“ Many citizens deal solely with government by filling in <paper> forms. Departments need to think more about the design and use of the form from the point of view of the user…This will not only make it easier to deal with government but will also save a considerable amount of taxpayers money.”

2003 Sir John Bourn, former Head of the NAO talking to Parliament

What is low code?

You might have heard people talking about low-code, or even be using it yourself. Low code is software that enables non-technical people to create user interfaces like online forms without needing to do any traditional computer programming or coding.

I attended an event recently where a supplier presented one of their key products: an off the shelf form builder. The product provided an admin interface, validation fields, ability to upload different file types, built-in logic as well as seamless integration to other services such as payments.

This was all available to the customer and able to be used without the need for technical knowledge. Each organisation could use their own stylesheet and have their own customised branding and logo, with extra premium features at an added cost. Hosted and easy to maintain.  

Why it’s becoming so popular

At face value, this proposition is very attractive to local authorities and other heavily form-reliant organisations, who are often unable to recruit or procure technical experts in software development. Giving non-technical staff the ability to make changes themselves, without having to go through a slow and expensive change request with a supplier, is pretty empowering.

Why it’s not always that simple

But, as is often the case, it’s not quite as straightforward as it might appear. I would encourage any organisation thinking about buying something like this to think carefully about these 2 things:

  • Price vs cost: make sure you consider not just the initial price of buying the product but also the set-up and ongoing costs. There will be annual licenses to pay for, and the costs of design and change – the latter could be significant
  • Quality: off the shelf products are designed for generic use by generic users, so they’re unlikely to meet the specific needs of your users. Make sure you include usability testing for your external and internal users, be prepared to make changes now and in the future, and accept that things won’t be perfect

Price vs cost (or watch out for the hidden stuff)

You will need to consider several things:

  • the ongoing price of the license, support costs and, in many cases, the cost of hosting the service
  • the cost of development to get things to a standard that is adequate for its purpose and your users, and
  • the cost of changing something

The costs and limitations of development

Low code solutions are often developed as closed systems (also known as proprietary). This means that you can only customise them to meet your specific user needs by going through the supplier, and maybe not even then. So any customisation will be at a cost – this could include things like integrating with your existing systems or designing some specific workflows – and you’re more likely to have to accept limitations.

Staff from your organisation will need to invest their time during the design and implementation phase. They will need to be trained and involved in developing and testing standards and establishing effective governance. The more effort you put in at this stage, the better your forms will perform with your users. But if your user needs change in the future, you may end up having to replace the entire system – and your investment in set-up, development and customisation will be lost.

This is a general issue worth considering whenever you’re thinking about using Software as a Service (SaaS). It’s why the Government Service Standard and Local Digital Declaration encourage the use of open standards. Open standards and systems ensure you don’t get locked into one supplier with a closed system, so customising your system or moving away from it are easier and cheaper.

Quality (or forms that work for you and your users)

Designing good forms requires craft and a lot of user testing. Forms are only good if they are usable for the person that’s providing the data, and for the organisation receiving it. Data needs to be complete and accurate, relevant and structured so the organisation can use it to make decisions.

To design forms you need to consider the design of the interface, including the interaction, content, format of the form fields, icons, buttons, error messages and so on. All of them need to be understood quickly and easily by the user so they provide the information the organisation is asking for.

A team building their own forms will have control over all of these, but if you’re using a low code form builder you usually won’t. In that case, the best you can do is some due diligence on their quality. Then you’ll probably need to accept some form of compromise.

A poorly designed form will increase calls to contact centres and processing time for the teams managing and delivering the service. So if you’re planning to buy a low code platform to fix your forms make sure you consider:

  • the extent to which they meet your user needs
  • how far you can customise them, and
  • the cost and skill involved in designing good quality forms that work

Here are some great recommendations from Caroline Jarrett, a recognised expert in form design for the public sector, on how to design a form.

There’s real value in getting it right

Fixing forms is not just about buying the kit, and it’s definitely not easy or quick. But if you are able to fix them, it will save a lot of time and money for your organisation, and make life easier for the people who need to fill them in.

If you hire a specialist technical team to build your forms, you aren’t just getting technical expertise. You’re also getting design and user research expertise to ensure they genuinely meet the needs of your users and organisation.

Using a low-code platform reduces the technical cost of building forms, and can reduce the cost of designing them if it comes with good design patterns. But you will still have to put some effort into designing forms to ensure they meet your specific needs (and don’t forget about the implications of being locked-in to one supplier).

Think carefully about what kind of solution will provide the most value for you and your users in the short and longer term.

Let us know what you think

We’re keen to hear your thoughts about the pros and cons of low code platforms, please get in touch!

The post Pros and cons of low code and form design (or things are never quite as good as they seem) appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

Map of user journey on whiteboard

I have worked on many different digital projects as a user researcher over the years, helping to develop services used by both citizens and DWP colleagues.

The one thing they have in common is that .

