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Learning alongside the Inside Government team

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team, GOV.UK

Getting departments and agencies ready for the move to GOV.UK isn’t just a job for GDS. John Ploughman, Digital Communication Manager for the Driving Standards Agency, talks about what it’s been like from their perspective.

Making the move to Inside Government has been a pretty big undertaking, and being among the first people in government to do it has meant that both ourselves and GDS have learned a lot. We’ve been working hard to make sure none of that learning goes to waste.

Explaining things once

Working with people who know what we’re trying to achieve means that, in a sense, a lot of the work has already been done for us. In the past, when we’ve had to source external suppliers, we’ve had very long conversations detailing specifications and requirements, things that every single department and agency has had to do separately until now.

In this case, the team at GDS came to us knowing a lot of what we needed to be able to do, so we could focus on the specific things that we needed that they hadn’t thought about.

Content fit for purpose

We were involved early enough that we could ensure the various content types on Inside Government were fit for our purposes, both for the work we do and for the Department for Transport on a wider basis.

We publish a lot of statistics about the work we do, and about driving tests, and in the original offering there wasn’t anything that could handle statistics as a distinct content type. We were able to raise that really early on, and work with GDS to build something that will do that for us.

Having people like Will Callaghan from the Inside Government team come out to talk to us meant we could explain that face-to-face really paid off for us. The biggest benefit of all of this has been that my team have been able to focus on writing useful, user-centred content, instead of learning about a brand new set of tools.

Documenting the lessons we’ve learned

Having the content management system evolve alongside these discussions has meant that it’s stayed fast and really easy-to-use. But where we have raised concerns, or asked Will and the others questions about how it works, the questions haven’t stayed within our teams.

It’s been a learning experience for all of us. Going earlier than a lot of other departments and agencies meant that we knew we’d be facing a lot of questions and bumps for the very first time, particularly things like importing data into the publishing system. But the publishing guide that the team produced for us contains answers for just about all the questions we’ve had, and that guide is available for all the other departments to use. All the learning has been documented, and it’s there for those who come next.

Giving GDS feedback to fold into the platform has been really good, and it’s nice to know that someone else might benefit from that further down the line.

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