Back in June & July 2012 we held a three-week Discovery with colleagues from GDS following a decision to choose the Integrated Enquiries Programme (IEP) as our first Digital Exemplar. I remember it well as my son was born the same time and the sleepless nights were kicking in. Little did I know that I would still be holding this baby over 2 years later!
IEP was being driven by our commitment to provide the insurance industry with access to driver data to speed up the process of applying for insurance and to provide more accurate quotes, with hopefully cheaper premiums for the honest motorist. The annual volume of predicted enquiries is huge, estimated at over 500 million, requiring a database that can cope with hit rates of up to 300 per second. This meant we had to build an enquiry platform that was robust, scalable and able to meet such a high volume demand.
To achieve this we decided to develop the platform using Open source technology (Mongo DB), working in an agile way using a blended team of DVLA, GDS, IBM, Fujitsu and as prime developer, an SME - Kainos. We also took the decision to host the database in the cloud (with Skyscape), in a secure IL3 environment, with support and maintenance brought in-house supported by Kainos. All of these were firsts for DVLA, all requiring patience, persistence and determination to deliver.
Whilst we understood that this was an exemplar project we had no idea what that meant. Right from the start this felt different, and it has remained that way ever since. I’ll always recall presenting the Discovery findings back to the Executive Team and listing all the blockers we faced – work space, procurement, equipment, resources, security and so on. One by one those blockers were faced and broken. The resourcefulness and persistence of Dudley and his Delivery team has been important to the success of the exemplar. Simple things like creating an agile workspace with whiteboards, post-it notes, TVs, and space for showcases were unheard of in DVLA. Now they are the norm. If the exemplar has achieved one thing it has helped change the culture of DVLA, not by developing a plan or a process or a presentation (although we have plenty of those!), but by doing things, and challenging the accepted way of working.
Early on we identified that one of our principal user needs was to provide individual motorists with simple access to their driving licence data. This would allow the licence holder to see what information DVLA had provided to their insurer and to reduce the amount of calls DVLA receive each year (almost half a million), asking for simple details such as “what vehicles am I allowed to drive” and “when do my points come off my licence”. This set us on the path of delivering the View Driving Licence (VDL) service that goes live today.
Blogging progress and capturing photos of a project was also something of a novel idea and again for DVLA we have led the way. This blog has captured many of the highs and lows as the exemplar has progressed so I won’t recall them all. However, one of the standouts was the moment we transferred live data from our system of record into the new enquiry platform. Getting that first record in there and making sure it was right was a big step and a huge achievement. Only 44million plus left to go!
Once loaded we were able to test and then launch the public beta of the View Driving Record service on 31 March this year. Part of the beta process is about refining processes, learning how to support a live service, gaining user feedback and proving capability to continuously improve. We have certainly done that. One of those changes has been re-naming the service in line with user feedback. A quick Google trends search suggests most users look for info on their driving licence; record suggests something more formal, and is hardly ever searched for.
Then finally, two months ago we met the GDS Digital by Default Live standard, which will allow us to remove our beta bannering and to become a fully live service today.
As we approached the GDS service assessment we needed to prove what the service would look like “in live”, including updates based on user feedback, a Cookies policy and a Welsh language version. We quickly pulled together a set of user stories, agreed wording, handed to our developer, tested on all devices and then sought acceptance from Ryan our Product Owner. The satisfying part was that the DVLA staff involved in the scrum team undertook the majority of this work. Whilst the skills and knowledge transfer are not yet fully complete this was an important milestone to prove the development of in-house capability and sustainability of the service.
It's worth noting that as VDL goes Live, we've also delivered an in-house replica service for our Call Centre agents to provide Assisted Digital support, the My Licence service to the motor insurance industry and we've linked to the GOV.UK Verify hub to allow driving licence documents to be checked for authenticity, supporting the GDS Document Checking Service. In other words, from our initial beta service, we have expanded to offer 3 other services and moved to live in the space of 6 months.
The work doesn’t stop here and we’ll continue to improve VDL in line with customer feedback. The wider enquiries programme will also continue apace, delivering new driver and vehicle enquiry services for an even wider range of users.