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We’ve updated the Technology Code of Practice

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Technology Policy team stand-up
Technology Policy team

The Technology Code of Practice (TCoP) sets the standard for how government should design, build and buy technology.

We’ve been working this year to iterate it so that it provides the best and most relevant guidance to government. We blogged about this work earlier this year.

The updates we’ve made have now been approved by the Technology Leaders Network and the new version of the Code of Practice has just been published. It’s an important step forward for us, and the result of great teamwork and user testing.

Iterating together

Technology is always changing. We need to make sure that the Technology Code of Practice can also change to remain useful to departments.

The updates we’ve just made allow continuous iteration, and we expect that the Code of Practice will constantly evolve, and keep up when technology changes.

We also want to make sure that any updates are made in collaboration with the departments who use it.

How has it changed?

The Technology Code of Practice provides guidance for departments looking to transform their technology as part of the Government Transformation Strategy. It needs to be the very best that it can be, and as ever, we started our work by putting users first.

In the first round of user research we did over 40 interviews. We were keen to conduct these with regular users of the TCoP across as many government departments as possible.

We spoke to colleagues from the Cabinet Office, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions, and many more. We spoke to people in a variety of roles, including technical and commercial.

Within GDS, we spoke to colleagues from the Standards Assurance team and our technical architects.

The information they provided gave us what we needed to create new drafts. We then did further rounds of user research to make sure we were on the right track. We learned that users wanted:

  • clearer language
  • clear, relevant topics
  • additional technology guidance on each topic

Clear language

To make things simpler for our users, we have restructured the TCoP and made the language used to convey technical information as plain as possible.

We’ve also made it clearer how TCoP is used in the spend control process and why adhering to it is important. We hope that this will prevent it from being a tick-box exercise.

To improve navigation, we’ve used a consistent format for the information in each point. This includes a short definition, a benefits section, how to do it and related information/published guidance list.

Some aspects of transformation – such as integrating or adapting your technology – are complicated by the fact that each organisation has a unique infrastructure. So, we plan to include case studies showing how small, medium and large organisations have tackled similar issues. We’ll be doing additional user research to make sure the case studies are helpful and logically structured to be of greatest use for other organisations.

Tweaking topics

The people we interviewed weren’t always clear about what was meant by some of the previous topics in the TCoP. For example, some queried what we meant by 'demonstrate an end-to-end service' or 'make things interoperable'. They wanted the topics to be easy to understand as well as relevant.

Users were happy with the existing points in the TCoP, but felt that some of them could be rationalised. They also pointed out some gaps where new points could help with the challenges they were facing.

We’ve kept all the previous points, and merged a few of them by topic, such as commercial and procurement, to make it easier for users to find all related content. The Greening ICT Strategy is mentioned in the relevant points so it’s clear when considering environmental factors will have the most benefit.

We’ve also added two new points. The first is a point on data: how we use it and how to make better use of it. This is a huge topic which will have a lot more added to it over time, but we’ve started with some basic principles which can be built upon.

The second addition is about privacy and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force in May 2018. It brings together guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office and GDPR website, to help share this information.

More guidance please

Detailed guidance helps people as they make informed technology decisions. Our user research showed people wanted more detailed guidance across each point.

We also wanted to structure the guidance so it was easy to find and use. Up until now, guidance has been spread out across GOV.UK and other relevant sources, such as the National Cyber Security Centre website. This can make content difficult to find and increases the risk of duplication.

So, we’ve brought technology-related guidance together in one place, and broken it down by topics. We user-tested the topics to refine the navigation and make sure the content was presented in a clear and structured way. The alpha technology guidance navigation tool now has more than 300 pieces of specific guidance from across government, and this will be growing in future. We’ll also be iterating the navigation tool to make the user journey as good as possible.

What’s next

We’ll be increasing the depth of information available. We’re going to conduct a series of deep dives for each point, gathering together people from across government to provide input on what they need. We’ll use this to improve the TCoP further, find gaps in the available guidance that need filling, and develop case studies.

We’ve also refreshed the process for updating the TCoP. A cross-government peer review group has been set up to review and advise on changes, and new technology guidance. The aim is to update the TCoP more frequently to keep it as relevant as possible with the ever-changing technology.

We worked a lot with industry to develop the points in August 2016, and we’ll continue to do that to make sure we bring their insight and expertise into government.

Collaborating with our colleagues across government has been invaluable and given us fresh insight into the TCoP and its usage. We’re looking forward to working with them again in this next phase of developing the Technology Code of Practice.

Read the new Technology Code of Practice and follow GDS on Twitter.

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