https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2014/04/07/the-performance-platform-open-for-business/

The Performance Platform: open for business

The Performance Platform is a tool for government to answer the question ‘how are we doing?’. At present, the important facts are not accessible to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

If you're responsible for a government service, and you'd like to use the platform as a tool to help you, please do get in touch by leaving a comment below or by emailing performance@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk

The problem

Government is a large organisation, and the distance between the user and the people with responsibility for public services can often feel enormous.

Currently, we usually measure the performance of projects and policies manually. This involves many members of staff compiling documents, spreadsheets and slide decks, circulating progress summaries by email, and supporting decisions.

Most of the data isn’t classified or commercially confidential. But, if you’re not on the right email lists, or in the right meetings, you don’t get to see that data. Requests for routine information can take days to reach the right people. Bad news can take even longer to travel.

When, at last, that information arrives - sometimes as a regular report of of sixty pages or more with a glittering selection of charts and tables - it may obscure rather than answer the question what is to be done?

Progress

The Performance Platform is an attempt to build an automated, accessible, and actionable tool to give service managers and other users the information they need to make public services better.

Last year, we built about a dozen dashboards to connect a variety of services to the Platform. This was an opportunity to experiment with different ways to tackle the problem. To connect a new service required technical expertise and quite a lot of time.

This year is different. We are busy building the architecture that will support hundreds of services, and which will allow departments and services to connect their services to the Platform themselves.

We will release full documentation, as well as new tools to automate much of the configuration of the dashboards soon.

We have begun to work with a range of commercial partners, like Equal Experts and ScraperWiki, who can help departments to connect their systems if they need technical help.

For a live service to pass the Digital Service Standard, it will need to be connected to the Performance Platform. We are working with service managers to ensure that this isn’t a tick-box requirement, but a useful tool for their work.

If you have suggestions about the functions or data that would be most helpful for you to see, or if you'd like to work with us to connect your service to the platform, please do get in touch using the email address above or by leaving a comment below.

Efficiency through transparency

There may be a few concerns about presenting unvarnished facts about performance in public. I would urge courage - for three reasons:

  • if there is bad news it is better to know about it quickly, when it can still be addressed. If you’re responsible for a public service, the performance platform could be the most helpful tool you have for finding out headline facts quickly, without having to ask.
  • service performance will often be positive. Transparently presenting the facts is a great way of communicating the quality of public service management inside and outside the civil service.
  • in general, the performance of public services is a minority interest sport. The novelty of data transparency has now largely worn off. There is nothing sensational about seeing yesterday’s user satisfaction figures, or the weekly service completion rates.

Coming soon

This year we want to support service managers by making information on all major government services available through the Performance Platform on phones, tablets, through an open and documented API, and a presentation view for large monitors. Also, actively pushing information to service managers using alerts.

You’ll be able to compare between services, and perhaps even to forecast future trends. And you’ll be able to embed the data wherever you need to - like in this blog post for example.

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4 comments

  1. Will

    Hear hear! It's posts like this that make me optimistic for the future.

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  2. James Mullarkey

    Hi there

    I love the performance platform - great work.

    I guess what I really want to know is what tools you used to build it, how it was put together and if there are plans to release all this info as a download like you did with data.gov.uk?

    Thanks

    James

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    • James Abley

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment. Most of the tools that we used to build it are available on our public github account. Our puppet setup for the development team lists the relevant git repositories. Some parts aren't public; these are the bits which contain things like passwords.

      We've talked a little bit about how it works on the GDS Data blog.

      Allowing data downloads is still an area that we're exploring. We've recently added links on the individual visualisation pages to download the data as JSON. We'll be collecting data on the usage of this feature. We can then work out whether there are other needs to meet in this area, or better ways to meet those needs.

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