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Below is a high level overview of the user research we collected, analysed and independently conducted for our work. The user research was based on the idea of becoming a senior as a convenient lens to explore the concept of integrated services across agencies, public and private sectors, and across multiple life events. Please see the full report for detailed analysis. Overview and highlights below. 

Executive Summary

The Way We Worked

In the Lab+ experiment we have been testing the concept of what integrated services could look like into the future, including what a user's experience with government might be like. We explored the creation of an integrated service through the lens of a life event. It's been a collaborative process, a new model for integrated discovery.

One of the real strengths of the Lab+ team is the diversity of perspectives and experiences that each individual brought to the process. By working together and keeping an open mind. We had an openness to creative discomfort, appreciated the advantages of collaboration and we innovated with purpose.

We placed the user at the centre of what we did and developed concepts iteratively based on user feedback. Lean methodologies and user centred design guided our process. It enabled us to adapt to user feedback and achieve a lot in a short space of time. Over 160 people took part in the Lab+ User insight research.

Finally, we published the concepts for public feedback, cognisant of the natural skew of people likely to be aware of our work, tuned into our blogging and interested enough to review and submit their thoughts to a survey. Those results were also quite helpful, our many thanks to all those who contributed.

Building and Testing Three Future States for Government Service Delivery

We divided the user research work into three sprints.
  • Sprint 1 focused on discovery, reviewing previous user insight, discovery workshops, phone interviews and concept development.
    • The output of Sprint 1 was three future state modes of service delivery:
      • Conversational Services
      • Proactive Delivery
      • Help Me Plan.
  • Sprint 2 focused on concept testing and further development of the concepts based on user feedback from workshops, phone interviews and crowd testing.
  • Sprint 3 tested these concepts more broadly through crowd testing.

Conversational Services

  • “I want to resolve questions quickly.”
  • “I want to talk to a person as I like the pace of the interaction.”
  • “I want options.”
  • “I want the person I talk to, to understand my context, so I don’t have to repeat myself.”
  • “I want to be understood.”
  • “I want to be guided.”
“I am happy to learn digital skills if I understand the benefit for the effort of learning.” The Conversational Services concept is where a user can engage online with an agent to apply or complete some form of interaction with government, including to resolve questions or issues they might have with a service. There were three aspects of this concept:
  1. The ability to engage in an interactive approach to helping someone complete an activity;
  2. The ability to, with permission, link in multiple agencies to resolving a matter; and
  3. Visibility and an ongoing record of the interaction.
We used the example of someone either applying for or being proactively advised that they were not eligible for NZ Super based on criteria around living in New Zealand for a period of time. In this case the person knows this is untrue, and enters a conversation with government to fix the mistake which involves real time validation with Immigration as part of the process, and a resolved issue by the end.

Concept testing revealed that users were willing and able to engage in a conversation online to transact with government. Many had used chat before and others who had not, perceived it worth the effort to learn. Users identified that this would be convenient, cost effective (as they didn’t have to pay a bus fare and spend the morning in a waiting room), and a great option. They also identified that they wouldn’t want to lose the option of face to face or phone. Some also liked the idea of having a ‘skype type’ window option as well as chat as this had all the benefits of the face to face, but none of the challenges to get there, and would likely be a quicker resolution. Users also identified that they would like to have the options to choose the agent they spoke to, some linked this to trust, some to context of previous conversations.

Proactive Delivery

  • “Why do I have to apply for something you already know I am entitled to?”
  • “Why do I have to go to so many different agencies to get one entitlement?”
  • “I don’t care about the org chart of government.”
  • “Why do they make it so hard?”
The Proactive Delivery concept is based on the assumption that users could opt-in to proactive service delivery where appropriate. It assumes government already holds information about an individual and through some ongoing analysis could notify a person about services or entitlements relevant to them.

We used a hypothetical of a person being notified about rates rebates or travel assistance and either through permission or automatically getting the services. We explored different notification modes eg, via third parties (online banking) and direct from government (mobile phone). The notification contained information about the service and the detail held on which the assessment was made on.

