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UX: A client perspective

Gerry Gaffney Strategy 3 Comments

Download (mp3: 14.1MB, 14:41) Catherine D’Elia talks to Gerry Gaffney about how UX contributed to the design of a new Jury Management Service. She says that explaining UX and getting buy-in are crucial.

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Transcript

Gerry Gaffney:

This is Gerry Gaffney with the User Experience Podcast. My guest today is not a User Experience designer but someone who is in charge of a project with a significant user experience component.

Originally from Boston, she’s now based in Sydney where she is Director of Court Services for the state of New South Wales.

Catherine D’Elia, welcome to the User Experience Podcast.

Catherine D’Elia:

Thanks Gerry.

Gerry:

I have to disclose up front that Catherine is the project owner of the Jury Management System for which I’m the lead UX person.
Catherine, can you tell us a little bit about why the courts needed a jury management system in the first place?

Catherine:

Well, the system we had in place was well over twenty years old. It was one of those black screens, DOS-based, everything was oriented towards codes and the system itself was falling over. We needed to replace it and at the time we knew that it was a bad system. We needed to look end-to-end in terms of what we were going to do to replace it.

Gerry:

And was the term “user experience” something that you and your organisation was familiar with before you embarked on this project?

Catherine:

Not in the way that you guys have implemented it. “User experience” would have just been, “What did the user experience?” And not really about taking a look at what the users needed and how that would impact on the software and on our process.

Gerry:

When or how did you decide that user experience was going to be a relevant consideration when you were thinking about getting someone on board to build a new system?

Catherine:

Well, as I mentioned before, a lot of what we decided was that the… we needed to look end-to-end. We knew that when we were sending letters out to the public and asking them to participate in the jury, that those letters were incomprehensible to some people. We knew the systems that our staff were using were bad, so we really knew we had to take a look at the big umbrella, but it was really when the project manager came to us and talked to us about user experience, the way you guys have driven it through the project that we got a better understanding of how you would be involved and the impact you could have on what we delivered.

Gerry:

And what was it the project manager explained, do you think, that was a clincher in terms of getting UX on board?

Catherine:

A lot about really getting out there and understanding what people needed before we started building; the interviews that were going to be done with the public as well as our staff and the users of the system that was being built; understanding how people were reacting to what we were doing today; all of that was completely in line with what we wanted to do to improve the client experience as well as the staff experience. So when he started talking to us about that it was really clicking for us.

Gerry:

Yeah, so you already had a desire or a drive to try to improve the customer service or the citizen service, if you like, yeah?

Catherine:

Yes.

Gerry:

And do you think that government agencies in general are aware of what user experience is all about?

Catherine:

From my experience, no.

This project had a particular struggle I know in terms of getting other stakeholders on board to understand what you were doing, and I’m glad we’ve pushed forward on that. From the point of the New South Wales State Government there’s been a program that we’ve been looking at for innovation and there’s another group here called Behavioural Insights that’s been doing some work for Premier and Cabinet, and I had the benefit of being able to attend some training and some sessions that were being run by them as well as a group out of UTS – University of Technology, Sydney – that started to look at problem solving from a different direction, and while they weren’t calling it user experience they were doing a little bit of that work, trying to understand how to change behaviour or to drive a specific behaviour by understanding why and what the users were getting. So I think they’re learning about it but probably not using the same terminology.

Gerry:

So does that sort of behaviour or analysis link into the sort of “nudge” approach that I know that…

Catherine:

It’s exactly that.

It’s exactly that nudge stuff, they have people who’ve worked with the nudge teams, that have come from over from the UK or that have worked in the President of the US’s team and they’ve come over here to do that work.

Gerry:

I know some people have expressed a bit of doubt about the whole nudge thing because they say it’s kind of… I guess it can be seen as manipulative of citizens’, or not just citizens’ but of people’s behaviour in general.

Any thoughts on that?

Catherine:

I think you have to be careful how you use that nudge stuff. I think it could, it could be seen as manipulative. But I think that there are places and times that it could be used properly.

