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Systems supporting people: designing a human-centred IT solution for government

Success, said this senior government leader, would be if his people could go home an hour early, shortening even by half an hour the long days they worked. If they could work from Starbucks, making it easier for them to work while out and about. The challenge? To design a new IT system to manage the agency’s workflow.
Client
Singapore Government
Service
Organisation change
Sector
Government
coffee and work

Often, when we talk about technology and systems, people are tempted straight into conversations about new features and functionality, straight to the bells and whistles without understanding who and what the system is designed in service of. Through a rapid, eight-week design process, we worked with the agency to imagine what a new IT system could do to deliver on the organisation’s mission as well as contribute a better staff experience.

With a design team representing the different divisions and roles within the organisation, we used ethnographic methods to learn about the existing system and experience: that every team used it differently, that people had designed myriad workarounds to deal with its peculiarities (including secret spreadsheets, folders and notebooks) and that it was just one part of a tangled web of systems that didn’t speak to each other.

People were serving the systems in place; the systems were doing a poor job of serving people to deliver on the organisation’s mission.

Imagining the ideal day for people in the organisation, we generated desirable user experiences, which we rapidly tested with the wider organisation to ask: What if your day looked like this? What if the IT system you had to use each day was a delight to use, supporting you to achieve what you needed to with minimal frustration and maximum smarts?

Only then, armed with a clear understanding of what a system needed to do to deliver on the agency’s mission and delight the people using it, did we dive into details, translating the future into high-level system requirements that could form the basis of a procurement brief for a new system.

Rather than building another version of today with shinier buttons and newer technology, good system design challenges us to go back to the beginning and ask ourselves: why does this system exist, and who does it serve? By starting with imagining the change that the system could make for people – and not just the new functionality that could be added on – we can ensure that technology-enabled change delivers maximum value and delight to organisations and users.

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than building another version of today with shinier buttons and newer technology, good system design challenges us to go back to the beginning and ask ourselves: why does this system exist, and who does it serve?