Bake in the Uber from the Outset

The Dark, Rainy Night of the Soul

I wrote a few weeks ago on how Uber transforms the experience of getting from A to B, by thinking through the user experience. They then use technology to transform the experience of getting a taxi in an unknown city on a dark and rainy night. In that post I focused on the importance of the user experience. In this one, I want to talk about the importance of technology.

The user experience in many front-line public services – especially those that are engaged in supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged – is very often the equivalent of hailing a taxi in an unknown city on a dark and rainy night. It’s not easy, it’s not pleasant, it’s not convenient and it doesn’t create a feeling of value.

Technology is not a panacea for this, but it doesn’t take a huge amount of imagination to see how the app economy, mobile technology, web mapping and intelligent data analytics might transform the experience – and the effectiveness and efficiency! – of services such as Jobcentre Plus, the Work Programme, Transforming Rehabilitation or Adult Skills provision.

All of these services deploy tech solutions, but too often as an add-on or an afterthought or a tasty piece of ‘bid candy’ – the Uber is not baked in from the outset.

Why does this happen?

The problem is threefold.

1. When new contracts are procured by central government (for example, the upcoming Work & Health Programme) design teams have a strong tendency to work iteratively – rather than starting with a blank sheet of paper. For example, with ‘welfare to work’ or offender rehabilitation services, we are building over the top of a core service model that was conceived in – at least – the 1990s. Where else, other than the public sector, would you find business models that remain undisrupted by the seismic changes that tech has caused in the past few decades? Booking a hotel, buying a house, doing the weekly food shop, hailing a taxi are all fundamentally different, easier, better experiences than thirty years ago. It’s time for a blank sheet of paper.

2. Design teams tend to develop their iterative service model in isolation from technology. They tend to be highly expert operatives in their particular space – employment or probation services, for example – but have no technical expertise. Without an expert view of what tech can do for them and how to make it happen by bringing together applications and systems, they tend to deploy a piecemeal approach – bolting on an online assessment system and an automated CV-builder here, a video training application and a vacancy aggregation tool there. There’s no coherent view of how tech integrates across the entire service journey – front- and back-end – because there’s not a comprehensive technical knowledge in the design function.

3. It’s really hard to get data to join up – both within and between various services. If someone leaves Transforming Rehabilitation and joins the Work Programme, wouldn’t it be great if their data went with them? It won’t. If Jobcentre Plus could identify people who were most at risk of long-term unemployment by analysing various datasets and give them the right support from the outset to mitigate that risk, wouldn’t it be great for them and the taxpayer? We can’t. This is a massive issue – some of it caused by legislation, some by culture and some by existing systems.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

My company, ThinkWinDo, are a public services consultancy and we love technology. But we don’t truly understand it. We do have sector-leading expertise in areas of public service delivery such as employment and welfare, criminal justice and offender rehabilitation and skills and apprenticeships.

We really felt that we could and should do something to help public service providers start to tackle the three problems above. So, we’ve created an exciting new partnership with bespoke software development house, Softwire. This brings together the ability to solve big technology problems with smart software and expertise in designing and delivering public services – with a focus on delivering practical results.

Our offer is to help organisations start with a blank sheet of paper and to bake tech into the heart of their solution design – creating coherent, effective, efficient, 21st century services for the citizens that use them.

You can find out more at:, where you can see a short video about our new partnership.

How could technology help you to deliver better services?

What stops you from baking in the Uber from the outset?

I’d love to hear from you, in the comments below, on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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