We’ve taken a look at.. you know, some of the nudge stuff probably reflects… similar to some of the changes that we made in our letters. So where the jury management letter[s] we wanted to draw people more to using the online, to using the website. Some of that could also said to be similar techniques that were used by nudge in terms of how you place it on the letter and where you draw attention to it.

Gerry:

Yeah, that’s something we noticed in testing a lot on this and in fact on other projects as well is that when you say to somebody, you know, “write in with your response” or “fax your response in,” they tend to go down that particular pathway and I know you’re a Daniel Kahneman fan so it’s kind of like, you know, the System 1 thinking, if you say something and it’s not going against the grain then people are inclined to go down that pathway.

So the move towards user experience then in government is that something that the New South Wales government or Australian governments in general are embracing?

Catherine:

There’s definitely some, I would say… I can’t speak for all of Australia but I would say that pockets in the New South Wales government are embracing it, and the fact that that team that I was talking about is housed in the Department of Premier and Cabinet and has been working on key projects that they’ve been trying to do. I think they’re starting to sort of see the benefits of it and not just… I think in government we have a tendency to see ourselves to some degree, or have seen ourselves to some degree, as a monopoly and we think we know what we have to deliver without really understanding the impacts or understanding the needs on the other side. So that’s where I think user experience has had a big impact with this project.

Gerry:

Now, the staff component of this new system recently went live and is still rolling out in fact. Do you think that user experience has had an influence on how staff perceive the system?

Catherine:

I think it’s had an enormous impact on how staff have perceived the system. I think by engaging them early on the way that you did gave them a sense that they were consulted and were collaborative. I think it helped deliver a product that was easy for them to use and that met their needs and allows them to do their job more efficiently and I think without the work that you have done early on in the project we wouldn’t be in the same place.

Gerry:

And what’s your overall impression of the UX process? I mean you’ve sort of dipped in, I guess, to seeing the things that we’ve been doing from a UX perspective and the various deliverables, the various activities that we’ve been undertaking. What’s your impression of the process?

Catherine:

As I said before, I think it’s really well worthwhile and to some degree it’s been eye opening for us. Certain things that, going back to that monopoly mindset that I was talking about, we never would have considered if you hadn’t done interviews, if you hadn’t sat in with our, in with the clients and the users as part of your user experience of interviewing, observing, we would have missed a lot.

So I think that the process and your level of engagement was really appropriate for what we needed to deliver.

Gerry:

That’s all really positive but are there any specific problems or difficulties that embracing or adopting a UX approach have uncovered for you or exposed you to?

Catherine:

Well this particular project, as I’ve said before, was hard to get the buy-in. This was a radical shift in terms of the way we delivered projects. Just within the department that I’m working for, we’ve had huge projects that have been delivered over the last say five years all done with completely different methodology, without the user experience. So spending the time up front, a lot of people were questioning what we were doing. People didn’t understand the term “user experience” so we had those struggles with the Communications group thinking we were doing one thing and the IT group thinking we were doing another.

So there’s definitely a learning curve in order to get people on board and get the buy-in so that you don’t have so much resistance early on from some of the stakeholders. I think that was the struggle that we had.

Gerry:

And if you were to do it again I guess do you have any tips for people to get that buy-in? How can they get… are there any particular approaches that agencies can take I guess to get that buy-in?

Catherine:

Well for us personally I think we’ve got a win. I think we can actually go out there and show how successful it was as a result of having spent that time up front and throughout the entire project in order to make sure that we were delivering.

As I said before, there are a lot of projects that we had going on here in this department and this one is in scope, on time, budget and sort of actually a little bit, doing a little bit better than a lot of the other ones are, and I think that bringing that win, bringing that evidence, it’s showing what it can do, will help me later on when I want to do another project and use this methodology.

Gerry:

But if you put yourself in the position where you didn’t have that win under your belt and you were starting from scratch, how would you get the buy-in? Are there any things that you did that helped get the buy-in do you think?

