GDS’ updated Service Standard comes into force — what does it mean?
The GDS' updated Service Standard – initially introduced in 2014 to help government create and run user-led digital services – has now come into force.
From 1 July, any new discovery work undertaken by government bodies needs to adhere to the new standards. At some point, services already in progress will transition to the updated standards but GDS says this is unlikely to happen before early 2020.
GDS published the updated Service Standard in May, reducing the number of conditions government services must meet in order to pass GDS assessment from 18 to 14. The 18-point Digital Service Standard had itself replaced 26 points from the first iteration in 2014, showing that there is continuous refinement to the conditions as we gain more experience from creating these services.
The vast majority of the underlying intent is the same. It’s still about building services iteratively, delivering value to users quickly, open-sourcing code and using common platforms.
One of the key aspects the revamped guidelines emphasises is the need to look beyond transactional services and towards joined up, end-to-end services that meet user needs.
“Not all services are part of a wider journey for the user," said GDS Content Lead Stephen Gill in a blog in May. "But if yours is, you should have a plan to iterate towards an end-to-end service that solves a problem the user would recognise.”
He added that the standard, which started life as a tool for central government teams working on public-facing transactions, can now be used by teams working in local authorities or for internal and non-transactional services too.
Five of the new conditions are almost identical to the previous standard; understand users and their needs; have a multidisciplinary team; use agile ways of working; iterate and improve frequently, and make new source code open.
Other conditions have been consolidated or tweaked to raise standards.
For example, the new rules require developers to “create a secure service which protects users’ privacy”, whereas the previous standard only asked developers to “understand security and privacy issues."
It also removes the compulsory need for services to be subjected to a ministerial test. Agile principles mean however the right people should know what is happening with the service. So service teams should test the service with the minister or relevant senior stakeholder "where appropriate and proportionate."