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Accelerating platform delivery: DEFRA’s Customer Identity solution

Cloud & Platforms

Public Services

3 min read

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the UK Government department responsible for safeguarding our natural environment, supporting our world-leading food and farming industry, and sustaining a thriving rural economy. DEFRA is a ministerial department that is supported by, and works collaboratively with, over 30 public bodies.

DEFRA’s digital and data transformation strategy aims to improve the standard of their integrated services whilst allowing customers seamless and easy access.

Part of bringing the above strategy to life was to provide the same login experience for its users, regardless of which DEFRA channel or service they wanted to access. DEFRA’s partnership with esynergy aimed to create a modern external identity and access management solution that prioritized flexibility and scalability without compromising user experience. This approach was designed not to only meet DEFRA’s immediate requirements but also those of its affiliated bodies, marking a significant step towards streamlining access and enhancing user engagement across the board.

The delivery of the new identity and access management solution needed to be accelerated to avoid additional services being built without being part of the centralized and secure system. Because of that, the solution (DEFRA Customer Identity), was developed by simplifying the architecture of the legacy platform and removing unused features. By choosing the approach of re-use (and modify) rather than building from scratch, the solution could be pushed live much faster with the intention of having fast feedback loops and rounds of iteration thereafter.  The core of the solution was built on a Microsoft Azure stack using Microsoft Entra ID and resulting in a fully cloud-native solution with enhanced, event-driven monitoring and alerting.

With an agile and mindset and approach, the team delivered small and frequent releases and set up several dark launches with rigorous quality process and regression testing which caused minimal disruptions to existing services. DEFRA’s test automation coverage introduced automated deployment and rollback procedures and expanded on already existing continuous integration best practices.

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Value delivered

The new identity and access management solution has resulted in the following value gains

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Unblocked development

Accelerated delivery and unblocking project development from historical investments made by DEFRA.

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Improved release frequency

Regular and incremental updates enabled the teams to deliver with confidence and a reduced release frequency from once-a-year to on-demand.


Cost saved

The identity and access management solution will be used across all of DEFRA’s services and thus deliver cost efficiencies by avoiding multiple platforms needing to be built, managed and modernised.

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Improved user experience

Users no longer need to use multiple credentials for different systems or understand the intricacies of DEFRA’s organisational structure (to identify which service to use) to access DEFRA’s services.

Enhanced monitoring & alterting

Improved security by expanding the security monitoring framework to protect DEFRA’s customers from cyber security threats.

"We are thrilled with the transformation that DEFRA Customer Identity has brought to our services. With the support of esynergy, we've successfully implemented a modern external identity and access management solution that aligns with our vision of seamless customer experiences across all DEFRA channels. The project's focus on flexibility and scalability has not only enhanced our integrated services but also streamlined our login processes, offering customers a unified experience regardless of the service they access.”

- Tim Howard, Deputy Director, Major Projects, Cross-Cutting Technical Services

The solution went live in April 2023 hosting seven different services. DEFRA Customer Identity represents more than just the creation of a robust and scalable platform. The teams are on track to migrate all the trade services to the new platform, allowing the decommissioning of the legacy platform. Once complete, the teams will add the functionality to allow trusted third-party authentication and expand the platform to cover DEFRA’s largest customer base. The solution’s flexibility enables integration with multiple identity providers, including with the Rural Payment Agency credential store and the new pan-government identity service- Gov.UK One Login, to create a seamless and scalable customer experience.

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