This week we held the 3rd meetup for people who do (or are interested in) user research across government. The theme for this meeting was to understand the different kinds of research that departments do and consider ways we can work more effectively with them on the design of digital services.
In particular, we were interested in the relationship between Customer Insight Teams and User Researchers. Customer Insight Teams tend to do larger scale pieces of research, often outsourced to agencies, that cover a range of interest from customer satisfaction, to market segmentation and marketing research, to initial concept evaluation for services and communications.
User Researchers work embedded in agile teams on the design and delivery of digital services, contributing to product strategy as well as user experience.
Representatives from several departments and agencies including Home Office, DWP, Ministry of Justice, National Archives and Land Registry shared their experiences of Customer Insight Teams and User Researchers working together. We compiled a list of recommended actions to take back to our teams to help us make the most of the research and insight gathering that's going on.
Some highlights from the action list include:
1. Increase awareness throughout the department of the role of research in the digital service design lifecycle
Research is not something that is done in the initial stages of the project and then 'handed over' to the delivery team to implement. Research is required through all project stages - from discovery to live - to enable continuous improvement to the service and to integrate updates based on what the team learns as the service is progressively developed and rolled out to more users.
User research contributes to the product strategy as the concepts are formed into prototypes and can do much more than just ensure the usability of forms.
2. Embed researchers and co-locate multidisciplinary product teams
Research and Insight are able to contribute much more effectively to digital service design if they are in the same place as the team building the service.
If what we learn in the research is going to be actively used by the team in the creation of the service, it's important to be present and able to contribute to decisions about the service design and prioritisation of features on a day-to-day basis.
3. Create documents structured around users and their experience of a service/enable others to share their knowledge
Customer journey maps can be very useful in helping people who have knowledge about end users contribute that knowledge in a way that is actionable for service design.
Similarly, some teams create documents that synthesise 'what we know' about customers and their attitudes and beliefs in relation to the service so that people who are new to the project can be easily brought up to speed.
These documents provide a structure to add to and update as we learn more about end users and as the design of the service evolves. (Doing this in a presentation format and including some video highlights from research can be very helpful).
4. Share roadmaps for research
Make sure that plans for future research are widely shared around the department so that others can contribute to or piggy back on research that's already planned . This helps to maximise the effectiveness of each piece of research we do or commission and reduces duplication.
5. Find all the people who do research and insight work in your department
Sounds obvious. May be harder than you'd expect. Once you find them, put them on a map and share it. Don't assume this map exists. Everyone makes this assumption but few have ever seen one.
6. Make time to network and share information
Set up regular formal and informal meetings with as many people who do research and insight work in your department as possible.
Set up a monthly meet up. Have lunch with a friendly insight person. Show people what you're working on. Share knowledge. Get the communication flowing.
7. Research is a team sport
Remember that we don't do research for us, we do it to help people in our teams make better decisions about the design and delivery of digital services.
The best way we can do this is by allowing as many of that team as possible to participate in as much of the research process as possible – observing, analysing and agreeing on actions.
Help your team get their exposure hours – at least 2 hours every 6 weeks - and help reduce the distance between the people who make decisions about the services and the people who are affected by those decisions.
We encourage you to share these actions as widely as possible in your department and see how many of them you can put into action this month.
Let us know how you get on and what other ideas you have for helping customer insight and user research work more effectively together.
If you'd like to find out more about our cross government user research meet ups, you can join our mailing list (for people interested in user research across government) or email me for more information.