Parliamentary Questions (PQs) are a mechanism by which MPs can ask questions of government departments on behalf of their constituents or for their own political needs. Within the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) the distribution tracking and answering of PQs is managed by the Parliamentary Branch.
The bulk of PQs received are written and submitted to parliament daily, with roughly 100 received per week. They must be answered within an allocated time (2-10 days), which can vary depending on the type of question.
The primary users of the Parliamentary Questions Tracker service are the members of Parliamentary Branch administering the process. The service has a wider audience of “action officers” who receive the questions and author the responses. In total the service has approximately 400 users, of which 40 are frequent and active.
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The Parliamentary Questions Tracker service is seeking permission to be branded a live, Digital by Default service on the service.gov.uk domain. After consideration the assessment panel has concluded that the Parliamentary Questions Tracker service has shown sufficient evidence of meeting the standard. This means the service can now remove its beta branding.
The service currently meets the requirements of the standard for a live service. Areas of good performance against the standard included:
Security, privacy, tools and standards
Since the previous assessment, the team have acted on the recommendations to introduce an automated suite of tests and continuous integration processes. The team now perform small releases (usually daily or more frequently) rather than big releases. Parliamentary Branch have access to the staging environment for approval of features, etc.
The team has completely rebuilt the state machine logic internally, and has refactored the code base for legibility. The code now is well structured.
Test coverage has improved vastly from having no existing tests to around 80% coverage. The team has focused on user-centric feature tests. All new code developed is unit tested. The working practices of the team enable continuous delivery and improvement.
The panel was impressed with the implementation of responsive design for an internally-facing application. This makes mobile working much easier. Analytics had shown that users accessed the tool via mobile browsers during the beta phase.
GDS design standards have been applied for the most part where appropriate.
Analysis and benchmarking
By tracking how quickly Parliamentary Questions are answered, the service is continually tracking Parliamentary Branch’s key performance indicator. This was a great addition as it tracks the business value of the tool in a clear and measurable way.
More detailed metrics are now also in place to measure where bottlenecks are occurring in the process. Focusing on these metrics will support more data-driven design decisions in future iterations.
The main focus of the of the work since the last assessment has been to stabilise the code, with user research and subsequent action on the findings considered to be of lower importance.
As such, the levels of research so far can be considered to be minimally adequate. The assessment panel recommends that future iterations focus much more on user needs and that only features in the backlog that are known to be of value are deployed.
User research has been adequate given the small size of primary user base (~40 users). Efforts should be made to complete user research with those who are completely unfamiliar with the process. Doing so will help to ensure that the service is part of a wider process transformation, rather than simply an automation of current processes.
From now on the team will depend on ad hoc design and research support rather than a dedicated designer and user researcher on the team. As such the panel recommends that this is planned and orchestrated with a documented research plan in order to ensure a genuinely well thought out outcome.
The panel was shown evidence that the product will be moved into the product team that supports and iterates services internal to MoJ. Efforts should be made to pair with this team so that knowledge is transferred in such a way that there are no gaps in the product management of the tool. This is especially important given the value of the features in the backlog.
The design patterns remain consistent visually, functionally and at an interaction level with the version of the service previously assessed.
The panel recommends that outstanding design, UX and interaction improvements recommended at the last assessment should be made. There should be particular focus on improving:
- "Early Bird" view
- bulk actions
- layout and navigational hierarchy
There are UI/UX design inconsistencies around Trim Link upload between the dashboard and PQ details pages that should be addressed.
- navigation between the following pages should be clarified: PQ dashboard to PQ detail page
- PQ dashboard to address lists
- PQ dashboard to report pages
Analysis and benchmarking
The panel recommends that effort is put into analysing user journeys through the application using web analytics packages. The panel appreciates that this is a difficult goal given the non-linear nature of the application. However, in the absence of high volumes of users to research, this quantitative data would highlight appropriate UI or design improvements.
Digital by Default Service Standard criteria