The user doesn’t differentiate between the digital and non-digital parts of the service. For them it’s one service which begins before they step into the digital service and finishes after they step out of it.

It’s therefore vital that at every stage of the lifecycle we research in the context of the wider service.

In discovery user research surfaces many problems which are prioritised based on user need and the impact the solution will deliver.

In my previous blog I describe a framework we can use in discovery that helps us identify, define and understand problems.

This blogpost builds on that by looking at the next stages (both alpha and beta) where we build, test and iterate solutions.

The non-digital parts of the journey are important too

When you’re building and testing a shiny new digital service, it’s all too easy to concentrate on that service and forget the other parts of the journey that the user experiences.

But problems in the non-digital parts of the journey must not be ignored otherwise we risk implementing something that only addresses problems in one area. It could potentially make something worse elsewhere in the journey.

It’s like putting a shiny new coat of paint on a car whose engine doesn’t work properly. It may look good but it probably won’t get you from A to B.

So how do we make sure we look under the bonnet, identify problems with the engine and fix them?

My 3 tips for focusing on the end-to-end journey

1. Define the user’s goal

What do they want to achieve when they engage with the service? How they achieve their goal is important (for example, using a great digital application process) but making sure they achieve their goal is vital.

I’m currently working on a new digital service that will help landlords to apply for rent and rent arrears to be paid directly to them from their tenant’s Universal Credit claim. The service is called Apply for Direct Rent Payments.

The landlord’s goal when using this service is quite simple: “to get my rent and rent arrears paid to me as soon as possible.”

Apply for direct rent payments screenshot

Apply for direct rent payments screenshot

2. Test the digital service in the context of the full end-to-end service

You need to see whether the goal has been met and if not, to understand why. Diary studies and customer journey mapping are great methodologies to consider measuring this.

If the rest of the end-to-end service offers a poor user experience, it doesn’t matter how fantastic the digital service even if the user meets their goal.

Often the introduction of a digital service will have a ripple effect on problems that exist elsewhere in the non-digital journey. However, some problems will persist regardless of what you introduce digitally and you need to define and understand them because they have an impact on the user’s experience.

The discovery phase of Apply for Direct Rent Payment highlighted two problem areas. One related to the application process and the other was communications to landlords through the journey.

Although we developed a solution aimed at addressing problems with the application we tested the full end-to-end journey in Private Beta to learn whether the service had a positive impact on communications elsewhere in the user journey.

What we learnt was communications continued to be poor and left some landlords annoyed and frustrated as they were spending time and effort chasing existing requests and sending duplicate ones. The risk of ignoring this is that landlords may choose to rent to tenants not on universal credit because of their experience with this service.

3. Share your findings widely

Introducing a fantastic digital service that offers a great user experience in isolation is of little benefit if it uncovers issues elsewhere in the non-digital part of the journey which affect the user goal.

Building strong relationships with stakeholders in strategy policy, operations and delivery is really important to prevent this. Working collaboratively, pooling expertise and sharing your research findings with them will help you identify, build and test non-digital solutions to problems identified in the full end-to-end service.

The Apply for Direct Rent Payment team are currently working with stakeholders to understand and define the problems and in turn, the user needs around communications. Once this is done we can then prioritise and implement a number of digital and non-digital solutions to address those problems together.

Working together to deliver better services

As an organisation DWP delivers ‘services’ which have both digital and non-digital elements. As a result, we need to better recognise that digital services are not a panacea and that not all solutions are digital.

Digital teams don’t have the capability or resource to fix every problem that research identifies but by working smarter and collaboratively with operational colleagues we can all deliver better services for the user.

Like this blog? Why not subscribe for more blogs like this? Sign up for email updates whenever new content is posted!

Original source – DWP Digital

The GDS accessibility lab - a blue wall with a table with laptops and other devices on it. A user sitting at the table doing some work.

New regulations mean that public sector websites and mobile apps will soon have a legal duty to meet accessibility requirements. You’ll need to:

  • carry out an evaluation of how accessible your websites and mobile apps are
  • fix accessibility problems (when you’re required to do so)
  • publish a statement saying what’s accessible, what’s not – and why

You’ll need to do this by 23 September 2019 for newer websites (those published later than 22 September 2018). There are later deadlines for older websites and mobile apps.

We’ve blogged about this a few times over the past months; here’s the latest on what’s happening.

Updated guidance on meeting accessibility requirements

We’ve updated the guidance on making your public sector website or app accessible.

We have:

  • split the information that was there into two guides – one that’s focused on understanding your obligations and one that’s focused on the practicalities of making a plan to identify and fix accessibility problems
  • added more detail on evaluating your website or app so you can publish an accessibility statement saying how accessible it is

And we’ve published a sample accessibility statement you can use to help you write your own. Thanks to colleagues at the AbilityNet, JISC, Nomensa, the University of Kent and others for their help with this.

