Becoming Beta

The ONS Alpha project has now officially drawn to a close after the successful passing of our voluntary GDS Service Assessment.

The Service Assessment is an interesting experience. Somewhere between a panel interview and a PhD viva it is a pretty intense couple of hours (three in our case) where you are really challenged to articulate your choices and decision making processes as much as anything. Even knowing the extent to which we had followed the roadmap outlined in the Service Manual for undertaking an Alpha it was still pretty nerve-wracking and while I was already very pleased (and proud) of the work the team had done the validation of passing this process is very welcome.

The assessment team were particularly impressed with our user focused approach and the extent of our user research – which again I’d like to thank everybody who has offered to help or taken part in some kind of activity for us over the last six months so. That said it has been recommended that we up our scheduled user testing even more – bringing it in line with every development sprint.This is going to need some planning – mainly from the point of view of recruiting participants but I think it is definitely worthwhile.

They also appreciated our commitment to an agile way of working with team members empowered at the right levels. They did feel, as did I, that we need to run more retrospectives so we will think about how to integrate that better in the future.

The feedback we gathered during the open consultation period of the Alpha is in the process of being categorised and analysed but it has already been immensely helpful and was incredibly positive. There was plenty of constructive criticism amongst the praise and people certainly identified some common areas that will require more thought but the general sense was that people liked the way it was shaping up and wanted to see more.

So now the planning begins for the Beta. If the Alpha was all about experimentation and testing theories the Beta is about building to last (and to scale). The approach will be the same though and we will continue to share our journey via this blog and will offer regular opportunities for interested parties to test the site as it evolves.