What we’re learning from HackIT Service Assessments

Service assessments are a central part of HackIT’s governance approach. In the last 18 months we’ve run more than a dozen and the Delivery team have also piloted GDS Service Assessor training to help skill up a pool of assessors. Last week we completed a service assessment of the beta stage of the Manage Arrears service. The assessment itself will be published in due course – what we’re sharing here is our experiences and the key lessons we’re taking away for next time…

Great prep is a great start: From the panel: Soraya put together a really good Trello board (building on an earlier version from the ‘redesigning content on the Hackney website’ project). It was really helpful extra context and a great example for future teams to crib from. Without this, we’d have struggled to get to grips with the detail we needed to make a useful assessment. Attending a couple of the show & tells in the run up would have given us a head start for the assessment without requiring much time from us and no extra effort from the project team – we’ll try this next time.

From the team: It was useful to start a Service Standard Assessment Trello board at the beginning of our phase to link evidence to each criteria periodically as the project progressed. This helped our team ensure that we were capturing supporting evidence, as well as creating a great service in the best way we could. As the approached, the Trello board reminded us that there were some aspects of the standards which we would not have a chance to fully implement. We had plans in place to implement these and were able to share these confidently but this was the difference between us getting a partially met and a fully met for many of our criteria. The learning here is to allow more time ahead of the assessment to execute actions. Try not to just have a plan, implement the plan! 

Keep some focus on the bigger picture:
From the panel: The team have a great product that they’re very passionate about but as assessors, we’d never seen the product close up before. Even with a great Trello board and some show & tells under our belts the panel still needs a brief overview of the end to end product and how the current phase fits in. Next time, I’ll take the time to remind a team in advance, of the importance of ‘showing the thing’ on the day – a really strong narrative and end to end demo are key to making sure the team sell all the benefits of their work.

From the team: As a team, we found this assessment invaluable. We learned that it is important not to assume that everyone is aware of what went on throughout the full project lifecycle, and to remember to set the narrative and background.  This was missing in our presentation and would have been a benefit as we would have shared more insight into the Discovery work from earlier phases which would have emphasised the overall service vision and journey.

Take some time to come to a decision:
From the panel: we made a conscious decision at the start of the session to conclude the assessment on the day which meant a nervy quarter of an hour at the end of the session while the panel reached a conclusion on each of the standards. With hindsight, it might have been beneficial to have delayed this and given the panel a bit more time to explore the detail of the Trello board before we made a decision and to allow the team to challenge some of our assumptions.

From the project team: Next time, I would definitely include some extra time after the scoring for questions. This would provide the assessors with an opportunity to clarify or ask questions about anything which they were unclear on. Also, it would offer the team a chance to question the outcomes. On this occasion, the team came away feeling slightly deflated because there was no opportunity to discuss and understand fully how some of the final scores were met. Since then, our lead assessor, Liz, has done a great job to add the reasons for the outcomes which are available on our Service Standard Assessment Trello board.

Maybe a consistent panel could be useful:
From the panel: We also reflected on the potential benefits of including some of the same panel for the next stage service assessment of this product. Some fresh eyes will be useful too but it could be beneficial to help appreciate whether some of our recommendations have taken root. We were really lucky to be joined by Jess from ACAS as our external assessor, who was new to assessing but who’d been on the other side of the table a couple of times before. She was able to offer challenge from her experience in central Government (where service assessments can act as gateways) but had enough experience of being in the project team’s shoes to ask probing questions in a supportive way.

From the project team: It would be good to use the same panel for this product’s next service standard assessment as they are aware of it and the recommendations that came from this assessment. They could see the product’s progress as well as question the outcomes of the last recommended actions. We had a great multi-disciplinary panel which included both external and internal assessors all of whom objectively evaluated our service and raised constructive feedback.

You can find links to all of the service assessments we’ve carried out on our HackIT site. Written by Liz Harrison and Soraya Clarke

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