What we can learn from the Design Intensive

What can a super-speedy ride down a slide teach us about designing for customers? I found the answer last week when the Design and Innovation team from Result 10 hosted a Design Intensive for 40 public servants from various agencies.

As a communications person, I think it’s important to break down exactly what kind of design we’re talking about here. You’re probably picturing me hovering behind a designer saying “Make it pop! Make it sizzle! But do it with the colours in our style guide!” Well, wrong picture.

Instead, it’s about looking at every aspect of the journey a user will go through with an agency. It’s about how we ensure people can easily get the services they want or need. It’s about how we are able to deliver better public services. And with that in mind, here’s the things that left their mark during the day.

Special delivery

During the day, Kiwibank talked to us about their Home Hunter app, which they designed to be about the life event of buying a house, rather than the bureaucratic process of filling out a mortgage application form. Instead of just copying the questions from the paper form, they re-thought the whole process to create a simpler home loan user experience. Sound familiar? It’s the approach we take with federated service delivery too.

Kiwibank also told us that it’s all very well to deliver joy but it has to be useful as well. One of my proud moments as a DIA employee is when I hear someone talk about how efficient our online passport renewal service is — even though I don’t work in that area. We deliver delight and it’s very useful for anyone who’s ever made spontaneous travel plans or forgot to renew their passport until it’s almost too late.

The lesson? Look deeper at what you’re doing: can it be improved? changed? streamlined? Don’t just copy the analog service by making it digital.

Divide and conquer

A recurring theme is segmenting customer groups to serve them better. As public servants, we have 4.5 million customers so obviously we need to divide them up somehow in order to understand their needs. We can’t help them if we don’t know what they need. In my previous life working in arts marketing, we used Culture Segments. At Result 10, we have created personas for our Blueprint, which is the set of actions for achieving our vision for digital services. Using our recent research in ‘pain points’, we’ve created behavioural and attitudinal segments to help us better understand the needs of different customers. We’ll share this research as soon as we can.

The lesson? Understand your users better and what needs you’re trying to meet.

Get a room! Or at least get a team

Walls of an office covered in brightly coloured Post-it notes stuck all over the walls
The Result 10 office is basically held together by Post-it notes detailing our work in progress

There was also a lot of talk about building ‘war rooms’ for sprints and getting smart people together to generate ideas. It is essential to get others outside your immediate group involved as early as possible. I pity the fool who doesn’t assemble their own A-Team (no, not that A-Team) with representatives from customer services, policy, legal, communications, IT, UX, research and design. [Hint: communications advisors actually want to help not just insist on correct logo placement! Please involve us before you need a news release written about the work you’ve done. We can be pretty useful at offering new perspectives.]

And while we’re talking about teams, a lot of the talk on the day centred on the physical space in which we work. This was emphasised by our visit to Trade Me where the CEO is on the same floor as everyone else; they also had a caravan to meet in and great big shiny playground slides to zip from one floor to another. I’m not saying slides are necessary, but everyone spoke about the benefit of allowing people around the organisation to see what you’re working on so they can casually feed into it. Here at Result 10 we have the “pool room” (as in This is going straight to the pool room.) and a whole lot of Post-it notes documenting work in progress. We try to work as transparently as possible because that means we’re more able to collaborate.

The lesson? Look for better ways for your team to work together effectively. And be open to new perspectives.

Testing 1, 2, 3

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment told us about the work they had done on their skills and maintenance project with licensed building practitioners. The main user testing takeaway? Customers LOVE to tell you about their experiences! This means doing more than just monitoring what people are saying on Twitter because that’s only going to be one subset of people. Trade Me also does tons of user testing, often popping out and grabbing people off the street to exchange chocolate for a few minutes of their time. Back at HQ they iterate and the next day improvements in the Trade Me app are already done. For Trade Me, iteration is agile in action.

The lesson? Any time you implement new changes or systems, remember to be brave enough to ask “Is it actually better now?” afterwards. You won’t know if you helped users if you never ask.

Sharing is caring

As well as celebrating your successes, talk about your failures. If you can save other government agencies from repeating your costly or annoying mistakes, then that’s a win. Be as generous as you can be about helping others. Everyone at the Design Intensive benefited from a panel discussion by Customs, NZ Post, NZ Police, New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, and the Ministry of Social Development plus Trade Me and Kiwibank.

Being able to have a place outside of government to bounce around ideas can be super useful. Often those relationships are helpful in setting you up with other parts of government too, which helps remove the silos between agencies. We know we’ll definitely be making the most of the connections we made with the other agencies who came along on the day.

The lesson? Don’t start from scratch, build on others’ work. And share what you’ve done so others can do the same. Chances are that others are working to solve the same issues you are.

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