We want GOV.UK Notify to be the public sector’s first choice for sending messages. Common components like Notify make it easier for government to deliver better digital services.
Here’s how we plan to deliver our vision.
Approaching product growth strategically
In early 2020 the world changed dramatically with the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The pandemic also transformed GOV.UK Notify’s product growth.
Setting up a service on Notify is quick and easy, with no need for procurement or funding. Because of this, many public sector services used Notify to support their rapid response to the pandemic. Nearly 2,000 services started using our product in 2020. Notify sent all the COVID test results and vaccination reminders, and we saw our transaction volumes increasing by up to ten times.
Whilst this growth was great for our product and for public outcomes, it created a lot of reactive work and support. Our team was under a lot of pressure to keep Notify safe, reliable and performing.
Since February 2021, growth has normalised and our annual rate of growth is around 30%. So that we can continue to offer a great product for the best value for money, we need to be more targeted and considered in our work.
In the last year we’ve updated our product strategy, which sets the direction for Notify’s growth. The strategy is helping us to prioritise and support choices about our focus.
Our product strategy has three broad goals:
Goal 1: Scaling our operations to match our growth
When we first started this work, our operations weren’t scaled effectively to support the growth from the past few years. For example, we had to support users to complete simple manual tasks. This distracted us from being able to focus on the truly value-adding product work.
To achieve this goal we will:
- Let users set their own branding for emails and letters (read our blog post).
- Allow users with special organisational permissions to make services for their organisation live.
- Make it easier for users to find answers that they need by transforming our product documentation.
- Replatform our applications to a new hosting provider as GOV.UK PaaS is getting decommissioned by the end of this year.
- Allow users to complete basic tasks without our support (for example, changing authentication methods or receiving inbound SMS).
We’ve already completed a lot of this work and are starting to see a reduction in support tickets.
Goal 2: Maintaining a great service and improving our features to retain existing users
From engagement with our users and research such as our annual satisfaction survey, we know that overall our users are happy with our product. We are also aware of some improvements that we need to make to our features.
To achieve this goal we will:
- Give users some more flexibility and features when sending emails and letters with Notify. This includes things like better support for our Welsh users, additional formatting and components, sending out emails from outside of the gov.uk domain.
- Help our users better understand their use of Notify by improving our reporting and data capabilities.
- Support our users, especially those who might not have access to content design to write better notifications (read our blog post).
- Ensure we continue to deliver best value for money by providing the most competitive price to offer SMS notifications that meet our stringent technical, performance and security requirements. We never make any profit from sending messages, and we spend a lot of effort and time in getting the best deal from the mobile telecommunications market. Getting this right is as important as ever in the context of growing wholesale prices for text messages.
Work on this mission is also underway and we hope to be able to share more about some of the exciting improvements to our notifications soon.
Goal 3: Growing our product proposition to attract new users
Whilst we’ll continue to support our steady organic growth, we also want to extend Notify’s reach to services whose needs Notify does not currently meet. In particular - and in line with GDS’s wider strategy - we want to meet the needs of high-volume central government teams and those users with low or no access to Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) capabilities.
As part of this mission we might do mini-discoveries and explorations into new functionality like integrations with other channels, more complex two-way communication, as well as integrations with other GDS products, such as GOV.UK Forms.
We may find there is little or limited value in some of these improvements. If so, we will stop and focus on something else.
This strategy is based on what we know now. We will continue to iterate and adapt it based on what we discover. If you want to find out in more detail what we’re working on now, you can check out our public roadmap.
We want to make sure that our work meets user needs and, where possible, is co-designed with our users. If you’d like to be involved in shaping the work we’re doing, please join our Slack community or get in touch with us.
This table shows the growth in number of services and organisations on Notify since 2016:
|Date||Number of services||Number of organisations|
|End of 2016||24||14|
|End of 2017||127||52|
|End of 2018||515||152|
|End of 2019||1540||463|
|End of 2020||3715||919|
|End of 2021||5349||1212|
|End of 2022||6931||1431|
|21 March 2023||7343||1488|