Helping tackle the UK’s gender pay gap
Take over support for the UK government’s flagship gender pay gap service, move it to Gov.uk PaaS and streamline its operation to reduce costs and make the team looking after it more self-sufficient.
The gender pay gap service is part of the UK government’s drive to tackle gender inequality in the workplace. Launched in 2017 by then-Prime-Minister Theresa May, she went on to highlight it as a key achievement during her resignation speech.
Employers with 250 or more employees must use the service to report annual data comparing men and women’s average pay across their organisation. The aim is that this transparency will drive change that helps women fulfil their potential in the workplace, and will ultimately eliminate the gender pay gap.
The Government Equalities Office (GEO), which is responsible for the gender pay gap service, brought in Softwire as its development and support partner in 2019.
Our remit was to:
- Provide support for the service: Onboard the service from the incumbent supplier and ensure it continued to run smoothly, particularly during the peak annual reporting period
- Continually and flexibly enhance the service: Work with stakeholders to proactively identify and deliver improvements, and respond quickly to ad hoc development requests
- Simplify the service: Make the GEO support team more self-sufficient, by reducing the amount of technical resource needed to work alongside these non-technical domain experts when operating the service day-to-day
- Plan and deliver the migration of the service from Microsoft Azure to Gov.uk PaaS, as part of a wider drive to align with Cabinet Office technology strategy
After onboarding the service from the previous supplier, we made a number of user-facing and behind-the-scenes improvements. Among other benefits, these enabled us to deliver a faster migration to Gov.uk PaaS. Our team now provides support cover, with flexible access to additional development resource for further enhancements.
To onboard the service, we spent a week working closely with the outgoing supplier, to ensure we understood the gender pay gap service in detail, including the monitoring setup and code deployment process.
Simplifying the service
With responsibility for the gender pay gap service transferred to Softwire, we made a number of enhancements to make it easier to both operate and maintain.
We worked closely with the GEO support team, which handles queries from service users, to understand how we could streamline their work. As part of this, we built user-friendly administration tooling, to replace complex manual processes that were previously integral to the way they responded to user requests day-to-day.
We improved guidance documentation for organisations providing their gender pay gap data. This was to help improve the quality of data being submitted, and to reduce the number of requests being sent to the GEO support team by proactively answering the most common questions.
We used the Azure to Gov.uk PaaS replatforming as an opportunity to significantly streamline the way the service was built. Instead of a straightforward lift-and-shift, we redesigned and simplified key parts of the architecture and code.
The simplifications we made dramatically accelerated the subsequent migration. As a result, the total time to simplify and migrate was the same as a lift-and-shift of the original, more complex service, would have taken, with the added benefit that the service would be much simpler to maintain.
Ongoing support and flexible access to additional development resource
With the cloud migration complete and the new tooling delivered to the GEO support team, our own support division is now looking after the technical aspects of the service.
As well as support cover, we’re providing GEO with flexible access to additional development resources on an ad hoc basis. As part of this managed service, we load-test the system each year ahead of the peak reporting period.
As well as infrastructure cost savings of around 50%, operational and maintenance costs have come down, and the GEO support team can now operate the service self-sufficiently. This means more funds are available to improve gender pay gap reporting, while Softwire’s technical support team can focus fully on delivering high-value service enhancements.
Successful migration to Gov.uk PaaS reduces infrastructure costs
With the technically simplified service now running in Gov.uk PaaS, the Government Equalities Office has reduced its infrastructure expenditure by around 50%, while delivering a more efficient service.
Easier and lower-cost to operate
The improvements we made for the GEO support team have also cut the cost of operating the gender pay gap service, by significantly reducing the level of technical resource required to run the service day-to-day. Previously, there would be two-to-three senior developers working full-time as part of the GEO support team during the peak reporting period. Now, the team handles everything itself, with a single developer available on-call if needed. Coupled with the infrastructure cost savings, these improvements have released funds to enhance overall gender pay gap reporting.
Simpler to maintain
In addition to the user-facing improvements, our architecture and code simplifications mean the service is technically much easier to support and enhance. As a result, it no longer requires a dedicated technical support team with specific knowledge of the service: instead, any one of Softwire’s support division is now able to pick up and respond to tickets. This has resulted in further operational savings and flexibility for the Government Equalities Office.
“Inherently easier to understand and run”
The Service Owner for the gender pay gap service at the Government Equalities Office, said: “One of our aims was to become much more self-sufficient when it comes to operating the service. Softwire has helped us achieve this, by evolving the service to a place where it’s inherently easier to understand and run.
“For us to deliver the high-quality service we strive for, we need high-quality tools. Our support team has said that what Softwire has built for us meets their needs in a way that’s unrecognisable compared to what they had previously. This means our team is more efficient, and the Softwire developers who support us can focus on adding value to the service, rather than helping us answer user queries.
“We also value the way Softwire developers understand the context of the work they’re doing, identify potential knock-on effects, and present solutions to us. As service owner, this is really helpful for me, and ensures I’m making decisions with my eyes fully open.”
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