What is Alpha?

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We completed the Discovery phase of our Digital Services process before Christmas. This means that we have started the New Year in a new phase: Alpha.

Government Digital Service defines Alpha as:

A short phase in which you prototype solutions for your users needs. You’ll be testing with a small group of users or stakeholders, and getting early feedback about the design of the service.

In the Discovery phase we investigated who our customers are and what their needs are. Alpha is about exploring how we are going to meet those needs.

We started off planning for Alpha by:

  1. Considering lessons learned from Discovery.
  2. Ensuring the right team is in place.
  3. Identifying key risks under the headings of technical, design and business process.

The main focus of Alpha will be on how we are going to meet our customers’ needs. We left Discovery with a prototype of an idea, now is the time to find out how to make the idea a reality.

The risks established in planning are turned into hypotheses which are in turn divided into tasks. We are working in two week springs to achieve these tasks making sure we have a clear idea of what we are working on and the deadline for it at all times. At the end of each fortnight we will carry out a retrospective before moving on to the next.

Working in two week sprints allows you to fail fast and turn to alternative solutions when needed. It means a fast pace is maintained throughout the 8 week Alpha. Regular retrospectives also ensure that everyone has a chance to feedback on what they think is working and not allowing the team to tailor the workstream appropriately.

While we will be largely focusing on technical and design capabilities, the customers’ needs and their journey will remain at the heart of our work. We will continue to carry out customer research and will seek customer feedback along the way. This will be through regular demonstrations to customers and show and tell presentations within our organisation inviting feedback at every turn.

The primary goal for Alpha is Learning. By the end of this stage we will know whether we will continue into Beta and what we will be building in Beta with a business case and the potential risks in hand.

You can find out more about the GDS guidelines on Alpha in this video:

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