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From Good Design to Great Delivery in the Public Sector

Bridge the gap between design and delivery to create the intended impact for citizens.

Published on
June 1, 2023
Megan Crawford

Government policies, services and systems have a significant part to play in the quality of life of the Australian community. 

Thoughtful design is a core customer expectation for private organisations and this is no different in the public sector context – with citizens as customers of policies, services and systems. Because of this, design has emerged as common practice in many areas of government.

Many factors such as the vast and unique mix of customers, the political cycle, changing agendas, and evolving economic influences have to be considered when designing in government. In such a complex ecosystem, good design and great delivery are crucial to achieving impactful and sustained change.

Factors that hinder delivery of good designs

Design processes typically start with the best intentions; however, unfortunately, good designs don’t always lead to the desired outcomes. Working with clients across the public sector in the last 20+ years, we have recognised some of the recurring themes and factors that can contribute to this.

  • Silos within the design ecosystem especially between design and delivery teams. 
  • Lack of clarity between stakeholders on the view of success. 
  • Convoluted decision-making that leads to inefficiencies and a loss of momentum. 
  • Cultural and economic factors, such as risk aversion, change readiness and rigid funding processes.
  • Tunnel-vision on creating value in one part of a system without considering broader links and implications on the system as a whole. 
  • Inadequate prototyping and testing, with designs inevitably not solving the core problem for customers.

How to go from good design to great delivery

The good news is there are real tangible actions you can take to avoid these factors from affecting the success of your design endeavours.

  1. Ensure clear and discrete decision-making is defined upfront
  2. Plan early for effective, collaborative engagement
  3. Consider the overall experience architecture and system
  4. Bridge the gap between creative and technical

Action 1: Ensure clear and discrete decision-making is defined upfront

At the outset of your design project, it is vital to establish a small, focused and accountable cohort of decision-makers responsible for driving the design process to successful delivery.

By embracing a collaborative approach supported by 1-2 key decision-makers, you can ensure that the right individuals have the opportunity to provide input while maintaining a concise, and efficient decision-making process. This approach minimises inefficiencies and prevents any loss of momentum or ‘death by consensus’.

How to pick the right decision makers.

Consider the characteristics of decision-makers that are included in the design journey - both from a cultural perspective and an economic perspective. You will want to include:

  1. Stakeholders who have an influence over financial decisions, specifically impacting the project at hand and,
  2. Innovative and aspirational leaders capable of driving systemic change that are willing to challenge the current status quo and advocate for your design.

Action 2: Plan early for effective, collaborative engagement

Engagement is essential for the successful implementation of any design initiatives. By assessing and mapping your stakeholder ecosystem at the start and continuously throughout your design process, you can carefully consider how to engage those teams and stakeholders who are not directly part of your design process but are still important to its successful delivery. 

We recommend ‘working out loud’. This can include holding regular showcases and having a dedicated space (either virtual or physical) where people can go to understand your process, insights and solutions. This ensures the right people are meaningfully immersed in the process and outcome, silos are broken down, and your team can hear the sentiments of key stakeholders regularly.

Showcasing in Action: A Case Study

Showcasing regularly is important, but it’s just the first step. On a large, multi-year project with a Federal Government client, we tracked stakeholder engagement more systematically. We tracked attendance rates at all showcases and documented the sentiment of each stakeholder. Analysis of this data over time helped to proactively assess the attitudes and receptiveness of key stakeholder groups and build better relationships, alignment and connection to the success of our designs.

“Tracking sentiment and attendance at meetings led to us being able to raise risks about who wasn't onboard, and what would threaten a successful delivery. Especially in government, where most of the solutions are about trying to break down silos.”
- Lauren Terry, Program Director, The Customer Experience Company

Action 3: Consider the overall experience architecture and system

Incorporate systems thinking into the design process. While your focus may be on designing a single step in a customer journey or a specific program within a larger policy, it is crucial to establish a view of this within the broader ecosystem. By doing so, you can proactively plan for any unintended consequences to the broader system, barriers or dependencies that could lead to redesign during implementation.

With this understanding, you can better design for the boundaries and intersections of your initiatives and ensure they complement and improve any existing programs, policies, services and systems in place. 

Holistic Design in action: A Case Study

During a recent project the CEC worked with the Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) to co-design the experience of accessing personal information from the Departments with current serving ADF members, ex-serving members, their families and representatives. The Royal Commission findings highlighted a few key aspects of this experience that needed review and redesign. 

Looking at these elements of the experience in isolation would not have resulted in improvement. Using systems mapping we were able to identify what would have the most impact for the overall experience whilst reducing any unintended impact for veterans and their families. Through an inclusive and empowering design process, the experience of those seeking personal information from the Department of Defence and DVA has been designed to holistically meet user needs.

Action 4: Bridge the gap between creative and technical

It is imperative that you involve any individuals responsible for executing and overseeing design delivery in your process. By fostering collaboration between design and delivery teams, silos can be dismantled, and the risks of miscommunication in handover will be mitigated.

Invite delivery and service teams to your research and design sessions to build common customer knowledge. Most importantly, co-develop the design artefacts together so designers know what delivery teams need and delivery teams know how to effectively utilise and interpret design artefacts.

This collaborative mindset not only improves the efficiency and effectiveness of moving from design to delivery but also cultivates a culture of shared responsibility and continuous improvement.

Design to Delivery in action: A Case Study 

Through our collaboration to deliver a digital service transformation with the a large Federal Government Department, we gained valuable insights and expertise on how to effectively bring together creative and technical stakeholders. Recognizing the drawbacks of dispersed design and delivery accountability, we took proactive steps to enhance the project's operating model. These included:

  • Involving each other in key decisions, such as prioritisation, in shaping the project's direction.
  • Collaboratively defining the formats of handover documentation and artefacts for seamless transitions between design and delivery phases.
  • Defining and agreeing on roles and responsibilities using the RACI framework, clarifying expectations and streamlining workflows.
  • Creating a shared design vocabulary and establishing a common language that facilitated effective communication and understanding. 
  • Implementing a shared project management tool, providing a centralised platform for collaboration, task management, and progress tracking.

With all teams working in close alignment, we were able to create valuable and fit-for-purpose artefacts that required less effort to produce and maintained the integrity of the customer's voice in delivery. The resulting efficiencies enabled us to deliver more features within each implementation release, maximising value for the stakeholders.

Have a design to delivery challenge?

With the push to deliver more value with less, ensuring your design efforts transition efficiently to delivery will increase value for design and delivery teams, stakeholders and citizens alike. 

Our expertise in Customer Strategy, Experience Design and Digital implementation with Government over 20+ years enables us to support design and delivery of your initiatives in a changing landscape with evolving citizen expectations. If we can help, don’t hesitate to start a conversation with me below.

Speak with an expert

Megan Crawford
Head of Public Sector Practice
Email me

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