A screen shot of the page with the sample accessibility statement. The title of the page is 'Guidance: Sample accessibility statement (for a fictional public sector website'. The first paragraph says: 'This is a sample accessibility statement about a fictional public sector website. It contains sample wording and guidance on what to include in your statement.'

Monitoring and enforcement

We’ve had some questions about how compliance will be monitored and how the regulations will be enforced.

A central monitoring team at GDS will assess a sample of public sector websites and apps. The aim of monitoring is to help and encourage the public sector to make timely improvements to websites and apps – making them accessible to as many people as possible and avoiding the need for enforcement.

The sample will be chosen based on a number of factors, including:

  • how many people risk being excluded
  • where there are known or suspected problems (for example, because there have been complaints)

If the monitoring team discovers accessibility problems with a website or app in the sample, they will notify the website or app owner and signpost them to support to help resolve the problems.

The monitoring team will be overseen by the Cabinet Office and supported by an independent panel of stakeholders.

Assuring compliance with the regulations will, in part, fall within the existing enforcement powers of the Equality Advisory Service, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

GDS – acting on behalf of the Minister for the Cabinet Office – will assess whether accessibility statements meet legal requirements.

The Equalities Advisory Support Service provides individuals with information about discrimination and their rights as users of public services.

We’ll publish further information on monitoring and enforcement processes in the future.

What’s next

Most public sector organisations will want to consider getting help from an external accessibility expert to evaluate their websites and apps. But for organisations that genuinely can’t afford to do that, we’re working on a simple approach to self-evaluation. We will aim to publish this soon.

Subscribe to this blog.

Original source – Government Digital Service

Vimla speaking at a council

Prototypes are a way of bringing ideas and concepts into reality.

As Ben wrote, there are many different types of prototypes. They can be used in many different contexts to help visualise ideas early, getting people around a “thing” rather than round a table to talk about it.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a piece of paper, something built with cardboard or a mockup of a website. What we want to do is test an assumption or hypothesis that we have. This is so that we can learn more about user behaviour, needs and most importantly how things work.

Spoiler alert: a prototype is not a finished solution.

When I say prototype, I don’t mean a finished solution. Far from it. When we prototype, what we’re really doing is testing a visualisation and physical form of our ideas.

Prototypes exist before we know what we need. During the prototyping stage of a project, we might have an idea of what’s technologically feasible but our focus is on testing the ideas and the assumptions that we have.

So, what is a prototype?

Above all else, a prototype is an opportunity to test an idea, an assumption, or a hypothesis, so that you can learn something more about the problem that you’re trying to solve. Through prototyping, you’re making sure that what you build is much more likely to be successful and used by the people who need it.

Prototypes are also a great way to understand how existing work and solutions in an organisation can be embraced, replicated and scaled across different service areas. They present a unique opportunity to take learnings from one service to understand what needs to be changed and iterated for another service — focussing on what’s strong in an organisation, not what’s wrong.

Ultimately, a prototype is a way to be proven wrong.

When we prototype, we want to understand where we might be wrong. That’s where things get exciting and we know that we’re learning something that we didn’t know before. Using clear hypotheses or assumptions that are measurable and observable, helps to make sure that we understand the things we want to learn about.

The value of prototyping

1. Creative problem solving

Prototypes are a valuable, creative way to begin solving problems. They can be a tool to encourage creativity in teams and for engaging with every level of an organisation.

When we are prepared to be bold and creative with ideas, we can start to see how we might change and challenge the status quo — in ways we never thought were possible. Being creative encourages everyone to suspend their disbelief and to think about the future differently.

2. Testing ideas fast and cheaply

Prototypes can reduce the time and cost it takes to test new and creative ideas.

Because we’re using tools that are easy for everyone to access, and that can be rough and ready and cheap to produce, no one should feel too precious about throwing out early prototypes and starting again.

The greatest value of prototyping is often testing early. If we go out and test an early paper prototype, people are much more likely to get a pen out and write down their thoughts, tell us what they really think and show us something can be improved, rather than asking them for feedback on more ‘finished’ or costly designs.

3. Deciding

Prototypes make it so much easier to make decisions on what to do next. When we know what’s going to work, what’s not going to work and what’s technically feasible, we can start making the decisions on what needs to happen next.

4. Empowering change

One of the biggest values that prototyping brings is empowering frontline staff in organisations to embrace change.

Prototypes can act as a tool to get buy-in from stakeholders and users on changes that might be coming their way. They’re a great method of exploring how new ideas, processes and capabilities will work in reality, embedding buy-in from the beginning of projects, rather than trying to sell something to front staff later on at the point of delivery.

More than meets the eye

Don’t underestimate the power of prototypes. They can be the difference between service failure and unlocking future services models, savings, efficiencies as well as untapped creative potential in teams.

This is part of a series on how we use prototyping at FutureGov. This blog post is based on what we’ve most recently learned working with Stockport Council.

Why do we prototype? was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

Shortly after the 2019 local government elections in England, Dan Slee posed a question in his excellent article, why is it so hard to find out election results.

