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Getting your ducks in a row

GDS assisted digital lead Alan Rider shares a few thoughts on preparing to have your support assessed against the digital service standard

Photo of rubber ducks in a row

When I talk to departments and services about assisted digital support for their users, they frequently ask how best to present the work they have been doing when they come to a digital service standard assessment.  They often have tight project deadlines to meet and there can be a lot riding for them on passing their assessment.

There is no need to panic.  The panel aren’t looking to catch you out, they just want to check that you are on track to move on to the next development phase.  The digital service standard requirements you will be asked about during the assessment are there to make sure your users get the support they need to successfully complete your digital service and ensure nobody is excluded from using it.  We know that’s what you want too.

Do the work

There is no point in coming in for an assessment if you haven’t got a thorough knowledge of your users and their support needs.  Depending on the phase being assessed, you will have used that in-depth knowledge to develop a support model to help them successfully use your service.  There is plenty of guidance on this published in the Service Manual and we have blogged on what assessors are looking for when it comes to your support for users.

There are a number of references to assisted digital in the set of questions you will receive ahead of your assessment, for Alpha Beta and Live stages, so make sure you have done the work required to answer these.  If there were any recommendations made on assisted digital support from a previous assessment, ensure you have those covered too.  You will very likely be asked about them.

Get your ducks lined up

We are all on the same side - that of the user - and the panel will want to ask you questions about your AD research and support plans, so be ready to talk about those.  You shouldn’t read from a script or bombard the panel with heaps of facts or lots of slides.  Be selective and choose the most relevant examples.  Simply talking about what you have done is good.  In fact, talking is great.

Photo of halloween ducks not on the assessment panel
It's a conversation not an interrogation

You should be ready to cover the following key points on your research into your users’ support needs (as set out in the service manual):

  • how you have carried out research with users of the specific service
  • how you have included potential users of the service  and not just current users
  • how your research included users with the lowest level of digital skills, confidence and access
  • how you also included users who get support from third parties like friends and family, charities, trade bodies and companies
  • and how you used appropriate recruitment and research methods to reach these users

Learn from others experience

Plenty  of other services will already have been through an assessment and you should draw on their experience. Have a look through this blog for examples from other services.  There are lots of them and we will be publishing more, along with advice on what makes good assisted digital support.  Sign up for alerts here to make sure you don’t miss anything.  If there are exemplar services in your department you could speak to them about what worked well.  Look through previous published assessment reports too.  They will give you an insight on what good support looks like and what the panel are looking for in an assessment.

Good luck!  Though if you have done the work and got all your assisted digital ducks in a row, you really shouldn’t need it!

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