In a recent Digital Leaders webinar, we heard Trish Quinn, Head of Transformation at the Scottish Government Digital Directorate, talk about the new social security service which her team is currently building.

As some benefits are going to be devolved away from the Department for Work and Pensions to the Scottish Government, the latter wants to ensure a safe and secure transition. But this is also the perfect opportunity for the Scottish Government to work out how it might design social security differently in Scotland, so that it meets the needs of its users whilst minimising complexity, duplication and therefore unnecessary costs. In fact, the transformation team at the Scottish Government has an ambitious goal: it wants to test whether it is possible to use a single core capability and technology to manage multiple benefits.

The Scottish Government chose to adopt Methods Digital’s capability-led transformation approach – you can read more on this approach in Michael Beaven’s blog post on how to deliver better public sector services.

After carrying out a discovery, which included user research, the Scottish Government was able to map out what was unique to their social security service and what was simply a generic business process or piece of technology.

To assess feasibility, the team went on to build an alpha product to quickly demonstrate how the new system could work. User feedback was gathered daily, allowing the team to rapidly fix what didn’t work and improve the product as it was being built.

Work is still in progress but already some interesting lessons have come out of this pioneering digital transformation project. Based on her experience, Trish offers three top tips.

1. Co-locate your team

Trish’s transformation team is currently working with 3 partners, including Methods Digital. That set-up can get complicated and it’s easy to see how progress can be slowed down due to communication issues. Trish is adamant:

“Co-located teams are a really powerful thing. When we co-locate teams – which is a core tenet of how we work – we bring our partners and suppliers on-site; we bring our policy colleagues and we bring my own team together. We’re all coming together to solve one problem. We are all part of the same team. And that co-location and joint-working allows us to move through issues quickly and get on with the work.”

Although everyone uses online collaboration tools like Trello or JIRA, the wall is where most of the project information is captured and remains the best and most powerful collaboration tool of all.

Methods Digital’s Director Michael Beaven adds: “We had the benefit of having quite a dedicated open area where we could put up large graphics which people could come and comment on. The Scottish Government did a good job of providing a great environment to enable that collaboration to happen.”

2. Invest in training upfront

It can be unnerving to have to learn new things on the go and learn new ways of working whilst in uncharted territory.

Trish advises:

“I would invest upfront in skilling up your team in terms of what methodologies you’ll be using at the beginning of the programme rather than people having to learn those things during the project. For example, before Methods Digital joined us, we got the team trained up in value chain mapping and Wardley Mapping.”

It’s about making sure that everyone on the project is familiar with the way they’ll be working before the project starts.

3. Create an open environment

Trish believes that fostering an open environment is crucial if people are going to be asked to work differently from what they are used to.

“We create an open and positive atmosphere and allow people to express views rather than keep them to themselves so that we can solve them together.”

In addition, every time a milestone was reached, the product team was not afraid to show where they were at and glean feedback at key stages. That allowed them to fix problems right there and then in front of everybody. Trish concludes:

“It’s that open feedback that will allow us to get things right.”

This level of transparency was also key in keeping multiple stakeholders on the same page.

You can watch the webinar recording on ‘Delivering capability-driven public services’ on Digital Leaders’ YouTube channel.