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Service assessments and applying the Service Standard

What happens at a service assessment

You may need to book a service assessment to check you’re meeting the Service Standard. You can check if you need an assessment if you’re not sure.

Your assessment will be run by a panel of experienced specialists from the government digital community. Panels are normally made up of 4 or 5 assessors, including a lead assessor, a user researcher, a designer and a technical lead. There might also be one or 2 observers, but they won’t ask questions.

Assessments usually last about 4 hours.

Setting up the room

You’ll have 30 minutes before the assessment to set up equipment, or get the room ready. Your digital engagement manager will help you with this.

You’ll need to bring your own food and drink with you.

Some departments run internal assessments slightly differently. Check with your department’s assessment lead to find out exactly what will happen at the session.

Preparing for the assessment

It can be tempting to spend a long time preparing for assessments.

But try not to over-prepare. Do just enough to make sure you can give an open and honest account of the work you’ve done and what you’ve built.

And remember that the panel aren’t there to catch you out. They’re there to offer a peer review of the work you’ve done and help you understand anything you’ll need to change or improve.

What to cover on the day

Spend the first 30 minutes of the assessment talking about and demonstrating what you’ve built. During that time, you’ll need to both:

  • give an overview of your service
  • walk the panel through the user journey

Give an overview of your service

In any assessment, it’s useful to start by briefly setting the scene. This usually means talking about the things you learnt during your discovery and alpha, including:

It’s also useful to explain any changes you made based on the feedback the service got at its previous assessment, if it had one.

You probably shouldn’t spend more than 10 minutes covering these issues.

Walk the panel through the user journey

Once you’ve explained what your service is and why you’re building it, spend 20 or so minutes walking the panel through what you’ve built.

You might not have time to show every screen, but you should be able to show any particularly important interactions.

And don’t just focus on the happy path: show what happens to users who aren’t eligible, or who can’t provide a piece of evidence at the right time.

Remember to talk about the whole user journey, including offline channels. This means explaining the processes that support staff need to follow to deliver the service, as well as the skills and capabilities they need to have.

At alpha, you don’t necessarily need to prototype the entire user journey. Just enough to test your riskiest assumptions. It might be worth bringing along a set of user needs or a rough journey map to your assessment too.

Answering questions from the panel

Once you’ve demonstrated your service, the panel will spend the remaining 2 to 3 hours asking questions about the decisions you’ve made and how you’ve built your service.

There’s no specific set of questions that a panel will ask during an assessment. It’ll differ depending on the service you’ve built and which development phase you’re in currently.

It’s a good idea to make sure you and your team are familiar with:

There’s also guidance on how assessors will apply the Service Standard.

Getting your result

Your service will be assessed as ‘met’ or ‘not met’. A met means that the service can continue to the next phase of development. A not met means the service needs to be reassessed against the points the service didn’t meet.

You’ll get a report containing your result and any recommendations within 3 working days of a GDS assessment. If your service is being assessed by your department, ask the assessment team when you’ll get your result.

What happens next depends on the result of the assessment, and the development phase your service is in.

Assessment reports

GDS will publish your assessment report on the GOV.UK Service Standard Reports page. You’ll have the chance to fact check it before it’s published.

Examples and case studies

Read the Department for Work and Pensions’ blog post on what the Secure Communications team learned from their alpha assessment.

You may also find the following guides useful:

Last update:

Added detail on how and what to prepare for a service assessment.

  1. Clarified guidance on what happens at a service assessment.

  2. Updated the address for GDS assessments to The White Chapel Building.

  3. Added link to 'How your assisted digital support will be assessed'.

  4. Guidance first published