I’d been meaning to write something about why the speed of data reporting (how quickly and frequently data gets updated and published) varies. and in doing this I can also try to answer Dan’s question too.

In almost all cases the speed of data reporting operates at the need of the business, not the end user. Sometimes these are the same, in the case of local government elections they’re not. That’s why it’s so hard to find out election results until days after an election.

On the night the best place to find results was a news organisation’s website, radio or TV channel, for example Sky News. Why? Because their business model is built around getting you the facts as quickly and as accurately as possible, and in the case of a commercial news organisation having a reputation for doing this well means selling more advertising and therefore generating more income.

Local government’s business model on the other hand, whilst it does need accurate results, doesn’t require them quickly other than at the election count itself. In fact it can take weeks for the wheels of electoral democracy to stop turning and a new leader and council is in place.

So if you want the fastest, most accurate data news organisations are always the place to go right? Well, no actually. There are other types of organisation that are even faster. Take sports results for example.

Websites and TV channels like those of Sky Sports offer up to the minute data on a wide variety of sports, however betting companies such as Betfair offer up to the second results on a wider range.

This is because betting companies and make (and lose) money based on having the most up to date and accurate data on every market they offer. Similar, share trading sites offer up to the second information on markets around the world,

So back to Dan’s question, why is it so hard to find out election results on the night, it’s because the business model of local democracy is slower than both the media, and betting and share trading companies.

Original source – Lg/Www

Screenshot of the Notify homepage: Send emails, text messages and letters to your users. Try GOV.UK Notify now if you work in central government, a local authority, or the NHS. Button saying 'create an account'. Or sign in if you've used it before. Heading saying 'Control your content' and paragraph saying 'You don't need any technical knowledge to create email, text message or letter templates.'

Over 150 local authorities use GOV.UK Notify to send emails, text messages and letters. These organisations often have to deliver complex public services with limited resources.

Here are 5 examples of teams that use Notify to save time and money, and build better services.

Sending one-off messages at short notice

Bracknell Forest Council started using Notify in April 2018. As well as council tax and local election reminders, they’ve also used it to send one-off messages.

When 7,400 Direct Debit payments were unexpectedly delayed, the council sent a text alert. They quickly set up a new Notify template and uploaded a list of the phone numbers of people who were affected.

Using Notify to keep residents informed helps to improve customer satisfaction. In this case, warning people in advance about the delay reduced the number of phone calls to the council.

Saving money by sending text messages instead of letters

Dacorum Borough Council uses Notify to text people who forget to pay their council tax. If residents pay after receiving a text, the council does not need to follow up with a formal letter.

In one 3-month period, Dacorum sent 3,000 fewer letters, saving them £5,000 in printing and postage. They also issued 400 fewer court summons for non-payment of council tax. Dacorum estimate that this saved residents over £22,000 in legal fees.

Based on this success, Dacorum’s waste collection team has started using Notify too.

Providing a free service for people affected by air pollution

The Sussex Air Quality Partnership (SAQP) uses Notify to warn people about air pollution. Residents can subscribe to airAlert, a free service that sends them a text when local air quality is poor.

Because they send fewer than 25,000 texts a year, it’s completely free for SAQP to use Notify. This means they can invest the money they save in other projects instead. For example, reducing nitrogen dioxide emissions from idling vehicles.

SAQP also uses Notify to run 2 text alert services for extreme temperatures – coldAlert and heatAlert.

Reducing the number of missed appointments

Each month, Gravesham Borough Council makes an average of 232 bulky waste collections. If residents forget to put their rubbish out, they have to pay £27 for a new appointment.

In November 2017, Gravesham used the Notify API to set up a text message reminder service. When residents book a collection, they can sign up for a reminder too. Reminders are automatically sent at 7pm the evening before collection day.

Each month, 77% of people ask for a reminder when they book and there has been a 50% drop in missed appointments.

Other teams at Gravesham Borough Council have started using the Notify API too. The taxi licensing team uses it to send reminders for vehicle, MOT and licence checks.

Sending personalised emails in high volumes

The School Admissions team at Buckinghamshire County Council uses Notify to send personalised emails to parents. The email tells them when to expect school offer letters and waiting list positions. They also direct parents to the website for further information.

The council has sent 96,000 emails with Notify since April 2018. During that time the number of phone and email enquiries has reduced.

Medway Council also sends school admission test results through Notify.

To send a bulk email to 3,500 parents and guardians, they upload a list of email addresses and test results. Notify merges the data with a reusable message template, then sends an email to everyone on the list. Once the emails have been sent, the council can check which, if any, could not be delivered.This report is useful in case of an appeal by a parent or guardian.

Medway Council is now planning to use Notify to send reminders about all school placements.

If you work for a local authority and you need to send emails, text messages or letters to your users, visit www.gov.uk/notify.

If you’re already using Notify and you’d like to share your story, let us know or leave a comment below.

