In December, our director of service design, Rebecca Elton explained how PDS was starting to change. We formed a team to explore different aspects of how we might apply service design to our work. Jeanette Clement has also written about how we’re working to understand services through user needs.
One of the workstreams for the service design team was looking at how we provide hardware and software to our users. We’ve settled on the name ‘get kit’ for now and we've just spent eight weeks working on this so this is what we found.
What did we do?
We put together a team from across PDS, including people from the various teams and offices involved in providing hardware and software who are our subject-matter experts, plus user research, and data analysis.
We spent eight weeks doing four, two week sprints with the following objectives:
- develop a shared understanding of our users’ needs
- develop a shared, comprehensive understanding of the work, including the current problems
- learn from the experiences of people who have tried to improve providing hardware and software before
- develop a vision for what a new service would achieve
- design a new service
- develop prototypes to methodically test ideas for improvement
- deliver one measurable improvement
We also had the opportunity to try some tools and techniques that were new to many of the team. We were helped in this by Anne Couvert-Castera from FutureGov who was our dedicated service designer.
At the end of the eight weeks, we wanted to get approval from the senior team in PDS to carry on. We also wanted to get one of our Directors to sponsor and lead the next stage of the work, and to get recognition that ‘get kit’ would only be a success if we develop a new role for service ownership in the team. This was based on learning from Julie Byrne and Sam Middleton who talked with other organisations as part of another workstream.
We achieved everything we set out to do in the eight weeks, which is testament to the hard work of the team.
What did we learn?
Most of the people involved had to balance their time with commitments from their main jobs. This won’t be sustainable for future stages of this work and is a valuable lesson for the other service design work we’re doing.
When you work somewhere where people have tried to change before and it hasn’t worked out, there can be understandable cynicism when a new initiative starts. We had some of that on ‘get kit’ but as the weeks went by it went away, and the group really started working well together. As we started by gathering a wide range of views and involving everybody with a stake in the work, it really helped to overcome any cynicism.
Staying curious and trusting the process to take you somewhere different to your preconceived ideas is a really valuable approach.
Things that might seem simple (“how hard can it be to issue a laptop?”) can quickly become really complicated when you’re working with three different organisations: PDS, the Commons, and the Lords. Each organisation has their own set of rules and a really wide range of users. We have to meet the needs of everybody from staff working in finance, to software developers, to MPs and Lords. Involving subject matter experts in the work that the team did helped with this (HR, for example).
The whole experience taught us about what a future service team might look like in the most practical way we’ve tried so far. This has been a good vehicle for "learning by doing", and giving people who are going to be involved in change an opportunity to shape it.
Now we’re in the next stage and keeping up the momentum on the prototypes, developing measures of success, and getting our sponsor Rob Sanders, director of live services, up to date.
We’ll write more soon, and in the meantime if you’ve had experience of transforming internal-facing services please get in touch.
Read more posts about service design in Parliament.