, ‘connecting to GOV.UK Verify’ activities, and performance monitoring activities. All the templates we used can be found here.

Council teams discussed who’d do what, highlighted things they were unsure about, suggested things they needed help with, and brainstormed ways they could benefit from collaborating with other councils. The aim was to ensure that everyone who’d be involved in the project left with a shared understanding of what needed to be done, why it needed to be done, and how it would get done.

Likewise, the GDS team were able to get a good sense of where councils have common support needs, and where we could improve the support we plan to deliver to them.

We also ran a user research co-planning workshop on 9 Nov 2016 for those leading each council’s user research. We’ll blog about our initial findings in the New Year. However, you can find the user research templates we developed for councils about to start service transformation here.

4…and we’re doing it all in the open

You can follow our work in more detail on the residential parking permit webpage and the older person’s concessionary travel webpage. You can also find blogs from GDS and local authority partners, the Trello boards, and all the common products we produce on the project page for each pilot.