Citizens Advice are at the frontline of helping people to face the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Our digital services are seeing record-breaking demand, with 2.2 million visits to our online advice in the first week of the crisis alone — a 50% increase from this time a few weeks ago. Our dedicated staff and volunteers have been moving our face to face services to phone and online channels.
Image of a horsebox being used to give advice during World War II
It’s been over a year since I joined Citizens Advice as Director of Customer Journey. Here are some things the team and I have been up to, of which I’m particularly proud.
How we’re making our services more effective, user centred and easier to use – my recap of what we’ve been working on recently
Running a responsible customer journey team – my blogpost about how we try to use technology in a way that’s true to our values
How could technology help people save money on their bills? – in which I step into policy territory, bringing together our understand of what our users need and what we know about the loyalty penalty
Connecting people with the best advice – Kylie Havelock (head of product) explains how we’re developing our product strategy
How we built a tool to check our style guide– Alec Johnson (senior content designer) on, erm, how we built a tool to check our style guide
How we designed content that puts our advisers first – Alec again, on our detailed Universal Credit content for advisers
Why we’d like to know where you are – Ian Ansell (data scientist) explains why we are asking our users where they are, and how we are collecting that data securely and responsibly
Matt’s weeknotes – I love the weeknotes Matt White (head of delivery) writes on an almost-weekly basis. As long-time readers of this blog know, I can’t keep up with the pace myself
After four and a half happy years of freelancing, I’m joining Citizens Advice as Director of Customer Journey. I’m thrilled.
You can read more about my role and why we’re not just talking about digital in this post by James Plunkett, Executive Director for Advice and Advocacy. In short:
Although digital technologies are a powerful way to change a service, what really matters is the method with which change is done: user research, UX design, agile working, co-design, and solving problems in experimental ways. We now want to apply those methods to a wider set of problems, not all involving digital tech. What this work has in common is a mindset: we’ll always approach questions from a client’s eye view — by starting with, and then working hard to improve, the customer journey.
Autumn 2017 themes for Rebecca Industries are training and doing good.
There is a lot of demand for training, as organisations look to upskill their digital leadership and delivery staff. I think this is a recognition that bringing in expert practitioners isn’t enough to make digital transformation happen in complex organisations. I’ve written and run a digital leadership development workshop for Sopra Steria, in collaboration with Mighty Waters (best company name I’ve heard since Rebecca Industries). Ade Adewunmi and I have started to do our leadership training for heads of service design (and content design and research) on the semi-regular for GDS. We did the session at UX Cambridge too. Behind the scenes, I’m developing a couple of new training propositions with consultancies.
In doing good, I’ve been helping Dr. Sue Black and #Techmums with some project management for a Nominet-funded programme for young mums and an online course. I’m starting to work with #upfront to help women and people from under-represented groups speak at more conferences. And the Esmée Fairburn Foundation has commissioned Sarah Jackson and I to run our digital project management training for charities they fund.
I spoke at Ada’s List conference about being feminist at work. My session covered practical things we can all do to speak up for ourselves and others, and how we can influence the canon of tech. It was a brilliant day and you can read the summary here.
I wrote a couple of articles in August. They’re part of my ongoing efforts to demystify digital and leadership work.
I wrote an introduction to agile for people who work in charities (or anyone really), for Charity Comms.
I wrote about leadership skills for digital practitioners in the public sector (or anywhere really), for Think Digital. I’m running a tutorial on this topic at UX Cambridge later this week, with Ade Adewunmi.
Sarah Jackson of Kestrel Copy and I have developed a training day to help charities and non-profits do excellent digital project management. We ran a pilot of the course in June and we’re planning to run it again in Autumn.
The course covers how to
- carry out internal research and review your existing site
- set website objectives and choose the best performance metrics
- get to know your users, engage your staff, and keep your stakeholders happy
- choose the right agency, and know what red flags to look out for
- make the most of your budget and stay on schedule
- use Agile, user stories, wireframes, and develop your minimum viable product
- carry out a content audit and make a realistic content migration plan
- steer clear of launch day panic.
It was really rewarding to do something in a new sector, and fun to work in collaboration with Sarah. People said they found it useful and gave universally positive feedback. My favourite piece of feedback was
“Really enjoyed it and found it very useful. Met my goal of feeling confident about having to take on quite a bit of large digital projects in future.”
It’s nice to think that the day helped people feel more confident about their jobs, and as a result some charities will have better digital delivery in future.
In January I had a bit more of a rest. No work. It was brilliant.
In February I started working with a management consultancy to develop a digital proposition and business plan. This has been a really fun project, good to do something more commercial.
In March I ran a tutorial called “The essentials of leadership for service design” at Service Design in Government 2017, with Ade Adewunmi. We’ll write more about that anon. I also started working for the Department for Education to help them develop their digital capability.
In April I continued those two projects. I worked with a software company who wanted to get on GCloud to sell more services to government. And I worked on a training course for charities that will start in June (excited for that!).
I spent lots of time at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy working on 3 programmes. Not all at once, thankfully. I’m not sure I can say too much about them here. I led a service design review of the Student Loans Company. As part of this, I did Wardley mapping for the first time. I was underwhelmed. I ran a discovery project to figure out how to get user-focused finance and HR services to 15,000 staff. I was overwhelmed. And when the portfolio team found itself without a manager, I stepped in to help oversee the department’s digital transformation programmes. Phew.
I wrapped up my 6 month contract at UKTI in the first week of February. Lord Maude left the week after.
I’m working part-time at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. I’m lucky to be part of a brilliant team led by Chief Digital Officer Emma Stace. I’m acting as a roving programme director. I’ve been leading 3 discovery projects – one about digital transformation of corporate services, one piece of service design and one piece of Wardley mapping.
I’ve been doing some speaking too. I took a delightful excursion into the world of live art to speak at The Pacitti Company with the amazing artist Gemma Marmalade. We talked about how punk and feminist principles inform the (very different) work we do. Or ‘our practice’, as they say in the art world. I did my talk about feminism, punk rock and public services at People Before Pixels. I loved this meet up and it’s going to become a regular date in my diary. I spoke about digital transformation at Think Cloud for Digital Government in London and took a trip up to Manchester to talk about local government digital and procurement at Think Cloud For Local Government.
To do all that stuff, I spend a lot of time looking at screens. To balance this out in my spare time, I’ve unsubscribed from Netflix and Amazon Prime. It’s made me so happy. I read books again! Next up is the new Nicola Barker novel, The Cauliflower. A new novel by my favourite writer, at the exact moment I’ve started reading again. It doesn’t get better than that.
I’ve been doing the final third of my contract at UK Trade and Investment. My team’s recent blog posts explain what we’ve been doing better than I can.
Services for staff – Finding People in UKTI
Source: UKTI Digital Trade Blog
We ended 2015 by briefing Lord Maude, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, on the digital service for exporters project. He said it was ‘exactly what [he] was looking for’. But more importantly, the users we’ve been testing with say the same.