Walking the walk and practising what they preach – the Greater London Authority is giving access to users and organisations across the globe to the code used to develop the Open Project System (OPS). The software code is owned by the Greater London Authority (GLA) but is free for anyone to use or build on.

OPS was born out of a need for a more efficient and robust system to deal with the grant application process for organisations developing and building new homes – all part of the Homes for Londoners: Affordable Homes Programme 2016-21. Following a competitive bidding process, GLA awarded Keytree the contract to create a simplified and efficient way for recognised providers to apply for funds – and the Open Project System was born.

“The Open Project System, created by Keytree, collates and combines all information in one centralised system, making the application process faster and easier for applicants to navigate. Exactly what we wanted.”

Greater London Authority

Keytree introduces Agile working at GLA to streamline funding processes

The Mayor of London initially secured £3bn from government to build much needed new homes in London but since 2016, OPS has grown significantly and has been used to administer more than £4.82bn of government funds to support building 116,000 affordable homes in London.

The GLA previously supported its housing programmes with a range of heritage IT systems from the Homes and Community Agency that were either being switched off, no longer supported, inefficient or represented poor value for money. These legacy systems made the process of applying for funding slower, often with navigation issues encountered by users.

Keytree joined forces with the GLA to develop and deliver OPS following agile methodology – a new experience for GLA. This approach is vital to the continued development of OPS, allowing to consistently deliver releases on time and on budget. At Keytree, collaborative agile delivery is core to our approach. We successfully introduced agile working to GLA, transforming the speed and quality of their delivery of digital projects for the better.

Agile combines integrated teams, with an iterative and low overhead way of working. Agile does not mean uncontrolled or undocumented – Keytree has a comprehensive set of processes and tools to ensure quality in agile delivery. Transparency is key with all team members being able to see and contribute to progress to a common goal. The agile methodology used for project delivery including sprint planning meetings, sprint reviews and retrospectives. Each sprint lasted two weeks with a single GLA Product Owner who managed a flexible, prioritised product backlog.

Making everything Open Source

The Government Digital Service (GDS) Technology Code of Practice is a set of criteria to help government design, build and buy better technology. GDS recognises that the innovative and clear use of technology is integral to making modern organisations successful. It can act as the key to unlocking innovation, collaboration and value for money. In line with GDS guidance, the project code was developed to be Open Source, with the system deployed on Amazon Web Services cloud platform managed by Keytree.

The GLA has a strong reputation for use of Open Source systems, pioneering the use of open data and innovative use of shared services – further work will include the embedding of agile methodologies as the standard approach to system development, and using cloud-based services to provide new services and capacity (to speed up the deployment of new solutions).

Taking an agile approach allowed the solution to emerge organically – meeting GLA requirements and those of the applicants. It is now being rolled out more corporately as a project management system across the whole GLA. There are also multiple new programmes and initiatives right across the GLA that will be launched via OPS, demonstrating the flexibility Keytree built into the system.

The GLA’s development and implementation of OPS has undergone a full review against the Local Government Digital Service Standard – passing with flying colours.