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Consular Service Online Appointment Booking - Self Certification

Self Certifications are run internally by each department, organised through their responsible Digital Leader. The Digital Leader will certify the service meets the Digital by Default service standard criteria. The Self Certification process is currently in Alpha, and will continue to be iterated on. Services with over 100,000 transactions a year will continue to be assessed by GDS.

Foreign Office Embassies and Consulates provide a range of services to British nationals overseas.  The online appointment booking service would allow members of the public to book appointments for those services online and would also allow Consular staff to manage those bookings.  Previously 40% of posts used the free “clickbook” service, while others took walk-ins or appointments by telephone.  The team have delivered a closed alpha of the service and are seeking permission to move the service to a limited public beta starting with 5 countries overseas, increasing to other countries over time.

Department / Agency:

Date of Submission:

Assessment Stage:

Lead Assessor:
A. Bye/A. Ainsworth

Service Manager:
M. Barlow

Digital Leader:
A. Bye

Assessors Summary:

User Needs

The service team have carried out significant discovery with both consular customers and internal users.  For consular customers, this has included surveying British nationals who called the FCO’s contact centres and surveying those who had successfully booked appointments.  For internal users, this has included separate surveys of posts currently using Clickbook and of those not using the service.  In addition the team collected quantitative data on the FCO’s appointments, enabling them to analyse the demographics of those attending appointments, which services were most used, and other factors.  It was clear that this research has already significantly influenced the design of the service.

The team already had initial plans for user testing of the beta service, and intend to roll that testing out further based on lessons learned (as much of the user testing will be carried out overseas the team want to assess how it is progressing).  The team also planned a second survey of internal users. 

The team intend to Have a limited beta starting with 5 posts which will cover a range of locations and volumes (Muscat, Rabat, New York, Madrid and Jakarta). Will than expand to 15 during period.

The Team

Service manager and product owner are currently the same role with development outsourced to a Gcloud supplier.  While the development team has not been collocated with the business, there has been extensive close work – including joint development and prioritisation of user stories; close sharing and monitoring of the backlog; regular face to face meetings.  Project overseen by the Foreign Office Digital Transformation Unit who intend to gradually integrate the service manager role into the policy team.  Team are also putting in place other support via the Gcloud, including user testing and resource for ongoing service iteration post-live.  The team have worked closely with GDS on a number of aspects, including user testing and performance platform integration, and have also worked closely with the MOJ prisoner appointment booking team (see below).

Security, Privacy, Open Standards 

Team is on course to have full security testing completed and full SIRO sign off before beta is launched.  Supplier is also on course to have full professional ISO-27001 accreditation before the service goes live.  The team are lining up an additional penetration test day before the beta is launched.  Cookies not currently being collected but may be introduced as team puts in place PIWIK web analytics.  Supplier has a number of measures in place to ensure resilience and minimise downtime - multiple availability zones; duplicated databases; hourly backups; load balancing. If service completely failed customers could still use telephone booking.  Service iterations are developed in test environment.

The team have worked very closely with MOJ, using their open source calendar picker (part of the prison visits exemplar). The supplier have taken MOJ code and ported to angular.JS; hooked it up to their API; and  made it time zone aware. The supplier will open source these enhancements so they can benefit future services.

Assisted Digital, Channel Shift, Accessibility

GOV.UK and FCO Contact Centres will encourage customers to book appointments using the online service.  But Contact Centres will also be able to directly book appointments using the service for customers having difficulty.  Those bookings will be labelled as assisted digital bookings to provide reliable metrics on assisted digital need.  The developers are currently working on a version of the service which will work with screen readers.

Analytics and benchmarking

The system has been designed to provide a range of reliable management information on how customers are progressing through the transaction at both individual Embassy, regional and  global level.  The team are also working to ensure full performance platform integration; a GOV.UK end page to collect satisfaction statistics; and are putting in place PIWIK web analytics.

Looked at over two years the team estimate a cost per transaction of 73p, compared to over 10 times that for non-digital appointments. The team have targets in place for completion rate and user satisfaction.

Testing with the Minister
The team intend to test the live version of the service with the Minister.

Recommended actions

The team have worked extremely closely with policy leads and should continue to look for opportunities to expose those leads to the agile, user focussed analytics driven approach they have taken.  

Following their initial round of user testing, the team should rapidly put in place a user testing schedule and ensure the development team and policy leads are also exposed to user testing.

The team should blog on their evolving experience delivering software as a service projects in a digital by default framework.

The team should work with the FCO's technology department to look at ways to streamline IT security approvals.  

Given that the tool will significantly improve user experience and internal management information, the FCO policy leads should consider methods to oblige/encourage as many posts as possible to use the service.

Results Against the Digital by Default Criteria:

Criteria Passed Criteria Passed
1 Yes 2 Yes
3 Yes 4 Yes
5 Yes 6 Yes
7 Yes 8 Yes
9 Yes 10 Yes
11 Yes 12 Yes
13 Yes 14 Yes
15 Yes 16 Yes
17 Yes 18 Yes
19 Yes 20 Yes
21 Yes 22 Yes
23 Yes 24 Yes
25 Yes 26 Yes