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Ahead into beta

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Agile Working, Government Platform

Full_aheadAfter the successful conclusion of the first stage of development (the ‘alpha’ phase), our project to upgrade the SPIRE licensing service to further promote responsible international trade will move to a more in-depth period of development.

During this ‘beta’ phase, we’ll be expanding our prototype and incorporating modifications in response to feedback from you, our target audience. We will first focus on specific scenarios to ensure these areas are fully covered while we continue to develop our service – know as the ‘private beta’ - before presenting it to a wider audience for feedback (the ‘public beta’).

Using an Agile development methodology confuses the language a bit here – we’re not yet at the invite-only private beta stage, but you can already see the prototype that came out of the alpha phase, which isn’t often the case in development of a new service or piece of software.

We do definitely still want as much feedback as we can get on the existing prototype, so if you have any comments, requests or concerns, please get in touch with our user researcher Laura John (also known as ‘me’) at

The point of the private beta is that we'll now be making only tweaks here and there to the alpha prototype, for user research purposes, while the bulk of research and feedback is piped into development of the system that will one day go live.

Our developers are already hard at work building the service, and in the coming weeks and months we will get to a stage where we’re looking for volunteers to test the private beta.

How you can help

We would like to hear from you if you can spare an hour to review the private beta, though timescales are not yet set in stone. To be able to help us out, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • You can’t be working for a large company – we’re looking now for sole traders, microbusinesses, SMEs, or people working for museums or academic institutions. We are getting our feedback from larger businesses via another route.
  • You must be sending or taking abroad one or more of the following (now, in the past or in the future):
    • firearms
    • dual-use items (things that can might not have an obvious military use, but could be used for military purposes)
    • high-tech security equipment
    • software or technology not for public release, including cryptography or encryption software
    • items destined for overseas military or security services
    • items that could be modified for military use

We are particularly keen to hear from you if you are new to this area, or you are a business or institution that’s considering exporting your products for the first time. We're also looking for anyone who sends or takes any of these items abroad but who generally needs assistance to use the internet.

Our research sessions last approximately an hour; you are welcome to come to our offices in Victoria Street, London, or we can come to meet you. A trained researcher will sit with you as you use the beta service, asking for your feedback as you move through.

This is a chance to help us hone a service that we hope importers and exporters will find easy and helpful. If you are able to spend an hour helping us to improve the service, please get in touch at

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