Original source – Government Digital Service

The Democratic Republic of Congo: low internet penetration, and low awareness about Freedom of Information. In short, not the most obvious place for an FOI site on our Alaveteli platform.

And yet, here’s tunabakonzi.org, brand new last month.

Tuna Bakonzi is an FOI site for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Henri Christin from Collectif24 is TuNa Bakonzi’s founder, and we were keen to talk to him about his reasons for launching a site when the prevailing conditions are apparently so adverse.

How did you find out about the Alaveteli platform?

“I discovered Alaveteli through AFIC, the Africa Freedom of Information Centre. When Collectif24 organised the National Symposium on Access to Information in Kinshasa, there was a presentation on askyourgov.ug [an FOI site for Uganda, also run on Alaveteli]; that’s what gave us the idea to do the same for the DRC. And that prompted me to get in touch with mySociety!”

Why does DRC need such a site?

“In DRC, everything is centralised on the capital city, Kinshasa. The country is very large, and while there’s been good efforts towards political decentralisation, there hasn’t been the same in terms of administration. So TuNa Bakonzi should help with that.

“It’ll facilitate the demand for easy information in a country where access to basic social services, access to authorities’ offices, is just not guaranteed to everyone.

“This service will promote accountability and give citizens control in the fight against corruption. In a country where there are no public policies on internet governance and journalists are regularly exposed to false information, it will also allow requests for information directly from the source.

“Finally, it’s a barometer for transparency. It will show whether a public institution is transparent, by way of the answers it gives — or does not give — to citizens’ requests.”

There’s not yet an FOI Act in DRC — can the site still have a purpose?

“Although there is not yet an Access to Information law, Collectif24 has published a collection of international, regional and national instruments on the right of Access to Information in the DRC.

“With regard to these instruments and the DRC’s Constitution, which guarantee the right of Access to Information for every person, the public administration is, in principle, supposed to give information to citizens.

“In addition, the Government of the Republic is committed to the principles of governance and transparency. As a result, we’ll be adding the public institutions of local, provincial and central governments to the site, as well as private institutions that have a public function. The site can also support the implementation of the law, once it’s actually been passed.”

Are you using the site to campaign for a change in the law?

“There’s a precedent when “the facts precede the law”. Through this site, we want to promote access to information in practice, and through this we’ll advocate for the vote to be passed in law.

What is awareness of FOI like in the DRC?

“Collectif24 has been working on the question of FOI in DRC since 2009. Previously there was a general perception that FOI really only applied to journalists; but thanks to our work we believe that DRC citizens now know that it’s a fundamental human right.

“It’s also worth noting that we’re the only organisation in DRC that works in this area, but we have no funding to develop awareness programs covering the whole country. We also need to publicise the site, but it’s a technical and financial challenge for us.”

How was the launch?

“We officially launched in partnership with the Catholic National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). Representatives of civil society organisations, parliamentarians, journalists, students and members of the public administration were invited to CENCO’s Saint Sylvestre Hall.

“After presenting the project and the importance of the site, the computer scientist who did all the site development made a presentation. Q&A was followed by a session to show how to use the site. All the participants appreciated the initiative and the service. The ceremony closed with thanks to OSISA [The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa] for the funding and to mySociety for the creation of the Alaveteli platform”.

Who do you think will use the site?

“Everyone can use it. Yes, we have to recognise that internet penetration and connection in the country is weak. So at first we expect users to be the groups that have more access to the Internet: we definitely expect actors in civil society, journalists, researchers, politicians, international organisations, professionals and administration staff to use it”.

What are your hopes for the project?

“My wishes and dreams for this innovative and unique site in the DRC are that it becomes the place of contact between the governors and the governed; that it is a tool of citizen control and accountability which contributes to the fight against corruption and improves the governance of the DRC.

“For that to happen, we must publicise it as much as possible, but we do face security, technical and financial constraints:

“In terms of security: Collectif24 is not yet able to protect the site in the case of cyber attack; technically, we need a permanent expert for maintenance. And then, financially: we need funding for increasing awareness, hosting, better storage space, and updating of the institutions’ details, and so it goes on!”

How’s it going so far?

“Right now, we’re seeing a start. People are asking the questions they want answers to.

“But the authorities are not responding because they have not yet been sensitised to the concept of FOI.

“Additionally, we need to increase the number of institutions available on the site — but most Congolese institutions do not have official or reliable email addresses. There’s no documentation in the DRC to provide information on institutions at all levels and their contacts.

“So this is the next piece of work that Collectif24 intends to do: we’ll produce a directory if we can get a sponsor to fund it, and this will of course facilitate adding institutions to the site.

“Collectif24 must work to raise awareness among the population and the administrative staff; organise training on the use of the site. We want to create online user manuals to help people understand how to use it; add public institutions on a regular basis.

“To do all of this, it’s important to develop a program of advocacy and lobbying to the authorities to get the site recognised. We must work to make this site the official FOI service for the DRC.”

Thanks so much to Henri for talking to us — as always it was fascinating to hear about the challenges Collectif24 are facing: some unique to the country, and some universal across all FOI sites the world over. We wish him the best of luck with this brave but clearly worthy and much needed project in the DRC.

Image: Kinshasa street scene by Monusco Photos (CC by-sa/2.0)

Original source – mySociety

For many organisations being active on social media is a comms and engagement activity which has grown organically and is part of the daily to-do rather than something which gets a lot of strategic attention. And if your efforts are paying off, that’s great – but sometimes you need to stop and look around to make sure your effort is in the right place, in the right way and is helping you reach your outcomes.

By giving 30 minutes to look at your social media you can create a basic audit and understand what actions you need to take in just seven sessions. This post gives you an overview of the steps and what you’ll need to capture in each one but if folk are interested I’ll blog each step in more detail with examples of the outputs – leave me a comment below or catch me on Twitter to let me know if this would be useful to you.

Your seven step social media audit

Session 1 – Know your objectives

The first 30 minutes you’re going to spend on this audit aren’t about social media at all. They’re about your organisational objectives, and your comms objectives. Hopefully these are clear and available to you (great! You might not need the full 30 minutes) but in some organisations you’ll find the strategic direction is less visible, or in some cases is very changeable or vague.

Whether you are clear or not it’s important to spend some time capturing this information or having conversations with others in your organisation about it as it sets the scene for everything you’re going to look for in this audit (it’s your WHY) and what you put in your plan at the end. Set out what you’re aiming for, why, and how you’re going to know you’ve achieved it and keep this in mind throughout the next steps.

Session 2 – Map Your Social Media

In this 30 minute social media audit session you should create a spreadsheet detailing the social media profiles for your organisation. Make sure you look beyond the core corporate accounts on the main networks and search out any profiles run directly by departments or which have been abandoned over time / because a project ended.

It’s also worth noting any individual accounts which are speaking on behalf of your organisation (your CEO’s Twitter account for example) and any political accounts you may not have your hand on but which relate to your organisation.

Make sure you capture the profile name, the platform (eg Facebook), the URL, and the top-line stats (followers, likes) as well as who is running it (if you know) and how often it is being posted to. You may want to look at whether it uses your correct branding and has a completed profile information too.

Not finished and the 30 minutes is up? Don’t worry – as long as you’ve got the key accounts you’re spending the majority of your time managing you’re good to go. If you want an exhaustive list and you’re not quite sure you’re there then add in another 30-minute session to carry on.

Session 3 – Map the Environment

In this 30 minute social media audit session you should expand your search to capture useful social media profiles in your area. This could be geographic, or communities of interest but they’re places where people you may want to reach are already hanging out.

Make sure you don’t just look for Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages but also search for Facebook Groups, Mumsnet chats, YouTube vids or Reddit threads – it all depends on what is relevant to you. For larger organisations you may want to capture some top level profiles and then think about doing a deeper dive later on to look for relevant conversations to specific services (so, you might want to capture the ‘Spotted Townsville’ Facebook Group in this audit, but a deeper dive for Libraries might lead you to capture ‘Townsville Book Swap’. You’ll also want to take a look at LinkedIn Groups, hashtags across Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, and events like Twitter Chats.

Just like with the look at your own profiles make sure keep a spreadsheet (I suggest a new tab in the one you’ve already started) to capture profile name, platform, URL, top line stats, and any info on who is running the account.

In 30 minutes you’re unlikely to map everything in your area but you should get a good start and enough of a feel of what’s around you to carry on with the audit. If you want to create a more exhaustive list of competitors, allies and profiles of relevance then add in another block of 30 minutes to carry on with the work.

Session 4 – Understand Your Audience

This 30 minute social media audit session is about understanding your audience and putting this in the context of social network demographics. You’ll probably already have an idea about who your customer / citizen is (and no, it isn’t ‘everyone’) but for larger organisations like a council you may want to create a couple of different personas linked to different areas of service, or for an eCommerce business different personas for different product types.

This is also where we start to delve into the data around the profiles you’re running and have captured in session two. At this stage it’s good to capture anything you know about your audience – age, gender, location, eduction level, affluence, digital usage, accessibility needs and also anything you might know about their mindset around your service or product.

The example I always used in local government for this was the difference in mindset between someone thinking about adoption or fostering, and someone looking for car park charges at the country park.

In the first case – adoption and fostering – the person may be feeling nervous, may have a lot of questions, may not be ready to talk to anyone and may have a lot of emotions about what has led them toward adoption and fostering. The are likely to be incredibly focused on the task and not open to ‘cross-selling’ or interested in general organisational news.

In the second – country park – the person is likely to be more relaxed (although also likely distracted if they have kids or an excited dog wanting to get out in that country park around them) and getting them the key information fast means they may be more open to other information, for example an event that’s coming up at the country park for families, info about a hashtag to use on Insta to share pics of your walk.

