SG Payments Beta Update: Building a Common Platform
Blog by Jennifer Campbell, Product Manager, Digital Transformation Division.
Previously, we blogged about the SG Payments Project’s experience of moving from Alpha into Beta and the things we hope to achieve within this phase. Now that we’re a few months into our Beta work, we’re starting to make important decisions about how the service will work and what it will offer. As part of this, we’re continuing to learn what distinguishes delivering a shared platform that will be used by a variety of organisations as part of their own services, both existing and future. This blog post will focus on what this means to us, and how we’re approaching the challenge.
What’s a platform, and why is this important?
In our very first SG Payments post, we introduced our platform approach as “building something centrally that is easy for service teams to plug in to and re-use, without additional procurement”. This has a number of benefits beyond cost savings: it can ensure consistency and simplify processes, and allow all users to benefit from ongoing improvements to a single service.
In fact, platforms are a key part of our Digital Strategy which outlines a vision of “a public sector that operates on contemporary, digital, platform-based business models”. By delivering a common Payments platform, we can meet one of the most common needs in the public sector, which is to pay out money. In doing this, we are providing a re-useable component which can integrate with a variety of different types of service in many different organisations.
What does this mean for our design and delivery approach?
By definition, a common platform has to meet the needs of a variety of users who are performing the same task, but in different situations. For us, this means different types of payments going to a variety of recipients, and different business processes to make, manage and reconcile those payments.
At this point, we know lots about some of our users, as we are working closely with three partner organisations – Independent Living Fund Scotland, Scottish Public Pensions Agency and Social Security Scotland, which has continued from our previous project phases. We also work with a number of other organisations who may be future users of our service, through an Advisory Group and other forums. However there are many other organisations who could use our platform in future who we’re not yet in contact with. So how do we ensure that we’re delivering a service that will work for them too? This is something we’ll learn more about as we progress through our Beta phase, but there are a few key aspects of our approach that underpin this:
● Designing for flexibility:
While the organisations who use our Payments Service will have different processes and approaches, there are elements of the payment process that are common and can be standardised. These elements will form the ‘core’ of our service. We’ll avoid building organisation-specific requirements into this core, and instead will allow our customer organisations to connect their own processes to it. We’ll also make sure that our own architecture is component-based, meaning it’s easier to change parts of the service if our user needs change, or if enhanced technology options become available.
● Being open and outward-looking:
We are always open to making new connections and seek to do this across organisational and sector boundaries. We take a user-centred approach and will involve users from a number of different organisations throughout the project. We encourage any organisation interested in the future of our Payments Service to get in touch with us, and we will continue to share updates via the Digital Scotland blog.
● Working iteratively and with an agile mindset:
During our Beta phase, we’ll be focusing on the key things our platform needs to do in order to make initial live payments for our partner organisations. This is by no means a ‘finished product’, as we will continue to expand and improve its capabilities going forward based on feedback from our users and their evolving needs, as well as developments across the payments landscape.
Of course, we’re not the only team working on a common platform, so there’s lots of experience we can draw on. We’re closely connected with the other platform projects within Scottish Government, including Digital Identity, Publishing and Cloud; and we’re also reaching out more widely across government to learn from those who have successfully delivered this type of service already.
If you have any questions, comments or would like to know more about our project, please feel free to contact us at SGPaymentService@gov.scot.