Find an energy certificate alpha re-assessment

The report from the alpha re-assessment for MHCLG's Find an Energy Certificate service on the 13/06/2019.

From: Government Digital Service
Assessment date: 13/06/2019
Stage: Alpha
Result: Met
Service provider: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Service description

The Energy Performance Registers are the means by which the government decided to comply with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EU Directive 2010/31/EU). The aim of the directive is to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Legislation requires that an Energy Performance Certificate is produced when a residential building is sold or rented. Buildings occupied by public authorities need to display an EPC (referred to as Display Energy Certificates (DECs)).

Citizen users search for certificates and/or energy assessors; Energy assessors submit assessments to the registers to generate certificates; and data users require access to EPC data to comply with legal requirements and for academic purposes.

Service users

  • Homeowners
  • Tenants
  • Energy assessors

1. Understand user needs

Decision

The service met point 1 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team can talk confidently about user’s needs and motivations, and are considering the service based on the clear but diverse needs of different kinds of users of the service
  • the team introduced moderated testing in their research and have been speaking to and testing with users that fall in the assisted digital spectrum and also users who use assistive tools to go online
  • the team confidently spoke about how most of the design changes have been made as a result of user research feedback

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • ensure that accessibility testing is conducted with users who are subject expert/non subject expert
  • make the code accessible and open
  • be able to demonstrate and show that users can go through the journey unaided and where users struggle there is robust support in place to help
  • continue to explore where users would go for help if they struggle and what changes could be made to the service journey so users can go through unaided where possible

2. Do ongoing user research

Decision

The service met point 2 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team are speaking to a range of diverse users
  • the team have included users falling in assisted digital spectrum and users who use assistive tools in all their rounds of testing.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • be able to show a timeline of planned ongoing research
  • make it clear that they have a plan in place of what they will be testing next and why
  • plan ongoing user research sessions

3. Have a multidisciplinary team

Decision

The service met point 3 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team addressed the main concerns expressed at the previous Alpha assessment around having a multidisciplinary team in place
  • the team have a plan and ambition to build an effective and blended team of Civil Servants and Contractors for the beta

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • agree and define how the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of the Service Owner and the Product Manager with regards to running the service (in Beta), planning, prioritisation and decision making
  • continue to ensure that the team has a Technical Architect, Product Manager and Delivery Manager who are civil servants

4. Use agile methods

Decision

The service has previously met point 4 of the Standard.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • focus on establishing and embedding strong processes and approaches to planning and prioritisation
  • ensure that there is effective governance in place according to agile governance principles set out in the Service Manual
  • establish strong processes for effective technology development.

5. Iterate and improve frequently

Decision

The service has previously met point 5 of the Standard.

6. Evaluate tools and systems

Decision

The service has previously met point 6 of the Standard.

7. Understand security and privacy issues

Decision

The service met point 7 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team has demonstrated a good understanding of the issues around security and data protection. While platform security is expected to be ensured by the cloud provider, the developers are aware of the need to monitor it nonetheless to determine any anomaly not caught by default, or relating to the service itself. The team appeared to experienced in running similar types of services, which gives confidence that modern practices will be used for beta. The team presented a good analysis of the privacy issues that come with the type of data handled by the service.

8. Make all new source code open

Decision

The service has previously met point 8 of the Standard.

9. Use open standards and common platforms

Decision

The service has previously met point 9 of the Standard.

10. Test the end-to-end service

Decision

The service met point 10 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team are familiar with the need to test the service with nearly all the browsers users will be expected to use, whether it’s standard browsers (including older versions, as listed in the service manual) or assisted technologies; the panel is confident that the service will be widely tested so most users will be able to use it
  • the team has brought in new technical members who have worked on the updated alpha and are expected to continue the development of the service through beta
  • the technical discussions that preceded the assessment, as well as the presentation during it, convinced the panel that the team now have the capacity to ensure the continuity needed to transition the service from the alpha prototype to a proper beta service

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • be more advanced on the choices that have to be made for beta- in particular, extracting the data from the legacy system should have been investigated deeper, in order to establish if building a replacement service reusing that data is possible at all

There is now little doubt that the technical team have the capacity to perform that investigation, as well as to start forming hypotheses as to how the new system would be built (platform, language, architecture). Even if some of those hypotheses will probably be invalidated eventually, now is the time to establish a starting point. While the previous tech team did produce an acceptable document to that purpose, the panel would very much welcome seeing a similar plan for the new tech lead, reflecting those initial choices, and more in line with the recommendations from the Service Manual and the GOV.UK technology code of practice.

11. Make a plan for being offline

Decision

The service met point 11 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team presented a complete plan for handling downtime- whether short-term, long-term, planned or unplanned; the plan will probably evolve with any technical choice made during the beta phase, but the panel is pleased that a satisfactory default exists

12: Make sure users succeed first time

Decision

The service met point 12 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • the team has started iterating regularly based on regular user research
  • the team has thought about an approach to including users with access needs in the regular research cycles, and carrying out research with low digital skills
  • there is a designer and content designer in the team which allows quicker iteration and ability to try more ideas about how to find the certificate and what the certificate contains
  • the team is exploring linking up with BEIS’ similar Simple Energy Advice service

As a service, prioritising the journeys for end-users (renters, house sellers and buyers) make sense and as the beta continues, the team should start to look at other users in the service, such as data users and assessors, and find out what else needs to be built for their needs.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • drive the development of the service and prioritisation from user research
  • continue to explore where this service sits within larger journeys for users (eg buying a house), and link up with other services where necessary
  • design with data - understand what data is in the service and think about what useful information this can be turned into for users
  • understand the needs of the data users of the service, and what needs to be built for them

13. Make the user experience consistent with GOV.UK

Decision

The service has previously met point 13 of the Standard.

14. Encourage everyone to use the digital service

Decision

The service has previously met point 14 of the Standard.

15. Collect performance data

Decision

The service has previously met point 15 of the Standard.

16. Identify performance indicators

Decision

The service has previously met point 16 of the Standard.

17. Report performance data on the Performance Platform

Decision

The service has previously met point 17 of the Standard.

18. Test with the minister

Decision

Point 18 of the Standard does not apply at this stage.

Published 23 July 2019