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How service assessments work
The service you’re building may have to be assessed, either by the Government Digital Service (GDS) or by your own department (or parent department if you’re in an agency).
When your own department does the assessment, it’s called a ‘self-certification assessment’.
Check if you need to get your service assessed and who’ll do the assessment.
Why service assessments matter
If your service meets the conditions that mean it has to be assessed, you must pass 3 service assessments to demonstrate you’re building it in a way that meets the Digital Service Standard.
Benefits of service assessments
Service assessments allow you to:
- get feedback about the service you’re building from a panel of experts
- solve problems with your service while you build it and reduce the risk of bigger problems happening later
- share your knowledge and learn more about how to build services
- promote the work you’re doing
Why GDS assesses services
GDS assesses services to:
- make sure they all meet the service standard
- protect the quality of GOV.UK
- associate GOV.UK with high quality public services
Who to bring to a service assessment
If you’re a service manager, you must attend all service assessments. You can choose 4 people from your team to come with you.
You should pick the 4 people who you think are best able to answer questions about your service.
Most services bring a user researcher and a technical architect, but you can choose to bring whichever 4 people you want.
Who runs service assessments
Who runs your service assessment will depend on whether it’s assessed at GDS or in your department.
Assessments at GDS
At a GDS assessment, your service will be assessed by a panel, usually made up of people from GDS. GDS assessments take place at Aviation House in London.
Assessments at a department
At a department assessment, your service will be assessed by a panel of GDS-trained assessors. The department that’s leading the development of the service will run the assessment.
The assessment panel will decide whether your service passes, with the leading department’s digital leader making the final decision on whether your service can move on to the next development stage.
What you have to do at an assessment
At both GDS and department assessments, your service team needs to:
- give a brief overview of the service
- demonstrate the service by walking the panel through an end-to-end transaction
- answer questions from the panel, demonstrating how the service meets the service standard
Read the Digital Service Standard and the individual pages for each point to find out more about what you’ll have to discuss, show or explain.
Getting your results
The panel will give your service one of the following results:
- didn’t pass
- didn’t pass with a recommendation that the service stop development
When you get GDS assessment results
You should get your assessment results within 3 working days, in an email sent to you and the digital leader that’s responsible for the service you’re building.
When you get self-certification results
The time it takes to get self-certification results after an assessment will vary depending on the department.
Ask the assessment panel when they expect to send you the result.
After you get your results
Your next steps will depend on which phase your service is in.
If your service passes an alpha assessment
If your service passes an alpha assessment you may need to apply to GDS for approval to spend money on beta and live phases - this is part of a process called ‘spend controls’. Check if you need to apply for this spend approval.
If you apply for approval to spend money on your service and your application is rejected, GDS will explain what evidence you must give to get the funding.
If your service passes a beta assessment
If your service passes a beta assessment, you’ll be able to launch it publicly with beta branding on GOV.UK.
If your service passes a live assessment
If it passes a live assessment, you can remove the beta branding, along with any warnings on the GOV.UK start page.
If your service doesn’t pass
If your service doesn’t pass, the panel will give you feedback and recommendations on how to change what you’re doing so your service meets the standard.
You’ll then have to get your service assessed again. The panel will tell you whether it needs a full reassessment or just a check that you’ve fixed the points it didn’t pass.
If the panel decides your service doesn’t meet the standard for 1 or 2 themes (eg user research and analytics) you’re more likely to have to go to a partial reassessment.
If your service had many more problems, or it’s been a long time since your service’s original assessment, you may have to get it fully reassessed. You may be able to do a reassessment by video conference.
If your service doesn’t pass the beta assessment, it usually won’t appear on or be linked from GOV.UK.
After you’ve got your result, GDS will publish a report of the assessment on the GDS data blog.
GDS will send you the report to read before it goes live, so you’ll have a chance to discuss any issues you have with what it says.
Examples and case studies
To learn more about how service assessments work, you can:
- see what GDS has learned from doing service assessments
- find out what the Department for Work and Pensions learned from their alpha assessment
- learn how the Ministry of Justice approaches service assessments
You may also find these guides useful: