Ministry of Justice GOVUK Exemplar 23

The UK Government is delivering a number of 'Digital Exemplars' as part of its Digital by Default strategy. Employment Tribunals Fee is one of the Government's 25 'exemplar digital services', delivered by Jadu.

Project challenges

The project was full of challenges including:

  • A ministerial and legislative deadline to deliver the service, making the schedule the principal constraint.
  • A number of service integrators and other third parties involved.
  • The data security requirements were IL3 making release and testing requirements much more time consuming.
  • Policy changes on the Employment Tribunals form that represented last minute changes and inflexibility on the user experience. Experience of Agile within MoJ was limited and many business users were not familiar with Agile project techniques.
  • Potentially massive savings on the £74m costs to the UK Taxpayer has huge dependency on a high quality IT system being delivered (media reaction to IT failure would have significantly amplified the political sensitivity and national media reaction).

Agile in Government

As well as a mandate to run IT projects Agile within Government, there is also a desire to buy through the Government's G-Cloud and procure from SMEs.

Agile was used to carve a path to delivering more projects like this in the Ministry of Justice (much as the Government Digital Service are doing).

The Agile solution and how it was executed

The Ministry of Justice required an online form with the ability to take payments in a secure way, using IL3 data management policies. The system had to be ITHC (IT Health check) accredited and include a full workflow and management system for fee groups and transactions. The system also had to integrate with a number of legacy systems including Oracle Financials and a number of older case management systems at the MoJ.

The solution needed to be delivered within a very short time frame (18 one week sprints) in order to meet a ministerial deadline. Once the team were assembled, user stories were written (captured using Pivotal Tracker) and acceptance criteria created for each story.

A product owner was established at MoJ and at Jadu, both of whom worked closely to make key decisions. They communicated on a daily basis to prioritise user stories and trade stories as priorities changed throughout the course of the project. This provided flexibility in being continually able to adjust the scope and the feature set of the software re-adjusting priorities as required. 

A test strategy was also developed and the team established a Definition of Done that included:

  • Code - meeting conventions, peer reviews, unit tests, etc.
  • Form changes - documentation, change audit and versioning.
  • Testing - story meets requirements, manual test case results, migration and rollback tests, user tests, regression, etc.
  • Documentation - Technical tests, User and usability tests, Acceptance criteria, Unit test results and automated test results, etc.
  • Deployment - code versioning and deployment to the various environments.

At the end of each week, a sprint demo was recorded and shared with the project team and HMCTS Employment Tribunals board. This was part of a strategy to rapidly establish high visibility for the solution as it was being developed.

These videos were recorded by the developers and testers involved in each feature so any member of the team or senior management at MoJ could see the product releases on a weekly / sprint by sprint basis.

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The agile approach created a team spirit that meant the risk of 'adversarial' relationships common to traditional waterfall projects was completely removed, enabling the team to focus on the end users experience, members of the public using the new digital service.

The benefits of the solution

Moving government services to Digital by Default is an essential objective to modernising government.

With many IT projects in the Public Sector failing to deliver value, it is essential that the Government pro-actively promotes better ways of working.

This project, as well as an exemplar for Government Digital Services is also an exemplar for IT project delivery using Agile.

The service is available on the GOV.UK website:

Improved service

With an agile project approach, the service delivered:

  • A 24/7 public service online, replacing an expensive paper based service, delivered to all devices.
  • Introduction of online payments for the service.
  • A much more secure data management process.
  • Removal of duplication, error and expensive manual processing, representing massive savings for Government.

The importance to Government

This project in itself provides the Government with an exemplar agile delivered solution that:

  • Was delivered by a UK based SME.
  • Was procured through G-Cloud at a value of £1.5m.
  • Was delivered Agile resulting in an on time, on budget project.
  • Has provided the MoJ with a template for success in agile.
  • Provides Government with a case study and proof that Agile in Government can work.

The service was launched on the 27th July, two days ahead of the deadline. A well rehearsed launch led to a very high quality service being delivered.

The platform will be iterated with regular releases and the focus will be in working towards meeting the 'Digital by Default' service standard

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