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Being agile, developing for users

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital strategy, Start with user needs

Within the Web and Intranet Service (WIS) we're dedicated to improving the experience of users visiting the parliamentary website. As such, we carry out a continuous cycle of improvements in order to deliver changes, which we hope will make it easier for users to find information and better understand the work of Parliament, using the parliamentary website and associated digital platforms.

We are dedicated to meeting the needs of our users. To this end, we conduct user testing, monitor usage statistics and carry out regular surveys of website users in order to better understand user needs. We also work closely with teams from across both Houses in order to deliver changes that will help Parliament to realise its organisational objectives.

The Web and Intranet Service is supported in its work by Parliamentary ICT and, in particular, the Knowledge Applications and Web Development Teams. Working alongside both teams, we use a mixture of Agile techniques to manage the development and release processes.

As Senior Digital Project Manager, I oversee day-to-day project delivery within Web and Intranet Service and work with Parliamentary ICT on operational issues including the development cycle, testing and releases. One of the many aspects of my role, which I enjoy, is seeing developments through from their initial requirements capture to their live release.

Sprints are cycles of development work in which the developers action and deliver new website functionality and iterative changes. However, before work is developed, the Web and Intranet Service will create designs, outline the user requirements and acceptance criteria as well as facilitate the removal of blockers so that sprint tasks can be progressed.

The development cycle begins with the sprint planning meeting. In this meeting we sit down with the Web Development Team to agree the tasks for the forthcoming sprint. Once a task is agreed, the volume of work is estimated by the developers and accepted into the sprint. With the completion of sprint planning, the sprint can begin!

The start of a new sprint is always exciting as it’s an opportunity to kick off developments and the point at which we start to realise our designs and requirements. Once a sprint is under way, each morning, we convene - coffee in hand - for the stand-up meetings. It’s during these meetings that we discuss the progress of individual sprint tasks with the developers and identify any new blockers.

With the resolution of blockers and the sprint tasks completed, each sprint is concluded with a retrospective. This meeting is a fantastic opportunity for WIS and the Web Development Team to gather together to demo and reflect on completed sprint tasks, before the new sprint begins. We are always looking to improve our digital offer and this meeting is a valuable forum in which team members can view current work and exchange ideas for future developments.

By being agile, we are able to continually progress changes and maintain the momentum behind developments. It’s really satisfying to look back on some of the recent changes that we have been able to deliver to our users, including a new and improved website search, Find Your MP, the updated Committee landing pages, submission of written evidence as well as improved RSS and email alerting. We’ve also recently completed developments, working with third-party suppliers, such as the House of Commons Order Paper app and the Education pages. We know that we have further work to do but it’s great to see how much we have collectively managed to achieve to date. It’s exciting to look ahead to forthcoming projects and think about what we hope to accomplish together going forward.

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