The challenges of meeting the Digital Service Standard

Today, we have published the first “not pass” assessment report – and it’s for one of our own platforms. In this blog, Jacqui van Teulingen from the Digital Service Standard team discusses some of the challenges faced by teams working to meet the standard, including the DTA’s Digital Marketplace.

The Digital Service Standard mandates a set of criteria which must be followed by government agencies delivering digital services.

It sets out best practice for how teams are formed, how they work and how they design and deliver a service. It’s best practice as it requires expertise and considerable effort to achieve it.

The purpose of assessing services against the standard ensures that we are meeting the user need for all users, that our services are safe and secure and that they are readily able to adapt, change and improve over time. You don’t need to be perfect to pass, but services do need to demonstrate that they are on track with each of the relevant criteria for the delivery stage they are in—alpha, beta or live. The Digital Marketplace has just undergone its beta assessment and has one remaining criterion to meet.

Meeting the standard in a government environment is challenging. Agencies have legacy environments, pressing deadlines, a diverse user base and complicated dependencies.

However, we see teams all over government making big efforts to change they way they work to better align with the standard. For many, this is going to take time and commitment to achieve and, for some, multiple attempts at meeting all criteria.

A service that does ‘not pass’ when it is assessed is provided with recommendations which help the team focus on what they need to do to meet the standard when they are reassessed.

Ideally, teams would start working on those remediations and come back for reassessment when they are ready. It would be great to see teams regularly reporting on how they are progressing on the criteria they haven’t yet met. At reassessment, we focus only on the ‘not passed’ criteria.

Today, we’ve published the beta assessment for the Digital Marketplace, which includes a ‘not pass’ for criterion 9. While the team has a working service with high take-up and lots of great feedback, they are still to demonstrate that they are able to meet all criteria.

Not passing an assessment should not be seen as a failure, it’s a first attempt in our learning. Assessment enables us to have rapid expert feedback on how we are going against the Standard and where the gaps might be.

Assessments are conducted at different stages of the product lifecycle, and allow incremental improvements to be made as the service is developed. In the beta stage a working product is trialed and enables the team to see how their product is used. They use this data to drive further improvement.

For the Digital Marketplace team, criterion 9 remains the last step to meeting the standard at the beta stage of delivery. Criterion 9 requires a digital service to be accessible to all users regardless of their ability and environment. Recommendations for the Digital Marketplace team are set out in their assessment report.