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Business Properties Rental Information - Alpha Assessment

The Business Properties Rental Information service allows users to submit information about a business property to the Valuation Office Authority (VOA); something that users are required to do under statutory regulation.

Department / Agency:
Valuation Office Agency (VOA)

Date of Assessment:
31 July 2015

Assessment Stage:

Result of Assessment:

Lead Assessor:
H. Garrett

Service Manager:
H. Christian

Assessment Report


The service team are aiming to digitise the way users submit information about a business property to the Valuation Office Authority (VOA); something that users are required to do under statutory regulation.


The service team are aiming to digitise the way users submit information about a business property to the Valuation Office Authority (VOA); something that users are required to do under statutory regulation.

This is the first of the digital projects the VOA are undertaking. The panel welcome the VOA’s wider transformation agenda and encourage early thoughts to look at the ways VOA can join up with other departments. One example would be with the Land Registry, to look at the transactions and information that make up the services that government provides.

User Research

During the discovery and alpha phases, the team have researched the user experience of the current process and identified the major pain points. The team have prototyped both the online form and the offline letter to test ideas and potential solutions. The panel was really impressed with the detailed and knowledgeable information and the demonstrations that the team provided to explain this work.


The appropriate safety and security measures are in place and the service team clearly explained their technology decisions. The team talked through the preparatory work the developers carried out to understand how they would work with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) when building the service on the Tax Platform. The panel were impressed with the approach the VOA team has undertaken to spike their technical solutions in parallel with their design solutions.

Digital Uptake

The team have made creative efforts to reach potential users who might not be able to complete the transaction independently, both directly and by building relationships with third parties. This includes VOA contact centre staff, agents, councils, small business organisations and charities. The team have identified potential support needs for users that are unfamiliar with the requirement or that have English as a second language, and the team have plans to explore needs further in beta. The team are keeping an open mind about whether their existing support provision will fully meet user needs and are exploring working with wider HMRC support.

The Team

The panel was impressed with the way the team is working within the VOA. The team has reduced the number of boards they are reporting to from four to one. There is a strong level of engagement and enthusiasm for the work of the digital team across VOA, with show and tells being extremely popular.

The team have removed unnecessary questions and information from the new online form and the panel encourage them to continue this work throughout beta.

The team has already engaged with the performance platform team and have some well considered ideas for measuring the service and reporting data to the performance platform.


The team should work closely with HMRC’s Tax Platform team to understand and implement HMRC’s policy to open source by default and code in the open. There are currently no firm plans in place to make all new source code (or specific subsets of the source code) open and reusable. The panel expect evidence of this to be demonstrated at the beta assessment.

It is important for the team to develop an understanding of the HMRC tax platform and how it works before a beta assessment. In particular, for the team to understand service level agreements (SLA) provided by the platform team, and incident handling and escalation processes. It is also important for the team to understand any trade-offs being made because of the constraints imposed by use of the platform, and the appropriate routes and approaches to requesting new features or flexibility.

The panel was impressed with the design work on the prototype and particularly the engagement with the wider government design community on hackpad. There are some small pieces of design feedback and potential ideas to test, which the panel will send in a separate document to this report.

The team have received some support from a content designer but recognise this is a gap. The team are planning to recruit for this role and the panel strongly recommend that a content designer is in place at the earliest opportunity. The panel expect to hear how a content designer has worked with the team to improve the form during the beta phase.

The panel welcome the team’s plan to speak to more users during beta. This will ensure the team are making design decisions based on research and data. This includes understanding more about the needs of users that are unable to use the online form and testing the support and assisted digital approach that will be provided.

In addition to testing the above, the panel will expect to see a more developed plan for digital take-up at the beta assessment.


The assessment panel would like to thank the VOA team for their enthusiasm and their knowledgeable and well thought out questions to our answers. We were really impressed with the team’s approach and look forward to seeing how it develops during the next phase of development.

Digital by Default Service Standard Criteria

Criteria Result Criteria Result
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 6 Pass
7 Pass 8 Not Passed
9 Pass 10 Pass
11 Pass 12 Pass
13 Pass 14 Pass
15 Pass 16 Pass
17 Pass 18 Pass