The Discovery phase: what did we discover?
Back in August, we set out to identify a shared challenge impacting the front door of Adult Social Care across Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen and Neath Port Talbot, exploring how we could use user-centred design and digital enablers to support services.
In our first blog post, we shared some of our early learnings about running a rapid multi-local authority discovery: how do you balance user needs with organisational needs, strategy and constraints? How do you collaborate successfully across local authorities? And how do you start to embed digital transformation?
Now that we have completed the Discovery phase, we wanted to share where we’ve got to and some of our key learnings from the first stage of the project.
What does a ‘Discovery’ involve, and what did we discover?
Our discovery phase was divided into three key workstreams:
- User Research to identify user needs and journeys;
- Business Analysis to understand Local Authority contexts, draw up service maps and carry out data analysis e.g. to understand the volume and types of calls coming through the Front Door; and
- Technical Scoping to map existing technical systems to shape our understanding of what might be feasible when we came to design a solution.
By bringing together the findings from these three workstreams, we were able to narrow down our area of focus:
- Through mapping Front Door processes and call volumes, we found that on average around 60% of calls to the Front Door don’t progress to a referral. Of these, some individuals are provided information and advice only, some requests are for services not available through Adult Social Care, and some calls are from individuals who have put in a request and want to understand the timelines for a response, or to be put through to the relevant team.
- From our User Research, we heard that users often didn’t understand the structure of Adult Social Care, what support they might be able to receive, or timelines and next steps once they had submitted a request, which left them feeling frustrated and under supported. This often led to them calling back to the Front Door to be able to speak to someone about what to expect.
- We also heard frustration from staff, who were often taking calls that related to a status update, or required signposting elsewhere, when they wanted to be able to spend as much time as possible enabling people to access the support of Adult Social Care.
Taking these insights together, we collaborated across teams to prioritise an area of focus for the next stage, narrowing down to the specific objective of ‘How might we support residents to understand timelines and next steps when contacting the Front Door of Adult Social Care?’
What did we learn about the Discovery process?
Our discovery surfaced several key learnings about the process of aligning on a common problem area across a multi-local authority partnership:
- Whilst there were some differences across the three local authorities (for example the detailed structure of the Front Door, and the specific case management solution they used), there were many similarities, particularly around the underlying user groups and user needs. In particular, there was the consistent painpoint around calls to the Front Door that could be avoided if information was available to users elsewhere. Interestingly, we also found that this was common to a range of service areas across the Local Authorities. We’re therefore interested in how any solution might have the potential to be scaled beyond Adult Social Care in future.
- User research was seen as particularly valuable in helping us to empathise with the emotions and experience of service users. Whilst our findings were often not surprising to staff who worked within these services, being able to hear direct quotes from users brought a new clarity and energy to thinking through how we might solve some of the common challenges.
- It’s critical to create space for collaboration, particularly at key transition points. Over the course of our discovery, we collated a huge amount of information and insight that would help shape the next stage of solution ideation. We brought this together into a show & tell at the end of the discovery phase, where we shared our findings with all three local authority teams. However, we found that a collective show & tell didn’t provide everyone with the time and space to fully explore the detail within the findings, reflect and share feedback. We therefore scheduled follow up interactive workshop sessions with each local authority team to provide an opportunity for discussion and reflection, which was hugely valuable to ensure we could validate our findings, and bring everyone together in having a common understanding of the problem.
Having identified a focus area and explored some of the key aspects of the problem, the next step was to move into generating ideas for possible solutions, so that we could collectively come up with potential options and rapidly test and iterate them to develop an impactful solution. We’ll be sharing more about next stages, our prototyping and solution testing in future blogs.