Coding in the open
Duncan Crowther
Duncan Crawford Equal Experts Alumnus

Our Thinking Tue 15th March, 2016

In the spirit of openness

We’re trying to share more of what we get up to here at Equal Experts. And that’s not just because we’re proud of our work (although we definitely are).

It’s because hiding our work away wouldn’t be in keeping with the spirit of what we’re doing with our clients.

That’s particularly true of our work with HMRC. Because it’s part of the UK Government, all the software we develop with HMRC must meet the Digital by Default service standard, as set by Government Digital Services (GDS).

One of the principles behind that standard is ‘coding in the open’, which requires government departments to “Make all new source code open and reusable, and publish it under appropriate licences”.

This makes a lot of sense. For starters, the taxpayer is funding all this work – it’s only fair they see what their money is getting them, and can gain the maximum benefit from it. But the benefits go far beyond that.

Coding in the open leads to better software

The shift towards greater transparency and open source is great news from a software development perspective, too. We’re huge advocates of open source software at Equal Experts, and the agile methodologies we use to organise our work are designed to encourage open, mutually beneficial collaboration.

As such, it’s been wonderful to be involved as this spirit of openness grows within Government.

Our familiarity with open source software was of great help when working on HMRC’s Multichannel Digital Tax Platform (MDTP). The platform is built on an open source technology stack, including Scala, Play and MongoDB, which has already saved significant amounts in ongoing licensing costs.

See for yourself

We’re even involved in the ongoing running of HMRC’s own Github repository. Wherever possible, the code we work on together is made available there, ready to be perused and used by the very same public it’s made for.

Openness isn’t about fuzzy, warm feelings. It’s about pooling and sharing knowledge to make software development demonstrably faster and more iterative. Promoting the involvement of users keeps us focussed on their needs throughout the entire development process, and ensures we make things they really need. And that’s what brings better results – for clients, and their customers.

We’re thrilled to be coding in the open – it’s a way of working that would have seemed inconceivable within Government a decade ago. But for us, it’s just the way these things are done.