Dhruv Sharma, pictured speaking at FutureScot’s Digital Justice & Policing conference

Tech firm Sopra Steria builds its service design offer for government

His unit has worked with Social Security Scotland – a new agency to which new powers have been devolved for distributing benefits – on designing a more humane and empathetic approach when it comes to treating those people. And that is the key point in terms of why organisations should adopt such an approach, so that they get a really deep understanding of the user, and ultimately services can be more inclusive of their needs, rather than the needs of the organisa- tions delivering them, defining the problem first, and then deliv- ering the solution.

In the next iteration of the playbook, which Sharma says is slated for early next year, they are hoping to include more stories from real-life examples of services which are transform- ing their approaches. “It will be about the practice, rather than the theory, which was for senior stakeholders,” says Sharma. “We have had a lot of people come

to us to ask for stories that they can take back to their bosses.” Sharma gives a few examples: he says the unit did some work with people living with autism, and how they accessed a fund. After working with a service designer, one of the service users ended up buying a puppy, which helped alleviate some of the symptoms of their anxiety. Another he cites is of work the team did on ‘reasonable adjustments’ that the Scottish Government has made to better accommodate its own staff, in terms of providing a better working environment for people who need additional support. One of the people interviewed as part of the process ended up in tears, because it was the ‘first time anyone had ever listened to them’. “We also made some horrible discoveries about people hiding their disabilities,” Sharma adds. In service design terms, those discoveries are increasingly helping policy-makers to sharpen their skills and deliver better services. l

“I think there has just been a bit of a general zeitgeist, or recognition, that design has more to offer than perhaps people have traditionally felt,” says Luke Jeavons, Head of UK Design Team at Sopra Steria. “One of the challenges that a lot of the designers have felt who have been involved in projects is that sometimes they have been brought in at the wrong time, or brought in too late to try and make things look good at the end. But actually the real benefit that designers can bring is to projects at the be- ginning in terms of how you structure your thinking, mak- ing sure you’ve got the right approach to innovation, make sure you understand your us- ers’ needs properly and build from the ground up.” Jeavons, who runs service design for the whole of the UK from the tech firm’s Edinburgh office, talks of a paradigm shift in the way government is thinking about its approach to public services. In the past, there was undoubtedly a tendency to issue multi- million pound invitations to tender, and wait for a solution to roll in. Tat approach now feels outdated, and solutions providers are more embed- ded within government, to try and get richer and deeper understanding of how people interact with public services, not simply digitising paper- based processes, which them- selves were never efficiently designed in the first place. Sopra Steria is working

with Social Security Scotland – a new government agency to which powers are being devolved to distribute benefits

Luke Jeavons, Head of UK Design Team at Sopra Steria

to people in Scotland. It is a massive flagship project, if ever there was one, and it’s fraught with risk, but also opportu- nity. Jeavons is unable to go into detail, save to say that the team working on it are highly energised by the potential to do some social good. “It’s a public service that touches everyone in the team, with friends, relatives or people that they know. People are pretty passionate about getting it right,” says Jeavons. One of the benefits in the way Sopra Steria has structured its team is in its multi-disciplinarity. Rather than a siloed approach, a ‘cross-functional’ team con- sisting of designers, technolo- gists and researchers have been able to ‘bounce ideas off each other’, creating an environ- ment for people to get more fulfilment from their work and the improve the quality of the work. Like government, the organisation has also created its own playbook, which has become an asset library for the firm. Jeavons adds: “It’s the heartbeat. It’s how Sopra Steria approaches things, from user research to proto-typing. It means we can deliver things faster, templated, but it also can immerse people into the way we do things.” l


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