Every project in the DTOs transformation program has to pass an assessment to move to the next stage. Kate Needham, a User Researcher on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) Simplifying Imports team, explains how her team prepared for their Alpha assessment and what the experience was like.
As one of the first transformation projects from the DTO’s delivery hub to go through the Digital Service Standard’s assessment process, we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew we had to be thoroughly prepared and we had a hard act to follow. One of our other DIBP teams had already passed their assessment.
Image: The team walking the assessment panel through the service map.
The aim of our project is to simplify the importation of goods across Australia’s border. Currently, paper permits dominate the process and importers are required to present them in order to clear prohibited and restricted imported goods. We want to simplify the process for our user groups - brokers, importers, DIBP pre-clearance intervention officers, and permit issuing agencies. We conducted considerable research and felt being assessed by the DTO was a great opportunity to work through our research findings from the Discovery phase and also in the process of developing a prototype in Alpha. Here’s what we learnt:
Prepare thoroughly from Day 1
From the start of the Discovery (research) stage, and all the way through the project, we had the Digital Service Standard displayed on our team wall. The Service Standard Criteria was at the centre of everything we did, because we knew from the very start of the project that we would be assessed against them. This helped focus our attention on important things, like ensuring we understood our users and that our service truly meets their needs. We were excited to receive feedback from the DTO that we showed strong evidence of contextual user research that we carried out with many users of different types in different locations both inside and outside of government.
An opportunity to reflect and recapture our learnings
Preparing for the assessment, and going through the assessment itself, was a great opportunity to reflect on how much the team has learned and achieved in just a few months. We’ve been so busy focussing our attention and energy on achieving our goals for each sprint (project milestone), that we hadn’t really stopped to look back and see just how far we’d come.
A great outcome and the chance to keep improving
On the day of the assessment we were all nervous but we needn’t have been. Despite the importance and seriousness of the occasion, the assessment panel made us feel relaxed and comfortable. It didn’t feel like a test - it was more an opportunity to work through our findings and process together. Knowing that several members of the panel had, themselves, been assessed at some point helped - and we were confident that we knew our stuff. We had spent some time leading up to the assessment collecting and finalising our key artefacts. We also assigned team members to each criteria in the standard to spend some time thinking about what we might be asked.
Throughout the assessment process we were able to tell our story, validate our processes and thinking, and confirm to ourselves and the assessment panel that we are heading in the right direction.
And the good news is that we passed. We’ve now been given the go-ahead to progress to the next stage - Beta, in which we will now build our minimum viable product (MVP).
Overall, it was great to gain valuable feedback and expert advice from the DTO panel. We gained a new perspective on our work from some fresh and experienced eyes. We’re now looking forward to working through the recommendations we received in our assessment report so we can keep improving our service.