https://dvsadigital.blog.gov.uk/2017/02/10/how-were-modernising-our-services-and-technology-at-dvsa/

How we're modernising our services and technology at DVSA

How we work at DVSA

DVSA’s purpose to help you stay safe on Great Britain’s roads. Modern services and technology are vital for us to do this.

We're on a journey to modernise how we work. We need to:

  • give our users (whether it's the public, businesses or our staff) up-to-date technology that they’re used to using elsewhere in their daily life
  • move from primarily outsourced contracts to services built in an agile way, using a combination of our own staff and vendors
  • have the right kind of support to keep the technology up-to-date and running smoothly

This blog post is a little longer than usual, but I wanted to set out the approach we're taking to do all of this.

The MOT testing service: an example

The work we’ve been doing with the MOT testing service is a really good example of how we’re modernising services and technology.

Our previous MOT solution was a fully outsourced, 10-year contract, which started in 2005. It included the mainframe backend, all software and dedicated garage hardware provided by the supplier.

Flexibility was limited – it was still a dial-up service in 2015 with only one garage refresh of hardware over 10 years, and no mobile support.

The service handles 42 million MOT tests and supports over a billion pounds of garage transactions annually.

So a valuable workhorse, hampered by outdated and dangerously ageing kit.

Moving from outsource to in source

As these types of legacy contracts come to an end, we’re moving to a different way of working. We’re using shorter contracts, and splitting them up for different parts of our technology.

Running, improving and overall control of the service remain within DVSA.

We’ve used the Digital Marketplace to find people and technology that we need. That’s why we recently held an event to help Digital Outcomes and Specialist suppliers to explain what we’re doing, why and how they can become part of our modernisation journey.

Using agile

Before our outsourced contract for the MOT testing service ended, we used an agile model to develop the new digital service.

We started with a minimum viable product release and then delivered constant, regular improvements to the software based on feedback from users.

Improving user experience

With regular reviews and approval, we’ve been able to introduce more flexibility and a quicker pace of change to the software we provide to MOT testers.

With 80,000 users and almost 23,000 garages using the service, it was important to give them the freedom to access the software from whatever device or computer suited their needs.

Right kind of technology support

After an independent assessment of cloud technology providers, we selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the right technology partner for the MOT service.

The service was the first national government service to be hosted at scale on AWS.

The production environment was built in 10-weeks and ‘cut-over’ in a single weekend. It was higher risk than I would have liked, but necessary to ensure that the service was on the right path for the next phase of the journey.

I spoke at the AWS Summit London in 2016 about this. You can watch the keynote on YouTube to find out more.

Right kind of people support

We need a tight-knit multidisciplinary team to deliver our technology projects.

Collaboration was initially a challenge, but the multi-vendor, blended delivery team, with external suppliers and staff combined is now working together effectively.

As we launched the new MOT testing service, we also launched the service desk to support the service and its users. We call it the ‘technical support service’.

It has a core group of 18 people, but we’ll be scaling it in the future, as it starts to support new services, such as applying for and managing vehicle operator licences.

That’s why it was important to get internal approval for over 20 new heads to join the digital team.

We ran our first digital graduate recruitment campaign recently. The recruitment of the right people remains a challenge, so the contribution of the technical support service is important.

Running smoothly

We use the technical support service for 2 main things:

  • providing incident and change management for MOT testers (it's 2nd line technical support and handles around 300 support tickets per month)
  • managing the production environment to ensure software updates are fit for purpose and will be successful

The technical support service has the authority to challenge a release if it doesn't meet the required criteria. It takes over after the development team has delivered a release candidate, doing acceptance and performance testing.

Over 180 software releases in 16 months

New software updates are typically released on a Wednesday night - there have been over 180 releases since September 2015. Downtime has been kept to out-of-hours.

We’re developing our ‘blue-green deployment’ approach. This is a release technique that reduces downtime by running 2 identical production environments called ‘blue’ and ‘green’.

At any time, only one of the environments is live, and releases are first deployed to the ‘idle’ environment, before switching all the traffic to it, and doing the same on the other environment.

This will let us release updates without any downtime in the coming months.

Continuous improvement

This new, agile way of delivering updates means users are seeing improvements to the service much more regularly than they did with the old solution.

The government’s aim is to move towards more agile, short-term, less rigid contracts. I think the MOT modernisation programme is a great example of this working successfully.

In a recent Government Digital Service peer review, they concluded that MOT is one of the best agile projects they have seen in flight in government to date. They said it can be seen as an exemplar of the benefits of working collaboratively in an agile way.

The work of the MOT modernisation programme was recognised by the Civil Service Operational Delivery Profession as making an exceptional contribution to operational delivery.

DVSA MOT modernisation programme Operational Delivery Profession Award
A Civil Service Operational Delivery Award was presented to the MOT modernisation programme

Our journey continues

We’ve now started a similar modernisation journey for our driver and rider services (such as booking driving tests and managing driving instructor registrations), and commercial vehicle testing. They’ve both been outsourced for many years.

With our first digital graduate recruitment successfully under our belt, we will continue this on a regular basis, to ensure we have the right people in place to support our work for years to come.

And we will hold regular supplier days to explain to potential vendors how we need their services to support us on our journey.

If you enjoy this type of work, why not join our team? We're currently recruiting for a number of roles.

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