On service assessments

Andrew Travers
2 min readNov 13, 2015


Five hours. Eighteen points. But it’s never just five hours. Always more.

At HMRC, before at any digital service goes for its full service assessment, whether that’s with GDS or not, we have a pre-assessment. We used to call these ‘mocks’. An unfortunate term, redolent of school desks equally spaced in an airless school hall, cramming, the anxious but diligent students, the breezy confident bluffers. We’ve stopped all that. Pre-assessment is more than a change of language but of perspective too. We’re there to assess, but to help too, to make sure that what we send on to full assessment has our collective endorsement and input.

I’m one of the people often to be found sitting on the other side of the table, part of a panel of three or four, a mix of roles and experiences, there to ask the questions that form part of the eighteen points that make up the digital service standard, our service standard.

I’m frequently in awe of the teams that I meet across that table. Of a service manager with an enclyclopedic knowledge of her service. Of a product owner with a sure hand and an ability to confidently guide a team. Of my own designers ability to tell the tale of a design, the hypotheses, the pathways explored and rejected, the search for a better way yet to get the thing done. Of our researchers ability to bring their work, and the people they speak to, to life and to evidence their needs as users. It’s a privilege to be part of this as a panel and get the in-depth story of a service and its users.

Like any good interview, we’re willing service teams to be great. Looking for opportunities for them to tell the story of their service to the best of their abilities, always appreciative of the effort involved.

Not all of those services get there of course, first time at least. But, as a discipline, those five hours spent in a service assessment are invaluable. An intense, exhausting experience, critical to the rigour of our work as government digital teams. Something I can only wish I’d experienced years ago, long before government. And wouldn’t ever give up.