Common Web Platform: We’re just beginning

On September 16 2013, the Common Web Platform (CWP) was officially launched. While this marks the end of an action-packed 8 month project, for CWP it’s just the beginning.

How did CWP come about?

  • July 2011 — the Rethink Online Strategy called for new approach to how government invests in and manages its online channels in order to achieve better customer experience, improved value for money, and increased strategic agility.
  • August 2011 — a cross-agency working group was created to establish the requirements for Common Web Services.
  • February 2013 — a cross-agency selection panel completed the syndicated procurement exercise, with SilverStripe and Revera being selected.

Fit for purpose, and getting better

A lot of effort was put into getting the fundamentals right: stability, reliability, and security. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and SilverStripe project team have done 4 months of quality assurance, including user testing, system testing, security testing, web standards testing, and beta testing with assessments from 2 external providers and 5 agencies. While there are opportunities to improve, we know that we’ve delivered a product that is secure, fit-for-purpose and meets standards. We already have 51 suggestions on the backlog with ways to improve the default website and services, and the list is growing everyday.

CWP is set up for iterative development. Continual improvement is built into the structure of the agreement: the co-funded development pool. Every instance set up on CWP adds hours into a monthly pool. Then the participating agencies prioritise how they would like to use the hours to improve the service. It could be taking a module from an agency website, making it generic, reviewing the code and adding it to the basic website recipe. It could be making a process easier or adding a new feature to manage code.

Starting to realise the benefits

Now that CWP has launched, I am focused on how to realise the benefits of sharing and collaboration. Already agencies have saved money by not going through extended procurement and requirements gathering phases, but that’s just the start.

By sharing innovations coming out of each agency, we can all deliver better online experiences. So we will be asking participating agencies for information about what features their web teams have developed, then publishing the information in a newsletter. The shared online repository makes it easy to copy each other’s code, but it’s just a tool. Agencies need to know what’s being created and where to find the code.

Agency collaboration

Already we have observed the larger agencies facing the same challenges, particularly around embedding the new service into the organisation and using CWP in a smart way that saves money. So we have set up a public group in the Government Web Yammer community, where agency staff can discuss ideas and problems. We are also thinking about the best place for a developer forum.

Who’s signed up so far?

13 public sector organisations have already signed up, including:

  • Department of Internal Affairs
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Transport
  • Ministry of Social Development
  • Ministry for Primary Industries
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
  • Southland District Council
  • Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
  • Waikato District Health Board
  • Sport New Zealand
  • Environmental Science & Research
  • Pharmac

Examples of live CWP websites are beta.govt.nz, ict.govt.nz, nmit.ac.nz, transport.govt.nz, and southlanddc.govt.nz.

What’s next?

Security remains top on the list for DIA’s work on the CWP. The next phase of work will implement RealMe as the authentication system, and a layer 7 application firewall.

If you are interested in finding out more, visit the CWP website or contact online@dia.govt.nz.

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