UK Home Office
Developing digital services to deliver life-changing decisions faster
Around the world, millions of people are on the move. And while many are taking up opportunities to work and study, others are fleeing war and persecution. For those at the UK Government’s Home Office who process the growing number of visa and asylum applications, digital services will make the application process more efficient, as well as keeping the UK safe and secure.
To make these digital services a reality, the Home Office, responsible for managing immigration into the UK, required an expert and experienced digital delivery partner to enhance its Person Products capability. The aim was to enable the Home Office to realise its vision of a coherent and expandable set of digital services that make the end-to-end management of people accessing Home Office systems quicker and easier.
These products and services cover everything from identity capture and verification, person search and summary views, to person update services. Person Products’ importance lies in the fact it supports over three million visa applications and supports caseworkers in making millions of decisions every year on who has the right to visit or stay in the UK.
- Led a digital workforce to define, develop, and continuously enhance a set of digital, person-related products.
- Adopted a product-centric approach to ensure development focused on meeting multiple user needs.
- Leveraged the latest technology services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to deliver future-fit digital products.
- Ensured Person Products is digital-first, meaning services can be re-used rather than re-invented, thus ensuring long-term support costs were significantly reduced.
- Played an instrumental part in enabling modern digital technology to transform the way people interact with the Home Office’s immigration platform.
Mobilising a digital, agile workforce
Having an existing relationship and a proven track record of delivery in the Home Office, our team had a deep understanding of the client landscape and technologies including across the Migration and Borders Technology Portfolio (MBTP), making us the obvious partner to take on this challenge.
In response to the Home Office’s need for digital delivery experts, we assembled a multi-disciplined digital workforce of business analysts, developers, AWS experts, engineers, and testers – all working in delivery ‘pods’ led by our agile experts. This pod model provided the flexibility to scale the teams in line with the delivery demands of the Home Office Digital Data and Technology (DDaT) team over the course of this four-year engagement.
Realising the benefits of a shift from programme to product centricity
Initially, Person Products were split into two separate delivery teams, Person Identity Products (PIP) and Identity and Authentication (ID&A), with each team focusing on programme-centric delivery, serving the needs of their respective programmes. While initially successful, over time this resulted in siloed product development and missed opportunities to develop holistic solutions. The DDaT team needed to consider the wider requirements of the portfolio, rather than focusing on individual programmes.
To ensure the Home Office did not miss out on future opportunities, we merged the PIP and ID&A teams to form Person Products. Person Products would act as a central capability responsible for managing change for all Person-related services across the portfolio. We worked closely with the Home Office to re-design and implement a new operating model that supported product-centric over programme-centric delivery. The new governance ensured all requirements flowed through a single channel, allowing solutions to be applied holistically, irrespective of the programme that raised them.
The benefits of the move to this approach were numerous. By promoting re-use over re-invention, the Home Office were able to reduce costs through the risk of duplication. The product focus also reduced the time to deliver enhancements to existing products, alleviated the need to create new products, and improved the quality and reliability of reusable components.
Better and faster digital services
As well as adopting product-centric ways of working, our team implemented a number of changes to deliver digital services more effectively. We took a ‘shift-left’ approach to testing – pushing testing toward the early stages of development – creating dedicated environments on AWS using Terraform for automation testing to catch bugs earlier in the pipeline. This resulted in improved efficiency and quality, increasing the number of releases on a monthly basis.
Person Products enables a wide range of services critical to supporting the UK’s immigration enforcement and frontline border control operations. As these services operate 24/7, it was imperative to the Home Office that we could deliver change in a way that minimised disruption to the business. We successfully migrated the dependent Person Products to a pipeline that supported Zero Downtime Deployment (ZDD), meaning the Home Office’s caseworking system never needed to go down when deploying new releases.
Since the Home Office engaged us in 2018, together we have launched:
- Person Search and Person Summary View (PSV), two products that together allow caseworkers to search for and view a consolidated view of a person’s immigration history. We rolled out Person Search and PSV to several thousand caseworkers, split across the UK and international sites across the world, providing significant savings per annum in support costs.
- Person API (PAPI), a set of APIs that provide a business-centric view relating to a person which can be used consistently across all consumers. Immigration teams are now able to gain details of encountered individuals in a timely manner, without having to contact a back-office colleague.
- Person Resolution Service (PRS), a service that provides identity verification caseworking and Update My Details (UMD), where applicants can report changes in their circumstances. Both products create a more secure, easy-to-use system for online visa applications. PRS and UMD helped to support the processing of over six million EU Settlement Status applications in the lead up to Brexit, ensuring EU, EEA (European Economic Area), and Swiss nationals were granted status to continue to live, work and access public funds.