As we talked about in Exploring the conditions for digital service delivery, we’ve learned that delivering better digital services is a lot like gardening. You can plant as many flowers as you want, but if the conditions aren’t suitable for growth, the seeds won’t sprout and your garden won’t thrive.
But what conditions do you need to deliver better services? What changes can your department make to cultivate and grow the people, infrastructure, and support that digital services need? What things are limiting your growth?
To answer those questions, we introduced a new service called Exploration. Over four weeks, we work with you and your team to explore your department’s conditions and make recommendations on how to create the conditions for a digital service to grow and thrive.
The Exploration Framework
At the heart of the Exploration service is a framework we use to organize and understand the conditions in your department. When we run an Exploration, we look at the extent to which digital practices and digital roles/structures exist within your service context.
We look at six digital practices:
- Shifting from project management to a product delivery model
- Cultivating a culture of collaboration
- Working in the open
- Establishing and empowering multi-disciplinary teams
- Conducting user research
- Practicing continuous improvement
Through the lens of these roles and structures:
- Leadership and coherent direction (e.g. policy direction, governance and champions)
- Capacity and infrastructure (e.g. modern IT infrastructure, Legal, Comms and Privacy guidance and support)
- Delivery capability (e.g. talent and teams with digital skills, tactics and tools)
To answer these questions:
Shifting from project management to a product delivery model
- To what degree are product delivery models present to guide and fund the development and delivery of content, products, and services relative to Government of Canada and organizational mandates and priorities?
Cultivating a culture of collaboration
- To what degree is collaboration present and enabled within and across the organization to develop and deliver content, products, and services?
Working in the open
- To what degree do people and teams embrace working in the open when developing and delivering content, products, and services? Establishing and empowering multi-disciplinary teams
- To what degree are multidisciplinary teams empowered to make design and delivery decisions at content, product, and service levels? To what degree do they have access to modern productivity and collaboration tools and infrastructure (e.g. secure cloud)?
Conducting user research
- To what degree are user needs valued? To what degree are teams conducting user research as they develop and deliver content, products, and services?
Practicing continuous improvement
- To what degree are teams continuously improving their content, products, and services based on usability testing and feedback? To what degree are teams monitoring and evaluating their content, products, and services to know and amplify what’s creating value and dampen what is not?
And overall, where is the organization at in relation to digital ways of working and product or service opportunity?
- Limited awareness or capacity for digital practices
- Limited motivation to change ways of working
- Practically everything done by waterfall approaches
- Limited-to-no-access to modern infrastructure and tools
- Information gaps and disengagement in the pre-discovery process
- Likely to run into blockers without known workarounds
- Awareness of the need and motivation to shift what they do and how they do it
- Isolated examples of championing and practicing digital ways of working
- Transitioning to modern infrastructure and tools
- We understand the current situation and see some blockers
- There are likely workarounds to overcome blockers
- Established structures and practices for enabling digital practices
- A variety of examples of adopting and applying digital practices and tools to create value with users
- We understand the current situation and conditions appear enabling for the most part
- Not likely to be significant blockers
- Continuously iterating policy direction and delivery practices based on user feedback and outcomes
- Access to modern tools and infrastructure
- Situation is clear to us and everyone is informed
- Conditions are clearly enabling and forward looking
Once we have a sense of where you’re at, we can recommend how to introduce or level up your digital practices over time.
Example: Conducting user research
What does this look like in action? Let’s look at the digital practice of user research. User research is a common challenge across government, and one that’s vital to producing user-centred services. When we do an Exploration, we want to know:
- Are user needs understood? Are they being met?
- Are teams conducting research with end-users as they develop and deliver content, products and services? If not, why is that?
The challenge can lie in one area, or a combination of areas. It might be because there are no design researchers or design research skills in your organization (delivery capability). Or it might be that the roles and skills exist, but there isn’t support for it at the leadership level (leadership and coherent direction). Or maybe the skills exist, and there’s support from leadership, but there are concerns from the privacy group (enabling capacity and infrastructure).
Once we understand where your challenges are, we can make concrete recommendations on how you can improve in that area. And if we continue working with you, we already have a clear sense of where you’re at, so we can tailor our approach.
What we’ve learned so far
So far this approach seems to be helping. We’ve seen departments ask for more time, money, or humans based on our recommendations. We’ve seen departments learn about themselves and their own readiness to deliver digital services. And we’ve learned about ourselves, too. We’ve learned how we can serve the government better.
If you want to read about our pilots, you can find them in our GitHub repository:
- Employment and Social Development Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s Refugee Information Needs
- Natural Resources Canada’s Canmet Energy Program, and
- Natural Resources Canada’s Flood Mapping Program
Want to dig further?
Ask us about doing an Exploration with your federal department!