Analytics and Service Quality
Functional & UX Design • Public Sector
Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (SDPR), Prevention and Loss Management Services Branch (PLMS)
UX & Functional Lead: Contextual inquiries, workshop planning and facilitation, analysis and prioritization, UX design, functional design
Patrick Devine (Project Manager)
Natalie Moore (Project Manager)
Deepesh Khare (Technical Consultant)
Darren Chin (Project Analyst)
May - August 2018 (4 months)
The Prevention and Loss Management Services Branch (PLMS) sits within British Columbia’s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction (SDPR) and is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the province’s $2 billion welfare program, Employment and Assistance. To ensure that assistance is provided only to those who are eligible, the Branch develops and implements prevention, compliance, and enforcement initiatives as well as strategies and programs aimed at reducing overpayments and deterring fraud.
The objective of this project was to transfer the Branch’s core business processes from a legacy system into the “Integrated Case Management (ICM)" platform, a single system shared across several government ministries both to improve information sharing and case management across the social services sector, and to replace disparate, aging legacy systems no longer considered sustainable for program delivery.
We took a user-centred design approach to involve users (primarily employees of the Branch) in the process and focus on addressing needs and pain points while shaping a future-state solution. The focus on users was emphasized from the outset and retained throughout the Discovery and Design phases to help us steer towards a solution that would deliver improved services for clients, and a better work experience for staff and leadership.
01. Research & Journey Mapping
To start, we conducted research through participatory and qualitative methods to enable understanding of the context as well as the users’ and business needs.
A range of people across the Ministry Branch were engaged, including roles such as Quality and Compliance Specialists (QCSs), Employment and Assistance Workers (EAWs), Ministry Investigators (MI), Performance Analysts, Managers, Supervisors and Directors. Stakeholders from the social sector Information Services Division (ISD) were also involved in the process to provide a technical perspective.
We did an empathy mapping exercise with key stakeholders and users of the legacy system to understand their needs and pain points. We also conducted site visits and observed staff members as they used the legacy system to gain further insight into current system and processes. Findings were captured into simplified personas, which were used in later workshops to help participants retain a focus on the user needs.
I. Current State Mapping
During workshops, each one of our team members facilitated the mapping of current-state user journeys for identified use cases. Pain points and early stage opportunities were identified, which served as inspiration for potential improvements in the future-state vision.
II. Future State Maps
With current state pain points in mind, we began considering the feasibility, viability, and desirability of certain opportunities for the future state. We used these considerations to co-create user stories with the stakeholders, which provided insight into users’ ideal processes after the system replacement.
Particular focus areas of the future state included reducing manual processes and duplication of effort as well as improving data management and reporting capabilities. With more accurate and comprehensive data, the Branch would be enabled to identify “high-risk” clients who are likely to engage in fraudulent activity or provide false information, and then conduct reviews for these cases to check for fraud and take preventative or investigative measures. Additionally, the Branch could leverage analytics to identify underserved citizens and provide them with employment and income assistance as needed.
02. Prioritization & Options Analysis
We then analyzed the user stories and and distilled them into bundled system requirements (“solution elements”). To help us prioritize the solution elements to take into Design Phase 1, we balanced factors including business value, immediate need, and technical complexity, and sorted them into three priority groups:
MVP – Phase 1 – These solution elements were determined as critical to current processes and are required to be implemented in order to decommission the legacy system.
Phase 1 Candidates – These were charted based on alignment to Phase 1 objectives (ranked based on how much they address pain points and improve efficiencies) and the complexity to implement.
Future Considerations – Phase 2 – These elements were determined as high complexity/low value, seen as ‘nice-to-haves’, or required further investment or discovery before being implemented.
In the Design Phase, we created wireframes and developed Functional Design Documents for each of the solution elements.
I was responsible for planning the design workshops, creating wireframes, and facilitating discussions with the Ministry both during and outside of workshops to co-create and validate the designs. I played a lead role in managing decisions around the functional requirements in which I had to balance business needs, technical constraints, as well as user experience.
I created low-fidelity wireframes which were iterated upon with PLMS during design workshops. I updated the wireframes and captured decisions in real time using InVision’s Freehand tool. This real-time collaboration was extremely well received by the stakeholders as it enabled them to see updates to the wireframes instantaneously.
“The ability to see/do real time updates was very powerful for us, and resonated from staff all the way to Executive Directors.”
- Director, Program Integrity and Service Quality
II. High-fidelity Designs & Screenflows
As the designs became solidified, I developed high-fidelity wireframes which reflected the UI design of the existing ICM platform. While the low fidelity wireframes were used to encourage conversation around functionality, the high fidelity wireframes were used to get feedback around interactions and provide visual direction for our Build Team.
I also created annotated screenflows to depict screen-to-screen logic and interactions.
III. Functional Design Documents
Simultaneous to the design workshops, I collaborated with our Technical Consultant to develop Functional Design Documents, which specified the new system’s functionalities, appearance, business logic, and user interactions. We faced challenges when new business requirements were raised and design decisions were reopened as we were nearing the completion of the documentation. These changes had several dependencies and impacted the timeline of the Build Phase. Through close collaboration with the Ministry, we were able to reach a balance between business needs, usability, and technical feasibility, and successfully closed out the Design Phase.
This project is an exciting initiative within the province’s social sector as it supports the modernization of the branch responsible for ensuring the integrity of the province’s Employment and Assistance program. Successful implementation of the platform will enable better reporting outcomes to not only identify and prevent fraud, but also to improve service quality – i.e., finding citizens who may be vulnerable and under-served.
Taking a user-centred approach was a deviation from traditional ways of working for the Ministry. Instead of involving only senior leaders for requirements gathering, we involved staff members of all levels from the Ministry Branch in workshops, conducted site visits to understand how they work with the existing system and with each other, and co-created solutions with them. Stakeholders from all levels saw the value in this and truly felt that their voices and opinions were taken into consideration throughout the process.
A key challenge of the process was to keep track of all the moving parts and to document business and design decisions. While we had robust documentation of discussions that happened during design sessions, we were not so diligent when it came to informal conversations. However, we later came to realize that key decisions made during ad-hoc meetings with a smaller team should have been documented and socialized more broadly in order to gain alignment.
Another challenge we faced was balancing business priorities and technical complexity while trying not to lose sight of user needs, as well as ensuring that the processes were user-friendly and not overly complex / manual. I learned how to manage difficult conversations with Ministry stakeholders and our Build Team and operate at the intersection of business, technology, and UX to achieve a desirable outcome.