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Keeping the Platform Healthy

GOV.UK is a large site. With dozens of apps, hundreds of publishers, tens of thousands of pages and millions of visitors, it’s no mean feat to keep it up, running and always improving.

The GOV.UK programme currently works to a quarterly cycle, where teams may be created, disbanded or continued every three months and people can move around. These teams generally work on a single stream, feature or app, and so their support of what they’ve done is ephemeral by design.

While teams are temporary, the work they do adds to the set of things that underpin the site and need to be cared for on a permanent basis. For this reason, there is a team that is much longer-lived than the others: the Platform Health team.

The work of the Platform Health team is to look after everything that is not currently being actively worked on. While this team is one of the larger teams on the programme, it is by no means large when compared to similar teams in other organisations who look after similar numbers of apps for similarly-sized websites. Given the nature of the work, the team makeup is largely developers with product manager and delivery manager oversight and air cover.

The day-to-day tasks of the team range from routine upgrades and handling residual work from incidents when the second-line team have resolved the immediate issue to longer-term performance enhancements and standalone feature work where this is merited and doesn’t fit into another team’s scope.

Like most support-type teams, the work of the team mostly happens in the background and is rarely noticed by people outside GDS. However, we’ve recently started to write more about the type of work we’re doing. Our work on speeding up the publishing pipeline, for example, was recently the subject of a blog post on Inside GOV.UK.

A lot of people who thrive on making a public impact would probably not consider working in a team whose outputs are mostly in the background. However, from having worked in the team for the last quarter, I can say for sure that you will never learn as much about how a complete organisation or platform works as when you have to keep it up and running without interruption.

For people who are curious and eager to learn, therefore, there is actually no better team to be a part of.

If this sounds like a good place to work, take a look at Working for GDS - we’re usually in search of talented people to come and join the team.