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Developers lead cross-government collaboration on GOV.UK Notify

The Department for International Trade data team is gathered around a conference table.

How it started

A mission team in the Digital, Data and Technology team (DDaT) at the Department for International Trade (DIT), supporting Data Hub (DIT’s customer relationship management system), has been working to improve the accuracy of the information that Data Hub holds about businesses.

We’ve helped users save time that would otherwise be spent manually updating records by linking company records in Data Hub with trusted external registers of businesses. If a user cannot find a good match in the list of existing company records on Data Hub, then they are invited to submit an investigation. This investigation is then forwarded onto a third party data supplier.

The process explained

Every night, Data Hub produces spreadsheets containing the new record requests created that day. Data Hub then emails the spreadsheets as a .csv file to the data supplier. The information in the spreadsheets is used to check that the business exists and, if it does, the data supplier creates a record for that business.

The new information is then added to the spreadsheets, including a unique ID, and they are sent back to the Data Hub team by email. These unique IDs are added to the relevant Data Hub company records, establishing the link with the new company records. This link enables us to automatically update the company records by API.

Driving innovation through communication

DIT uses the GOV.UK Notify service to provide the .csv file to the data supplier customer service team. When suppliers downloaded these files, they were being saved as .txt files. However, the third party data supplier cannot interpret a .txt file. So the DIT development team approached their counterparts in GDS using the cross-government Slack channel and had a conversation!

The .csv files being saved as .txt files was a known issue to the Notify team, also affecting other users. It was in their enhancement backlog but unfortunately not in scope to work on any time soon. The DIT team developed and proposed a solution which required 4 pull requests (PRs) across 3 different repositories. It required collaboration between DIT and GDS developers and the Notify content lead. 

Delivery of the project

The code has now been deployed and DIT can email the files in a format that is helpful to conduct an investigation. All users of the Notify service can now send .csv files successfully as a result of this enhancement too - you’re welcome!

View our code

The beauty of government working is that we code in the open, so if you want to see the initial proposal through to the result then please look at our documentation on Github.

Special thanks go to our fabulous and innovative developers, who are exemplars of open government working. If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about DIT’s work, please visit our Digital Trade Blog.

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