Simplification of Information Collection — Alpha assessment
The Simplification of Information Collection (SIC) project aims to manage how information is collected and flows through the department.
The Department of Human Services is currently managing a hybrid environment of non-digitised and partially digitised processes. The Simplification of Information Collection (SIC) project aims to manage how information is collected and flows through the department. It isn’t realistic to tackle digitising all information in the project’s timeframe, therefore it is anticipated SIC will focus on areas that add the most value by concentrating on a few core processes to build a solution that can be scalable and repeatable.
Current status was described as:
- “Digital” channels for obtaining, filling and submitting information to the department are nothing more than electronic versions of paper forms, with all channels leading to a scanned image of the form placed in the National Processing Queue.
- No mechanism to allow digital nonrepudiation of documents. All forms still require a “physical” signature.
- Generally, all fields in a form are required to be filled, even if the department already has the information.
The main objective is to improve the user experience by collecting only the information we need, only when we need it. To this end a set of collection principles will be developed, based on the user research and alpha prototypes, to guide DHS’ future information collection.
Areas of good performance
User research activities in discovery and alpha were extensive and engaged the entire team through participating in the sessions or playback to team members who couldn’t attend every session. There is a diverse cross-section of user groups covered so far. This includes staff and customers from different locations, abilities and cultural backgrounds. A key focus moving forward will be engaging with customers in rural and remote locations and from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The team has done good work in sharing their findings with other teams within their agency.
The team vision is well established and the sustainable multidisciplinary team is functioning well. The team has demonstrated their ability to onboard new team members effectively. Agile ceremonies are being followed in a style that suits the team. The team’s artifacts and communication tools incorporate a fit-for-purpose combination of digital and physical resources.
Criterion 1: Understand user needs
The team undertook user research sessions during almost every sprint and acknowledged the insights they gained. Not all the team could participate in every user research session, but the team synthesise regularly and playback with the group.
The team visited 14 locations, interviewed 118 people over 87 hours of research. The breadth of participants included in the user research for the discovery phase was extensive and included:
- Visiting service and smart centres (57)
- In community centres (12)
- Service Centre (25)
- Call centre (3)
- Processing (15)
- Others (5)
The customers included people from city, metropolitan and country locations and also included a few people with disability and from different cultural backgrounds. The team acknowledges that additional user research is needed with people from rural and remote locations and to include more cultural, linguistic and ability diversity.
Their research identified that the existing systems were collecting information unnecessary for specific claims and often re-collecting information that often already existed within DHS’ systems.
The team tested paper and digital prototypes for ‘extreme circumstances’ customers that currently only have a paper-form option. The prototypes were iterated with user input and tested well.
For the ‘prison release’ and ‘humanitarian’ claims, the team trialled removing the paper requirement altogether with ‘staff-assisted’ data entry in the service centre for ‘prison release’ customers and verbal agreement with the existing data for ‘humanitarian’ customers. Both staff and customers agreed that removing the paper requirement was an improvement in these two situations.
The team has been sharing their user insights with other DHS teams and will need to ensure the learnings are fully passed along and the user research continues when individual product teams take over the ongoing development.
Criterion 2: Have a multidisciplinary team
A team charter was developed with the vision of ‘improve the user experience by only collecting the information we need, only when we need it’.
The team comprised:
- Product Manager
- Change Manager
- Delivery Manager
- Tech lead
- User Researcher
They were able to draw in as required:
- Accessibility expertise during alpha HTML prototyping
- Business area subject matter experts
- User recruitment
Team was also able to draw on the individuals’ ‘T-shapes’ as required, e.g. service design.
When a new person joined the team part-way through, the onboarding was smooth due to the way the team had kept records necessitated by their distributed locations.
Criterion 3: Agile and user-centered process
The team followed the agile approach well with weekly sprints and scheduled ceremonies. Jira and a physical board was used as their Kanban to capture and track tasks and Sharepoint was used to share the user research and key project artifacts. The team also used a whiteboard wall to capture and showcase user insights and sprint progress.
The ‘extreme circumstances’ prototype benefited from the adoption of UIKit 2.0 and the input from an accessibility subject matter expert.
The team appreciated the opportunity to have ‘in-flight’ check-ins as it helped their focus and kept them on-track.
- The team felt that multidisciplinary teams undertaking Agile and user-centred projects would benefit from a Sprint 0 (or mobilisation phase) to bring the team together and build a shared understanding, establish toolkit and processes for the project before commencing Discovery.
- Ongoing DHS teams should consider the processes for obtaining informed consent for user research and ensure they are rigorous and participants are aware of the nature of consent, particularly how and what their information will be used for. DHS has been sent a link to a blog post, Ensuring informed consent in user research as a guide to consent in research.
- The team should have a mechanism for participants to withdraw consent at any time after research sessions and records kept about what participants have consented to.
- The team needs to ensure that the users research findings are fully appreciated by the individual product teams and that user research continues as the MVP is developed and/or the processes removing paper are refined.
- The final set of information collection principles developed should closely align with the Digital Service Standard.