In both cases it’s important to think about the typical attributes of these people – not just their demographic information, but their emotions at the time you’ll cross their path on social media, and their personality type. Not everyone in an age bracket is the same – so try and refine to know who you’re talking with online.

Session 5 – Understand who is where online

Once you’ve got this – match it with the overall demographics for each social media platform. There’s a good resource here where you can get the headline stats.

To refine this take a look at the stats for any of the profiles you have running. For a Facebook Page, for example, you’ll find information on the average age of people who’ve Liked or interacted with your posts, as well as gender, location and deeper information about what time of day you get the best results. Don’t just look at social media profiles but look at any stats you can get along these lines for your website, service users, customers etc.

There is a huge amount of data out there and it’s hard not to get sucked down into the swamp and lose sight of what is useful and what is just interesting. To help with this keep in mind your objectives from session one, but also the customer personas from session four. Where we want to be is with a clear picture of who you’re talking to and where you should be talking to them online.

Going back to the adoption and fostering example – if you know most adoption enquiries comes from women, aged 28-40, single, career-minded, home-owners (and I’m making up this example – it might not be accurate at all!) and you also know that the majority of Facebook users are women aged 30-55 you can see there is a cross-over here and an opportunity to reach the right people. It’s less likely you’ll reach your target audience through Snapchat, in this example, where the audience is much younger.

Build the right picture of people in your audience, and then match to the most relevant places online.

Session 6 – Understand Your Activity and Performance

The previous two steps have hopefully shown you’re already on the right platforms for your audience but whether you need to adjust course or not it’s time to look at how content is performing for you.

You’ll be going back into the data swamp for this session and looking at your performance on your existing profiles. Each platform gives a slightly different set of stats but there is a key measurement you’ll want to look for on each: engagement rate.

By all means capture the number of followers / Likes you have, and the number of posts you’ve made, but to really start to understand how you’re doing you need to look at this engagement rate figure. This shows you out of your total followers how many are interacting with what you do.

It’s useful here to get some context too – engagement rates are falling sharply across all social media so you’ll need to look at how you compare. This report gives you up to date information for 2019 on engagement rates across key platforms by industry.

Session 7 – Create an Audit Report and Plan

In this final 30 minute session you want to bring together everything you’ve learned and turn that data into actionable insight. Open up a Doc and create headings from the sessions you’ve undertaken and capture the headline results beneath each one. If you’ve got longer to spend you can think about how to visualise some of these results but for now, just making sense of the data is the key thing.

If you can see you’re on the wrong platforms for the people you’re trying to reach, you need to consider where you would be better placed. If you can see you’re on the right platform but you’re not reaching or successfully engaging with people, you need to consider whether your content is right or what you could do differently. If you can see you’re in the right place and what you do is getting results but you aren’t consistent so you’re treading water rather than building, you need to consider priorities and resourcing.

Doing an fast audit allows you to quickly understand whether what you’re putting your effort into now is paying off with your audience, and also look for ways to optimise what you do as well as understanding why.

If you’ve got more time to spend on auditing you can get deeper into the mapping by looking at who your micro influencers are, exploring paid social media (advertising), and looking at customer journeys onward from social media through your website or app. But if you only have a limited amount of time and you’re worried you have too many social accounts or you aren’t getting the most from the effort you put into them this quick audit will give you an indication of where to focus for best results.

Need a hand?

If you need a hand with a social media audit, strategy or with anything else content or communications do get in touch to see how I can support you. Want to see who I’ve worked with recently? You can find them here

Original source – Sarah Lay

Mark and Zubair chatting at a desk

Mark and Zubair

Zubair: the opportunity to lead a project for DWP Digital

I joined DWP on an 8-week work placement after meeting Nagesh Reddy, DWP Programme Director, Finance Transformation programme at one of the many business analysis workshops, conferences and events I like to attend – I really love business analysis!

Nagesh was impressed by my passion and enthusiasm for working in this field and was keen to support me on my journey into work. He helped me to find out more about the role and hopefully helped me on my way to learning new business analysis tools and techniques and to help me on my journey to become a business analyst. Working with the Capability and Talent team within DWP Digital, who helped to make this happen, he introduced me to Jamie Toyne, Head of Business Analysis and Marie Franklin, a business manager and practice support for Product Design. They worked together to devise a mini project for me to work on which would support their work and help to develop my skills under the mentorship of Mark Young.

Working as a business analyst with my mentor, the recruitment team and the learning and development team, I analysed 2 staff systems and their processes to offer solutions which could increase efficiency, remove any potential business or reputational implications and improve the working lives of DWP Digital colleagues.

I thrived in the positive working environment of DWP Digital and developed many new skills, a major one being agile working which was eye opening and kept me on my toes. The interactive fast paced environment brought a dynamic approach to everyday tasks. No 2 days were the same and every day a new skill was learned and my network of colleagues strengthened.

The feeling that no person was left to stand alone resonated. No day was boring because every day was different and this is what I loved about my time there. I’m really grateful to Nagesh for making this opportunity happen and to Mark for being my mentor and managing me through the project.

Mark: providing opportunities to the next generation of analysts

When the DWP business analysis leadership team approached me and asked if I’d mentor Zubair, I immediately agreed as I have a real passion and enthusiasm for business analysis and think it’s really important to provide opportunities to people to gain experience.

I provided advice and coaching to ensure Zubair was in a position to set his own career goals and forge a path into business analysis. I also introduced Zubair to some learning and development such as the IIBA Entry Certificate in Business Analysis and BCS Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis and helped him to build his networks in the analyst community so he can pragmatically continue his journey beyond his 8 week experience.

I shared a variety of business analysis techniques with Zubair, including: problem definition, business process mapping, business activity modelling, SWOT analysis, CATWOE, eliciting and defining requirements, stakeholder workshops to understand ‘As Is’ and ‘To Be’ process, GAP Analysis, Three Amigos, use cases, writing user stories using Gherkin, Scenarios, MoSCoW, personas and business cases.

Taking part in this experience has taught me that learning is a lifelong journey. As Joseph Joubert said, “To teach is to learn twice”.

I’m grateful to the people who took time in my early career to support me and to help me navigate my way into a profession I love. So I feel very lucky to be able to pay this forward and support the next generation of analysts in finding their own path into the profession.

I wish Zubair every success in his journey to become a business analyst and look forward to being involved with more schemes like this in the future.

We’re hiring

Be part of the one of the largest and most exciting digital transformations in the world. Apply now by visiting our careers website.



Original source – DWP Digital

Wellbeing at work (when your workplace is your home) and the experience of music listening…

#weeknotes S06 EP13 – week ending 19 May 2019

Working on

This week has been a sort out week – I’ve finally moved back into my home office (it’s been a stock room for the label for quite some time) and having a dedicated workspace rather than perching on the sofa, sitting at the kitchen table (or any time the sun is out) laying in the garden has made a huge and positive difference. While freelancing gives me the work / life balance I’ve longed for (I LOVE doing the school run and checking on my veggie patch while the kettle boils between jobs) it can make it easy to blue the line between what is a home and what is an office. Sorting out my workspace has been overdue and I’m glad I braved the spiders, the records, and the broken blind to get myself sorted.

As it was Mental Health Awareness Week there were a couple of other things I pulled myself up on and finally actioned: getting some houseplants (and trying seriously to keep them alive), and giving myself time to do things for my wellbeing. This week that was time to read (and sitting under our apple tree reading a big thick hardback was definitely good for my soul), but I’m intending to pick up the exercise again. After injury and illness I’ve been off my game but I want to be back up and running again – who else has re-started Couch to 5k multiple times?

Music wise this week has been about production and campaign for the new LIINES single. This is their first new music since last year’s debut album Stop-Start and comes off the back of their 30 plus date tour with Sleaford Mods, and ahead of their headline shows in London, Nottingham and Manchester. Securing the 6Music premiere for it was a pleasure and I’m hyped to hear it get more airplay and coverage as we head into release week.

I’ve also been working on pre-production details for a new format for a single from Mark Morriss. I can’t say too much about this (we’ll announce soon) but I’m so pleased we’ve found a way to create a unique piece through an independent business which will provide a really lovely product experience for fans. I’m really keen to explore different ways to get music out – particularly where a smaller run is right. Vinyl is amazing, CDs are still popular and digital is certainly convenient – but both artists and fans deserve imagination and brilliant experiences around the magic of the music they create and choose. If anyone wants to have conversations with me about music products and listener experiences please let me know – coffee is on me.


Fiction wise I’ve borrowed Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust from my eldest child and am slowly getting back into the Dark Materials universe – just in time for the BBC adaptation.

I’ve not managed to find a consistent way to log what I’ve been reading online yet – maybe returning to an RSS reader is the way. Much of my reading online at the moment is around Facebook Ads to make sure the latest info is going into the Vital Facebook Skills workshops I’m running with Dan Slee next month – get the details and snap up one of the last few places here.

Listening to

I’ve been listening to the Other Labels podcast this week and loving hearing from other label managers and founders about the reality of running an indie record label. There’s a lot of resonance with Reckless Yes but I’m also hearing lots of experience outside of our own. If you’re looking to dive in I recommend the Team Love episode. I was lucky enough to deliver a campaign on the labels behalf a few years ago in the UK and love their ethos and their thinking on the how and why of modern labels.

What’s next?

Second week of campaign for LIINES new single and we’ll be following up on the 6Music premiere with lots of coverage elsewhere. This is part of my work as Head of Creative at Reckless Yes but if you’re a musician or band in need of some help you can find me over at Noble and Wild – I’d love to chat with you.

And of course it is election week next week too. I’ll be using my vote and hoping for the best from a personal perspective, while looking over how informing and reporting goes from a professional one.

Original source – Sarah Lay