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The Electoral Commission
Electoral Commission counted on SFW-built web application during EU referendum

The Electoral Commission (EC) deployed an SFW-built web application in its support of the EU referendum, using the platform to speed up notification, review and analysis of the count on the night of the vote.

Built from scratch in 12 weeks, the new count collation system kept track of all the count data input across the UK and Gibraltar in real time, before the final result was declared at the national collation centre in Manchester.

 

As well as the central EC team, over 700 users used the system across all 382 regional counting areas. Additionally, a data feed was provided for key media organisations allowing them to receive up to the minute and verified data throughout the process.

The independent elections watchdog began work on the new system back in September 2015 ready for the EU and future referendums and elections.

Relentless focus on user needs

In the initial Discovery phase SFW brought together counting officers and other stakeholders as part of a relentless focus on finding out what users needed and why. User research workshops, supplemented by paper prototypes and mock-ups, allowed the team to get rapid feedback and build working prototypes for further response.

A product backlog and roadmap were quickly produced for the development of a Java based web application.

For the design and development, the Electoral Commission and SFW adopted an iterative Agile approach using fortnightly Scrum sprints to respond quickly to change and take advantage of opportunities as they emerged through the lifecycle. The team focused on the areas that would add most user value and minimised peripheral features that would add unnecessary complexity and cost.

Quality built in from the start

SFW adopted a DevOps approach to the delivery of the solution. Docker was used to automate the deployments and manage the infrastructure distributed across the Microsoft Azure Cloud. Quick and effective delivery was possible through test-driven development and using continuous integration and delivery. With short timeframes, this approach enabled continuous feedback on the deployed application and facilitated a smooth delivery.

With referendums expected infrequently but requiring high volume support for a short period of time, hosting via Microsoft Azure provided a cost effective model by allowing resources to be quickly scaled up and down as needed.

“The Commission developed a close working relationship with SFW and we found them extremely responsive during all phases of the project. We were able to incorporate the vast majority of the feedback we got from end users, even at a late stage in the project, because SFW were rapid and efficient in implementing the changes we asked for. We were also very pleased with the level of support we received for the hosting and security infrastructure. Users inside and outside the Commission praised the system for its ease of use and clear presentation information on the count.

Phil Tucker, Head of ICT & Facilities, The Electoral Commission

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