On the whole users were comfortable with the idea of services being proactively approved, but became less keen when something was taken away from them. However, on further exploration comparing current alternatives, as long as there was clear information about the logic behind the decision and an efficient way to address any concerns, users felt this would result in them having more than they have now. A small set of users were concerned about how the agency would have that information about them. One variation of this concept also explored explicit verification, this meant the user had to specifically consent to business rules being verified with another agency. Eg “verify income is less than $50,000 with Inland Revenue”. Users liked this as it provided visibility and control. In some concept testing we also partnered Proactive Delivery concepts with Conversational Services to see how they partnered to provide a service proactively and allow any questions to be resolved.

Help Me Plan

  • “I know people who will not contact a government agency for the fear of losing what they already have.”
  • “I don’t know what I don’t know.”
  • “This would be empowering to be able to find detail myself.”
  • “This would help me prepare for meeting and not feel so unprepared.”
The third future state concept “Help Me Plan” is an online dynamic information resource that an individual could anonymously access and provide context about themselves and their circumstances. This context would dynamically provide content and information about the services they are entitled to based on their decisions (including services they don't already know about).

The potential future state mock-up is purposefully generic, enabling a user's needs to be met through diverse options of functionality and mashing up of content, business rules and other functionality could be provided by government and non-government service providers; with government providing the baseline generic service and the private and community sectors specialising in particular user needs or market segments. The concept is also that people don’t necessarily want to engage in a transaction with government in the first instance, but like to explore options for themselves to inform their decision making, and then to engage when they are ready.

Users told us that they would find this a really useful resource. 90% of the 55-70 aged group said they would find the “Help me plan” resource empowering, useful and needed. During the Concept testing the team also reviewed similar resources that help a user to proactively plan for an event or circumstance.

This analysis included a mock-up example as well as existing New Zealand Government examples and

User Insights

One of the assumptions that we tested and validated in our research is the user comfort level and perception of notification of a sensitive topic like the death of a spouse. In the scenario tested there was a decrease in NZ Super entitlement as a result of the death of a spouse. The over 65 was notified via their trusted online banking portal. Users said that “This would be useful at a difficult time”, “Death is a fact of life”, “I would hate to have to pay it back”. The general feeling was it was a good example of decision, context of decision and impact of decision. They were also OK with the notification displayed via online banking as long as they were expecting these types of notification and could ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ of this type of notification.

Another strong theme from our research was the trend towards digital confidence in the users in the 55-70 age group. They want digital options and if they understand the benefits to learning new digital skills, they are willing and able to do so.

People were largely happy to have their data used to provision services as long as they were getting value from it and as long as is it was an option rather than requirement. There was a strong preference for transparency about how the information was used.

We tested the concept of private sector (eg. internet service providers, doctors, banks) and community sector (eg. Plunket, Citizens Advice Bureau, local iwi) intermediaries providing additional high value and targeted products and services to New Zealanders by building on the back of government systems. We had a small team review previous user research to enable it to be included in our team approach and concept development. The analysis was then imported into, a visualisation tool previously used by DIA. This allows dynamic review of the research. It is intended that this will be a living resource and will enhance how user research is done going forward. This visual presentation is useful to get a view of how many agencies – government and non-government – are involved in the life event and what the event themes are.

Experiment Insights

We started this experiment expecting to test a future state for government service delivery. We ended up discovering that multi-modal service delivery is useful to deal with the different ways people want to deal with government at different times, directly or through intermediaries.

"Government as a Platform" has been one of the foundations of our testing. The approach makes components of government open so intermediaries or service providers can build new services, products and analysis on the shoulders of existing government components. The breadth of providers that are enabled using Government as a Platform can better serve the requirements of an increasingly diverse community.


The team has achieved a lot in a relatively short timeframe, and we have some recommendations for future sprints:
  • We recommend further workshops take place exploring the concepts and future states with a specific focus on diversity. The crowd testing had up to 34 ethnicities in each pulse, but we suggest further work in this area as the concepts continue to develop.
  • Observational interviews are also recommended to supplement the Lab+ interviews. Groups in Pacific Island and Maori communities, Probus (55+ community group), SeniorNet, Citizens’ Advice and friends and families of people turning 65 are also suggested.

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