Catherine:

Well, I don’t think there were too many parts of government that aren’t trying to improve client satisfaction or improve service delivery and I think focusing, showing how this can improve the client side, the experience that they have, and also just that it did create a product that was more usable.

I think those are all things that I would rely on and trying really to get that message across if I was trying to get people on board.

Gerry:

But improving service delivery is always something that you can do without. I mean, if you’ve got a project and you’re running over budget or times are tight you can always look at something like user experience and say well let’s cut that out. I mean it’s a cost, right?

Catherine:

It was a cost but I think it created savings on the other end. I mean I think we ended up with something that’s not going to have to go back multiple times and be tweaked and adjusted and fixed. I think by the time the project is done it’s going to have something really usable as opposed to something that will just get us by, that will deliver the service. It’s going to have something that’s going to deliver quite exceptional service as opposed to just delivering the basics and the bare bones.

Gerry:

I guess that’s interesting too when you talk about the project being done because I know that one of the things that the project leader’s been pushing is that when the project is done it’s not really done. You still have to commit to ongoing, you know, maintenance and UX work.

Is that something that has been an easy sell for you or is it something that makes sense?

Catherine:

It’s something that makes sense and it’s something that, in this particular project, would be easier to sell because of its success. But to your point exactly, when the money’s tight and they’re looking to where to pare back, I’m going to have to really probably continue to fight in order to make sure we keep the UX in there. But I will.

Gerry:

One of the things this project did, too, is rather than have UX coming in at various stages and then going away again it was kind of embedded throughout the process. Did that seem like a sensible approach?

Catherine:

Yes, it seemed like a sensible approach because early on obviously it helped to point us in the right direction but throughout the process it really ensured that we stayed on track and that we made the right adjustments at the right time. As I said to you before, there were certain assumptions that we would make as a business and the learnings came later on. So as you were able to go out there and start to, you know, demo some of the models and some early examples of what this was going to look like, engaging in that UX made sure that there was time to go back and make the adjustments and tweak in order to deliver the right product.

Gerry:

Now one of the things that you personally probably didn’t get to do on this project was to actually go out on some of those early site visits and partake. Is that something that you think you’ve missed or is it something that would have been worth doing or were you happy to have, you know, to have people do that I guess on your behalf and run the project in that fashion?

Catherine:

I think having actually gone back later on and seen video that you took, I think I missed something. It would have been worthwhile to have seen it. But I think it was run in such a way that my not seeing it didn’t have a negative impact on the project.

So I think there could have been value to me but only value to me sort of as the business manager in terms of learning and for future process, but not having seen it didn’t have a negative impact on what you’re delivering today.

Gerry:

Sure. Now a lot of government agencies are, you know, at different stages of maturity. When you talk about UX being something that really is new to a lot of agencies, do you have any tips for like, take someone who’s just right at the start and who’s maybe never engaged in any sort of user experience work at all. Do you have any tips for those sorts of agencies and how they might start to become citizen-centric or work on that service excellence that you guys are focused on?

Catherine:

[Laughs.] I think we’re still working on it. I don’t know how mature we are as an organisation either. Something that…

I have to go back to the point that I made before. Maybe there aren’t a lot of success stories but really finding out about these success stories that are out there, it’s quite persuasive, when you’re able to see how UX can really influence what you’re delivering on, and I would say to go back and take a look, you know take a look at this project, take a look at other projects that have used it and really delivered what it is that they were striving to do in quite a positive way.

Gerry:

And I might mention here that the project lead, Julian Huxham, and I will be presenting about this project at UX Australia in August.

Catherine D’Elia thanks very much for joining me today on the User Experience podcast.

Catherine:

Thanks Gerry.

Gerry:

Finally, a brief announcement.

Heath Sadlier from Auckland, New Zealand volunteered his time and expertise to not only create a new logo for the podcast but also a (this) lovely new website where you can find transcripts and comment on this or other episodes. Thanks Heath!

Gerry GaffneyUX: A client perspective

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