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Understanding services through user needs  

Stickers showing the words 'end to end service mapping'

Understanding the needs of our users is an integral part of building a service that works for everyone. You may have seen blog posts from the user research team documenting our work towards a better understanding of our users’ needs for the UK Parliament website.

More recently we've been extending those services to other teams across Parliament and helping them to learn more about their users and the impact those users can have on the services teams provide.

Gathering our insights

We're aware of the complex interconnections of needs and how they cut across different teams inside and outside PDS.  Because of the complexity, we knew it would be valuable to have a holistic view of all the goals and user needs people have when they encounter us.

We also wanted to help teams recognise the experiences of users in completing these goals from start to finish - whether that's finding information, publishing a report, or getting something fixed. We wanted to understand the part different teams play in the user journey.

Our overall objective was to:

Explore the goals and needs of Parliament's current and future users, so that we understand their experiences and the perceived ‘services’ that support those goals.

So in October 2018, as part of the larger project to change how we design and deliver services, we started to pull together all of our existing insights, along with other data sources like Support Desk tickets. We then used this as the basis for articulating what those goals actually are.

Finding the value in working together

As part of our investigation, we also wanted to understand the following:

  • What are the user goals and how do they currently map across our systems, teams, technologies, and services?
  • What are the pain points in their current journeys?
  • What are the areas of highest risk to Parliament?
  • What do users perceive as their 'digital' services?
  • What are the services we need to provide to meet users' goals?

We knew it was important to work collaboratively with colleagues, subject matter experts, and users to explore and understand their diverse goals and challenges. There’s not much value in the user research team learning stuff then throwing it over a wall to other teams.

Once we had done just enough research, we ran 16 workshops with groups across PDS. We did some persona exercises to understand more about different user types and played back our findings so far.

We asked colleagues two questions:

  • Did the findings match their understanding of the experience?
  • Was there anything wrong or missing?

User journey using post-its of a user needing to fix a parliamentary device

But it was when we began mapping journeys from start to finish, for example, "I need to fix a broken device", that the interesting conversations really started to happen.

People who rarely had the chance to talk to each other were suddenly in a room looking at services through the eyes of users. They started to talk about the pain points and why they were happening. In some cases they agreed to small changes that could be made at different stages to improve the overall user experience.

By the end of the second set of workshops, we had a better understanding of the different touchpoints, systems, and team interactions involved at each stage of the user journey. But we didn't want to stop there. Many of the things we had mapped were still assumptions. Assumptions made with confidence but assumptions nonetheless, so it was really important we validated them to gain more confidence in our hypotheses.

Creating clubs based on user goals

We then created some additional objectives:

  • to create clubs to focus on mapping end-to-end user journeys across Parliament (not just PDS)
  • to transfer capability of straightforward service design and user research skills to colleagues, so they're empowered to continue to map out, validate, and understand the journeys our users are taking

The clubs we've created are informal groups of colleagues that have a user goal in common. They may be working in a completely different team or department but they have a part to play in helping users achieve a goal, whether from an internal or external perspective like “I need to publish a report".

The first step in improving the experience is to collectively understand the end-to-end journey that  this user has to take and their pain points along the way. Their touchpoints may be digital or analogue, but if we continue to work in isolation, we'll never achieve excellent digital services.

And that's what service design is: working together to improve services for people.

At a recent workshop, colleagues came up with a working definition of what service design means at Parliament:

Service design enables us to be flexible in understanding how to deliver, enhance, and support cross-cutting, end-to-end services to maximise value.

These are the clubs we have so far:

  • I need to publish information inside and outside of Parliament
  • I need to build capabilities into my team
  • I need my technology to work
  • I need to find, understand, and use information from Parliament
  • I need a safe and functional digital environment to work in

Alongside our clubs, we're also trialling a service design approach to one specific area, around getting devices and software (or ‘get kit’ for short). Look out for an upcoming blog post to find out more about this work.

If this all sounds new to you and you're interested in being part of one of the clubs or finding out more, contact Jeanette Clement.

If you're interested in helping us to build service design capability at PDS, see our jobs board.

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