A portfolio of Discovery Projects to identify potential improvements to services

Notbinary - Food Standards Agency


At Notbinary we support clients at every point in the delivery lifecycle, from Discovery through Alpha and Beta all the way to supporting live services. Working with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we led a portfolio of Discovery Projects across the organisation to consider potential improvements to its services.

Before you commit to building or improving a service, you need to understand the problem to be solved.

This means finding out about your users and what they’re trying to achieve, any pain points and where opportunities to improve things lie. During a Discovery, it is our responsibility to understand individual user needs, how the current service operates, and its systems and data flows.


The FSA had not been as exposed to the Government Digital Service standard ways of working due to falling outside of the GOV.UK remit. They therefore wanted us to help set their internal standards and build their capability.

We worked closely with them to develop a repeatable and highly efficient, user-focused approach to conducting holistic Discoveries across the agency.

We held 50 qualitative interviews with representatives from across the FSA. This helped us to understand key service components in enough detail to analyse how the people, processes and technology involved were interacting.

Our work ensures that a service will be built that is more robust and is able to flex to meet modern standards, and that data can flow and be used more easily.

Our teams were collocated with the FSA business teams and their Digital, Data & Technology (DDAT) team. We worked across multiple sites across the UK; travelling to meet users at their places of work to get hands-on experience of being a food business operator.

DDAT colleagues were paired up with key members of our team to encourage upskilling and coaching throughout our Discoveries.


Over a year of working with the FSA, we successfully completed more than a dozen Discoveries across a vast range of domains including: incident management and reporting, allergen reporting, business advice, business registration and approvals, local authority data flows, intelligence and surveillance, science committee content, HR and financial processing, customer services, field operations and inspections, and digital badges.

As part of our drive to instill robust and effective practices for the FSA, we introduced Government Digital Service standard assessments for our Discoveries to ensure they were being run well across the organisation.

Another key development we introduced was working in the open, documenting our Discovery findings as we went.

This meant that our research, insights and analysis was constantly available to all to see, comment on and challenge. This helped with getting feedback as early as possible and negated any surprises at the final playback sessions. It also helps open up our research to the wider digital community who can access our open repositories.