Case Study:

Healthy Start Discovery

How we introduced a team to user centred design and agile ways of working, whilst helping them set the direction for a new digitally enabled service that would work for even the most vulnerable families. 

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Challenge

Healthy Start is a scheme funded by the Department of Health that provides financial support to pregnant women and families with young children by sending them paper vouchers which can be exchanged for healthy foods in shops.

The Healthy Start team believed that the scheme could be improved, and efficiency savings made, by making better use of digital technology. 

But what would a digital service look like? And how could they be sure that families most in need of support would benefit from switch to digital and not be left behind?

The DH team commissioned us to run a Discovery phase to answer these questions and make the case for proceeding to Alpha.

APPROACH

We ran the Discovery over a six week period in the late summer of 2016. 

Members of the DH team were located in London, Bristol and Leeds, so we began by creating a shared Google Drive and setting up Slack and Trello as means of ad hoc communication.

 After a brisk pedal through Hyde Park we arrived for the inception workshop.

After a brisk pedal through Hyde Park we arrived for the inception workshop.

Then we brought the team together in London for an Inception Workshop to clarify goals, share what we knew already and agree roles and ways of working.

We agreed to work as one team and created a shared backlog of tasks which we prioritised in sprints. 

 

Gathering Insight

Next we began researching. On one track we focused on user research. We recruited and spoke to end users across a range of sub-groups (including those low on the digital inclusion scale and/or with English as an additional language). We also spoke to health professionals such as the midwives and health visitors who talk to families about the scheme.

Meanwhile on the second track we did ‘desk research'. This involved reviewing analytics and the substantial body of existing research into the scheme and its impact.  We spoke to subject matter experts like Dan Sheldon the Head of Strategy for DH about shared government platforms, and Serco call centre staff about the queries they received. And we looked at examples of how other government and charity services were handling similar problems like eligibility checking, fraud protection and digital vouchering.

Assembling the picture

We captured insights on our shared Trello board as we went along, and played back highlights at our fortnightly Show & Tells.

 Experience map showing the journey parents take to apply for, and receive, Healthy Start vouchers. For privacy reasons we cannot enlarge the image.

Experience map showing the journey parents take to apply for, and receive, Healthy Start vouchers. For privacy reasons we cannot enlarge the image.

Then at the end of the research phase we built an Experience Map, showing what happens at each step in the existing user journey, highlighting pain-points and opportunities to better meet user needs.

Mapping out a new service

Having created a shared understanding of user needs and the opportunities to improve the existing journey, and having understood what’s feasible within technical and policy constraints, we began to explore new solutions.

We gathered the team to work through potential solutions in a workshop,  then we helped our Product Owner to create a digital version of our new User Story Map which details what we believe users need at each step in a new (to be) journey.

Each card on the map represents a user story and potentially a suggested solution. Sketches and other attachments can be added to each card as it is worked on and eventually the data can be exported to a task tracker such as Jira.

 The User Story Map shows user stories at each step in the new envisaged journey from Apply to Use to Leave, giving the team a sense of scope. We mapped it out in a workshop (left) then created a more detailed digital version (right).

The User Story Map shows user stories at each step in the new envisaged journey from Apply to Use to Leave, giving the team a sense of scope. We mapped it out in a workshop (left) then created a more detailed digital version (right).

Planning for the Alpha Phase

Having outlined a potential solution, we then ran a workshop to identify and prioritise assumptions that would need to be tested during the Alpha. These ranged from assumptions about our ability to tweak policy, to those about our ability to technically integrate with HMRC, to those about the usability of a using a plastic card linked to an online account instead of paper vouchers. 

Then we devised ways to test our most risky assumptions during the Alpha phase - for example through further technical discussions with HMRC or by prototyping and testing the card activation process or checkout interaction.

Handing over

Finally we worked with the product owner to create a Discovery Pack which included all the documents we had created along the way and a summary report. We also gave a summary presentation to key stakeholders, giving them a chance to ask questions. 

Outcomes

At the end of the discovery phase, the team had developed:

  • A deep understanding of user needs and a sense of empathy with the people they serve
  • An understanding of the shape and scope of a new service that would work for everyone
  • A list of hypotheses to test at the Alpha stage and an understanding of the team required.

The initiative was approved to continue into the Alpha Phase and after an open tender involving some major public service IT providers, we were commissioned to lead that. More on that shortly!

 
 
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The project has been delivered to a very high standard, and we’ve all very much enjoyed working with Alastair and Darwin over the last six weeks.

The tangible deliverables will of course be very valuable to us as we move forwards, but we’ve also received a great deal of additional benefit in terms of skills and knowledge transfer for which we’re very grateful.
— John Cockburn, Programme Manager, Department of Health

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