Top 5 principles - digital service delivery in government

Key tenets of our approach to delivering effectively with users.

Posted by Mark Kirkpatrick on July 15, 2019

I want to share some key principles that inform our approach in delivering effectively for users across New Zealand government. We are constantly iterating on this as we learn more in building out a digital service design framework that agencies can use and align to easily.

1. Establish strategic alignment from the start

We need to build strong partnerships across government so we can extend reach and/or strengthen our sustainability in realising our vision for better government digital services. We want to further formalise and bolster these partnerships by aligning clearly, explicitly around government strategic objectives. Clearly framing our work as complimentary / supportive of wider objectives, helps us get buy-in both internally, and also from across the complex public service environment.

whiteboard with post-its on it Build teams that work well together, clear about vision and purpose.

2. Data as the driver

The team embed all work in analytics too. Digital is inherently trackable, and this should be used for the good of people - empowering teams to deliver efficiently, and to make informed choices about building services well. For example, we have used data to educate effectively about the value in turning things off; freeing up spend to use effectively elsewhere.

We determine what key KPIs we associate with our objectives so we can articulate progress clearly, to ourselves and others, from the start.

3. Communicate coherently, consistently, test, tweak, iterate

We have an overarching communications strategy around the work too, having learned a lot over this year. We’ve put a lot of time and energy in getting consensus across the team around messaging - ensuring focus and consistency in how we communicate, how we optimise when we do so, and what channels are the most effective.

We set goals for every message that goes out so we can learn from the user community as to what resonates - making time for this analysis, absorbing it and assimilating findings into future communications is important in increasing engagement and conversion.

For example, we've aligned more explicitly with OGP commitments and how our work helps New Zealand government - accentuating the positive outcomes from work for users and government as a global ‘citizen’.

4. Engage before, during, after

Government is a complex environment with different structures and dynamics throughout, and numerous initiatives on the go at any time, some joined up, some not so. It is crucial in embarking on work with a goal to affect systematic improvements that engagement is properly planned, coordinated and sequenced so as to maximise targeting and subsequent positive impact.

There is obvious cross-over with effective communications tactics, and we improve engagement throughout the year too. We are looking at approach around ‘post’ engagement - i.e. what we do after user testing, quantitative analysis etc. to ensure people are aware of how their contribution helps us build services out and are invested throughout.

5. Never underestimate the power of community

‘Nothing about us without us’ is a recent refrain learned from Inclusion Scotland that really resonated with me. It encapsulates the need to design with the communities we live in and not for them; there is a crucial difference in that one word. It is an ethos I have always identified with and championed, and the team have prospered in using this approach in everything we do.

From corralling to inform the Design System work, to participating in the drafting and release of a Digital Service Design standard for New Zealand, the enthusiasm and energy of our communities have enabled the team to truly co-design positive outcomes for users.

The power of those communities doesn’t stop there - it helps drive momentum in evolving services, systems so that they are never static, constantly evolving to meet changing needs and behaviours. It encourages buy-in so people are contributing as well as consuming common tools etc. We want to further explore this power too, to delve into commitment around time, energy, budget so we can build services that are as sustainable as they are valued and used.

Going forward

Having worked with international counterparts, having tested different models with users locally, having stood up teams to deliver real value, relatively quickly, we know more about how we build inclusive services that scale, built on standards that are clear and compelling and align to a wider government digital strategic aims.

This in turn should help government prioritise putting people at the heart of investment, improvement and initiating work when building/evolving services.

I look forward to driving work across the Digital Service Design Framework into 2020!