We believe it is critical to understand the full context of the problem you are looking to address, with digital, from every angle.
This is not about ticking the box of the latest agile development thinking but imperative to identify what might be a Viable digital product that is sustainable, useful and cost effective.
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Our discovery approach is 'Outside-In'.
The public sector often suffers from a silo-based approach simply because the budget and power to deliver something is constrained within a function e.g. Education or Housing or Council Tax. This is an Inside-Out approach and results in the citizen having to move from pillar to post to live their lives.
We always start with the citizen issue and work backwards towards the public sector. This approach is well used in many customer focused industries and we have found works very well in the public sector. It boasts a number of benefits:
1 - Citizen needs at the centre
Many people claim to 'put the citizen at the centre' but in reality they are putting them at the centre of their functional (department) silo. An Outside-In approach focuses on the citizen need and will address a sector wide approach such that it aligns with related services from different sectors/departments (functions).
2 - Identifying stakeholder benefits
It is relatively easy to solve the problem but that does not always mean it is easy to use. There is no point delivering a solution that no-one uses. This element requires a lot of thinking through but often it is addressed as part of an agile iterative development. This simply extends the timescale and cost to develop a viable product. We have seen this in public sector projects with deep pockets. We prefer to try to get it 'as right as possible' first time. This does not detract from an iterative approach.
3 - Focused on outcomes
A project will usually start with an outcome to achieve but can quickly become focused on the deliverables which are often the 'means' to achieve the outcome. Our approach remains focused on the outcome (the outside) itself and whatever 'means' delivers this outcome becomes acceptable. This ensures that an outcome is delivered rather than just an output or 'means' which may or may not deliver the outcome.
4 - Looking for cross-sector working
There is a lot of great work carried out in various departments/organisations acros the sectors but often there are slight overlaps with other great offerings. We default to a place-based approach where products are complementary and produce a joined-up offering to the citizen to avoid confusion, duplication and inefficiencies to the public purse.