Written by Alessandra Canella and Ben Holliday.
We recently shared how to approach understanding your services. Once you’ve started to understand the services that your organisation delivers, the next step to take is to think about how to prioritise which of these services to work on.
Natalie Taylor asked this question earlier this year on Twitter: how do you prioritise which services to transform first? Should you prioritise by looking at the costs of running services, the number of transactions, contract or supplier end dates, political drivers and priorities? Or, be considering other factors?
Reading through the responses to Natalie’s question, there’s clearly no one-size-fits-all answer. The type of organisation, priorities and constraints you’re working within will vary. That said, we’ve been working with organisations from across local and central government to help prioritise services.
We’ve touched on this topic before in the 2017 blog post: What makes a good pilot project for digital? In this post, we’ll look more broadly at how to prioritise work on services delivered across an organisation.
Designing an approach to service prioritisation
We love frameworks. A framework is a tool that helps us to navigate something more complex. You can think of frameworks as simple models that support decision-making or that can be used for understanding, prioritising and communicating something within a set of constraints.
It’s always important to design the framework you use. It should be designed to help you prioritise or work towards a clearly defined goal. The goal we’re working towards here is prioritising which services to work on.
To get started, we’re going to consider three questions:
- What outcomes are we looking for?
- What’s the timeframe we’re working within?
- How engaged are people in different service areas?
1. What outcomes are we looking for?
How you decide to prioritise will depend on the maturity of a team and the organisation, as well as who is responsible for prioritisation and different services.
For the person leading the work, this might be about showing the value of service design as a new approach for how an organisation works. This could mean the need to show quick wins to build support and buy-in for work across more services or demonstrating real cost savings in the short term.
More established teams, comfortable with an approach to designing services, might be looking to focus and align more to the strategic priorities of their organisation. This could include priorities linked to existing supplier contracts or creating efficiencies in particular service areas.
2. What’s the timeframe we’re working within?
Timeframes will dictate what you can do. It’s important to consider the timing of when we need to see results from any future work on services that become a priority.
A longer timeframe will give you more scope to work on complex problems or potentially more challenging service areas. Again, a shorter timeframe might mean you need to look for quick wins or for teams and operational areas that are more willing or motivated to work with you.
3. How engaged are people in different service areas?
It’s important to understand how motivated teams and different operational areas approach working together to improve or transform services.
If you’re prioritising services in this way for the first time, then finding highly engaged service or operational areas is important. It might be better to deprioritise work with other areas that are less engaged and wait for the approaches to service design you’re introducing to gain momentum, therefore generating increased interest before revisiting these.
Tip: A good approach to answering these questions is to bring your project team together to work through them together. Try capturing as many thoughts as possible using post-it notes, using the three questions as headers and prompts.
Once you’ve answered these questions you should have a good set of potential criteria and constraints to help you decide how you will prioritise. This is the start of your framework.
For example, the list of criteria you decide to work with is likely to include things like:
- transaction volume
- potential to reduce demand/cost
- impact on user experience
- impact of organisation efficiency
- flexibility/changes required of enabling technology
Tip: There are many other potential criteria. At this stage, it can be useful to get your team to rank your list of criteria in an order of importance (make sure your team agree and have a shared understanding).
There are lots of approaches to how you can then start to apply different sets of criteria like this to a list of your services. For example, if you take our recent work with Essex County Council to map 157 transactional services, we could apply different criteria against each of these services using a tool like Airtable or even using a simple spreadsheet.
Another approach that works well is to prioritise and agree on sets of criteria, followed by plotting these against a simple 2×2 matrix. At this point, you might need to do further research or business analysis to understand the service areas you’re looking to prioritise.
After prioritising an initial set of services in this way, you might want to apply further sets of criteria until you’re confident enough about how and why priorities have been set out and agreed.
Any final set of service priorities will always depend on where you’re working and who you’re working with. Working as part of a team, the most important thing is how you agree and communicate your priorities together. Working collaboratively, you’ll create the best possible conditions to deliver impact, supporting your organisations ability to deliver change.
It would be great to hear more about your experiences prioritising services. You can view work from Essex County Council and other examples of services in our LocalGov Patterns library — a nationwide project to build a shared library of service patterns for local government.
We’re looking for input from as many local authorities as possible to build up our initial knowledge base so please get involved.