Wrapping up Discovery on our Starting a Business project

The first stage of our service delivery and design process is Discovery, which is about finding out the real needs and problems faced by your users, and understanding the policy intent and technology constraints. In this post, Simon Fisher - Product Manager on the ‘Starting a Business’ transformation project - shares some of the team’s findings from their initial work.

Image: The Starting a Business team sharing insights learned from the Discovery stage.

Research during discovery

The latest of our Digital Transformation Program projects is about starting a business and making it easier for that business to succeed. This project kicked off its Discovery stage earlier this year.

The project is being led by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) in partnership with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Digital Transformation Office (DTO). The goal of the project is to make it easier to start a new business in Australia.

As is often the case in Discovery, initial research has focused on ensuring the project team built empathy with our potential users in order to gain a deeper understanding of the problem.

The key things we wanted to get out of this research were to:

  • understand the different motivations behind the decision to start a business,
  • understand how different business types interact with government information and services,
  • identify and assess the touch points (where a user interacts with a service) in the application and compliance areas of starting a business
  • understand industry requirements and expectations, and
  • identify barriers and pain points in the starting a business process.

To achieve this, the project team visited people who had recently started a business, or were thinking of starting a business. We met with them in their work places wherever possible to see how they actually live, act and react and what constraints they may be operating under.

In total, we spoke with 32 business owners in 15 locations across Australia, both metropolitan and regional. We also spoke with 10 people who are in roles where they help businesses - such as mentors, advisers and accountants.

Other governments across Australia have done lots of research looking at the business environment so we incorporated that research into our findings as well. We looked at research that has been carried out by the likes of DIIS, ATO, the Productivity Commission and the Office of the Australian Small Business Commissioner.

What we learned

So far, we’ve learned that:

  • there’s a lot of information from government about starting a business and it can be overwhelming
  • the terminology and language used by government can be complicated
  • local government regulations are inconsistent and can be hard to understand
  • business planning is optional but might be a good idea
  • funding can be hard to secure
  • businesses don’t always fit into government-defined frameworks or categories
  • advice is preferred from friends, family and other business owners, and
  • government is often not the first source of help or information.

These insights will come as no surprise to those of you who work in this space; however it was heartening that our findings largely confirmed those of the broader research pieces.

New ways of working

Beyond our user research findings, we have also learned to work together as a new, multi-agency, multi-disciplinary team. One of the key goals of the Delivery Hubs, in which we’re working, is to help teams adapt to these new ways of working (including using our agile four-stage service delivery and design process).

It’s exciting to see how the teams have embraced these different ways of working since coming into the DTO. Gone are the offices, partitions, desk phones and desktop PCs. The team all sit at a large table together with laptops, which makes collaboration easier.

The team has also covered every last bit of wall space with project artefacts, including user interview summaries, snapshots of insights, sprint plans, and our user research dashboard.

Coming from my home department of DIIS, some of these are familiar. For example, we have our business.gov.au user personas prominent in the workspace, to inform the ongoing development of the site and its content. Kanban walls are also common in DIIS, to keep track of progress through sprints. So I feel like I’m building on my existing knowledge and experiences, which is great.

Our project is now well into its Alpha stage. We have a few concepts we’re testing with users before we decide on a Minimum Viable Product and moving to the Beta stage.

Want to get involved?

If you’re interested in helping us test our new digital service, please sign up. We’re particularly keen to hear from anyone who has turned a hobby into a business.

Simon Fisher is a product manager from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

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