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Teaming up to deliver better outcomes for Veterans

Recently a small contingent from CDS was lucky enough to visit Prince Edward Island off Canada’s Maritime coast. We were there at the invitation of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), who we're working with to improve how Veterans find benefits online.

The purpose of the visit was to playback the findings from our user research, and provide VAC staff with a demo of the application we've been developing informed by the insights from the research.

Members of the CDS team in the lobby of Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown

Throughout the partnership, the CDS team is keeping our VAC colleagues involved in the delivery through regular sprint planning and review sessions, and updates via a shared backlog as well as conventional channels, such as email. This overview of the research and the product demo were opportunities to involve a wider constituency in VAC beyond those we work with on a regular basis. In total we delivered the presentation and demo three times over the two days to about 50 staff.

Applying user insights to product development

Our user researcher on the product, Mithula, gave an account of the research she led with the CDS team. She explained the format of the interviews with users and how the CDS research had built on VAC's own earlier research.

She then set out the insights from the discovery work, and it was evident that even VAC staff with decades of experience were fascinated by the findings. Principle amongst these were that Veterans struggled to find and understand the range of benefits and which ones are specifically open to them. As a result, too few Veterans take advantage of the range of benefits available to them.

Members of the CDS team analysing feedback from user research with Veterans

Stevie-Ray then gave a demo of the application we have been prototyping and its features. He showed how the range of benefits available to Veterans can be found quickly through the use of simple filters and how the results could be saved, shared or printed. He explained how the information about benefits had been structured, how content design had been used to make the information easy to read and understand in English and French, and how it could be updated in real time using a simple content management system. Based on our research findings relating to when and where Veterans would like to access information about benefits, we’ve ensured it works on any device, anywhere, even when internet access is intermittent.

Veterans can use the application to explore benefits available to them

Between them, Mithula and Stevie-Ray demonstrated how their team had applied user research to inform the iterative design and development of a web application that directly addresses the needs of Veterans. By building in this way, the product delivery team are able to quickly and cheaply adapt the product as they learn more about the users and their needs over time.

Moving from one delivery phase to the next

Later in the visit, we discussed next steps to complete this phase where we are testing a prototype (the alpha delivery phase) and take a view on whether to continue with the product based on feedback from Veterans and staff in VAC. Providing we continue to see evidence of user needs being met, CDS will be able to handover development to VAC teams or to collaborate further on iterating and testing a working version of product that is used as part of every-day service transactions on a large scale (a beta delivery phase).

It was fantastic to find shared alignment on the objective of serving users better, in this case helping Veterans to find, review and apply for benefits. It was great to hear feedback from VAC staff and to learn how they saw the product and these new ways of working as enabling them to deliver better outcomes for Veterans.

Prince Edward Island is obviously a beautiful place to visit but it is also a place where inspirational service transformation work is happening. Our team was grateful to have been welcomed in to be part of it. Our visit to was an opportunity to remember the honour that it is to work in public service supporting Canada’s Veterans, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with VAC.

You can watch our progress through future posts on this blog. Keep an eye on the Alpha on our code repositories, and follow the CDS Twitter account for updates.