Government Service Standard aims to ensure ‘joined-up experience across channels’

Written by Sam Trendall on 14 September 2018 in News

Guidelines due to be published in the coming weeks will expand the focus of service design beyond the digital realm

The new Government Service Standard is nearing the publication of a final draft, the Government Digital Service has announced. The redesigned document will focus on ensuring government designs end-to-end services that take user needs as their starting point and offer citizens “a joined-up experience across different channels”.

The new standard will supersede – and rebrand – the existing Digital Service Standard. The process of redesigning the rules began just over a year ago.

The current standard is an 18-point checklist and the new guidelines will “consolidate some points and remove a couple altogether”, according to a blog post from Stephen Gill, content lead for service design and standards at GDS.

The streamlining in some places will allow the standard to add points in other areas. These additions will focus on ensuring services are designed as “joined up, end-to-end services” – rather than discrete transactions.

“We want to make it standard practice for teams to talk during service assessments about how they’re addressing challenges that make it difficult to meet user needs,” Gill said. “In particular, the challenges they have with: making a transaction part of a wider service that solves a whole problem for users (even when that means working across organisational boundaries); delivering a joined-up experience across different channels; internal systems and processes; [and] technology platforms.”

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The service will make allowances for the fact that some obstacles faced by service designers – such as existing contracts, legislation, or legacy infrastructure – may not be easily or quickly soluble. But, in these cases, design teams will be expected to “explain the long-term plan to address the issue [and] explain how they’re working around it in the meantime”, Gill said.

The new standard will also sharpen its focus on inclusivity, and will aim to take account of not only disability, but also how users’ life circumstances might impact access to the service.

Gill said: “For example, if you’re asking for proof of where someone lives, have you considered the needs of someone who does not have a fixed address?”

The format of the standard will also undergo a revamp that will see each point feature a longer explanation of its significance and why the creators of the guidelines believe it will ultimately improve services.

Although the Government Service Standard will feature various removals, additions, and changes the broad aim will be to ensure designers “keep doing what they’re doing”.

“We’ll still ask service teams to make services that are simple to use, accessible and secure to make sure people can still get assisted digital support if they need it,” Gill said. “We’ll still promote open standards and ask service teams to open source new code. And we’ll still ask service teams to avoid locking in particular technology solutions, reuse patterns and components where possible, and to automate what can be automated.”

Having been first introduced in 2015 and rejigged the following year – when the initial 26 points were trimmed to the current total of 18 – the standard has remained unaltered for more than three years. But, in the future, GDS wants to “make smaller, more frequent updates” to the document, according to Gill.

Future revamps will see GDS considering more closely the needs of colleagues in other disciplines across government.

“In particular, we want to work with the operational delivery and policy professions to develop a joined-up view on how the process of creating and operating services should work,” Gill said. “And we want to draw on their expertise to provide more concrete guidance on things like designing for non-digital channels.”

The new standard is due to be published sometime this autumn. It will come into effect “a couple of months” thereafter. Services to have already passed alpha assessments before the standard is published – or those whose assessments take place during the grace period – can continue to work to the existing Digital Service Standard.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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