Back-office Planning System (BoPS)

Previous project phases

Discovery phase

Duration: 8 weeks (January to March 2019)

The team began the project with a discovery phase, aligned with the GDS Service Standard, to explore the problem space and identify the needs of planning officers and planning managers.

Activities across the discovery phase included:

User research - carrying out contextual face-to-face interviews, shadowing planning officers using existing back-office systems, user journey mapping, user story formation and defining emerging design principles
Technical exploration - tracking data through the current planning application systems and processes, and investigating emerging data standards across other related systems and projects
Business case definition - exploring cost per application type across different councils and identifying opportunities based on time spent per application per team
Concept creation - facilitating co-design workshops with planning officers, creating a series of concept prototypes based on emerging user research, and testing concepts across London and non-London council teams to gather feedback

As part of user research, the team carried out:

  • 17 x user interviews with planning teams
  • 2 x existing system demonstrations
  • 3 x insight and co-design workshops
  • 4 x planning application process shadowing sessions
  • 12 x back-office concept prototype testing sessions

The team engaged with:

  • 7 x London borough councils (Southwark, Hackney, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Haringey, Lambeth and Islington)
  • 1 x Metropolitan district council (Leeds)
  • 2 x other councils (Canterbury and Huntingdonshire)

To conclude the discovery phase, the team identified and validated two propositions:

  1. A data-informed workflow
  2. A collaborative 3D workflow

The outcome of this phase is set out in the discovery report, which you can access on the link below:

Discovery Report

Alpha phase

Duration: 8 weeks (October to December 2019)


Following the completion of the discovery phase, the project was awarded further MHCLG funding, enabling the team to continue into the alpha phase.

Our team has prioritised a focus on building a product to support the ‘assessment and recommendation’ of applications, with our main users being planning officers and planning managers.


Activities across the alpha phase included:

  • Prototyping and testing - creating prototypes based on user needs (identified through discovery), contextual user testing sessions with individuals across planning teams and gathering feedback based on usability
  • Prototype iteration - forming user feedback into tangible iteration recommendations, iterating our prototypes based on received feedback, and carrying out further rounds of user testing with planning teams to validate prototype changes
  • Technical exploration - exploring the wider planning application system across all emerging services, and integrating with Hackney Council’s Submit my Planning Application system to pull planning application data into a technical prototype
  • Business case definition - analysing costs and benefits of the project, modelling a system rollout across local authorities, and deriving value for money

As part of alpha phase user testing, the team carried out:

  • 30 x back-office prototype testing sessions with planning team staff
  • 2 x reviews of as-is process maps developed by partner local authorities
  • 3 x planning application process shadowing sessions

The team engaged with 14 local authorities:

  • 7 x London borough councils: Croydon, Greenwich, Islington, Lambeth, Redbridge, Southwark, Waltham Forest
  • 4 x city councils: Coventry, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sheffield
  • 3 x district councils in rural areas: Braintree, North West Leicestershire, Wycombe

This phase ran from October 2019 to December 2019. The alpha report, and the prototype systems created during this phase, can be accessed below.

Alpha Report

Protoype 1 (case officer)

Prototype 2 (manager)

Codebase (github)


Page last updated: 08 July 2021


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