October 7 2019

Going live

Our live assessment mission patch

During September we had our Government Digital Service live assessment.

Before the assessment itself, we spent a bit of time doing some groundwork:

  • creating a slide deck that addressed the points in the service standard
  • having a mock assessment with NHSx

A stupidly big slide deck

We took a sprint to make a ludicrous slide deck, unassailable in its completeness.

Each point from the service standard was a section of the deck, and the team was harangued to answer or comment. This provided a central point for the whole team to feed in their answers and thoughts on how we met the various points of the standard.

Every recommendation from the beta assessment was answered in an appendix and rated red, amber or green.

Lots more appendixes were added, such as links to prototypes, blog posts, etc.

After calling a deadline, we then went through the deck, moving things from service standard points into themes, deleting and compressing.

Screengrab showing slide 231
Our slide deck was heroic, even after editing down.

For those of us lucky enough to attend the assessment, the “deck of doom” helped:

  • remind us of the whole product and the environment in which it operates
  • each of us feel like we had stuff to back us up if we needed it

In the assessment itself, we had lots of slides we could choose from including examples, facts and figures, case studies and so on.

Obviously we barely used it. But the work that went into creating it was where the value really lay.

A mock assessment

We did a mock assessment with NHSx with a secret request to “not go easy”, which was very useful.

It’s so easy to forget to spend a bit of time framing your product:

  • what primary user needs are met by its existence
  • how the product works — what does it do?
  • the landscape in which it sits, both service and policy

It’s very easy overlook scene setting before diving right into the weeds.

It’s also important to remember that it’s very unlikely a mock assessment will bear much resemblance to the real thing. The value in mocks of this kind is to ensure that as a team you’re capable and confident in answering questions about your product and ways of working.

The assessment

With these bits of preparation, in we went. We did a demo, a show and tell, and had a very long interview / chat with our GDS panel.

The result

Over the course of the following week we learned we’d passed our assessment, which was something of a relief. The only thing left to do was sort out mission patches, by far the most stressful part of the entire process.

Very nice to finally get rid of our beta banner too.