A collaborative project
with Dublin City Council Beta Projects

The team & my role

The team consisted of two service designers and myself, a user experience designer. 

My responsibilities included conducting concept and usability testing, gathering user feedback, storyboarding, developing wireframes and prototypes around user needs, and communicating the value and benefit of features to clients and stakeholders.

What are Beta projects

Dublin City Council Beta projects are the innovation section of Dublin City Council. Beta projects are used to trial issues that the council is seeking to understand so they can validate them before implementing them and can gather citizen feedback about the proposed project implementations.

Shown below is the Dublin City Council process for carrying out a project compared to the Beta project process. The key differences are that Beta gathers assumptions about the project and validates them with testing and feedback before implementing them. In contrast, the Dublin City Councils approach is to implement projects before validating them.

DCC (Dublin City Council) project process vs Beta project process

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Client problem : How can the Beta mindset be spread into Dublin City Council projects

How the Beta mindset is currently spread to DCC staff

Our brief

Spread the Beta mindset (design thinking methods) into Dublin City council department projects so that the projects can be validate before they are implemented in Dublin city. 

Employee interviews & mapping findings

We carried out a series of interviews with DCC staff to determine their understanding of Beta and why they didn't opt to use Beta's validation before implementation methods and resources when carrying out their projects. Findings and quotes from these interviews were documented using affinity mapping and were developed into insights and then how might we questions.

Key Findings & Insights from interviews

Findings

Staff understand Beta better when they go through a project and personally interact with others who have done it before

Embedded staff are crucial to the success of any project because they help to spread the word, which Beta is currently not doing
 

The language/ culture/thinking of Beta is very different to DCC's native language

Insights

Actually using Beta is crucial

to understanding and

appreciating Beta

 

There is an opportunity

to capture champions within departments as conduits

for Beta, so as to spread Beta by peer-to-peer communication

BETA isn't adapted to the current language and mindset of DCC therefore people find it harder to adapt to Beta

How might we  -   communicate the Beta mindset in a way that is more relatable and

                                 available to DCC staff while also demonstrating the value generated

                                 by using the Beta mindset within projects?

Concept generation

As a team, we each developed concepts around our how might we questions, which were then passed onto each other to develop on. Through this process, as a team, we could develop our ideas and create concepts through co-creation. The below concepts were the outcome of our team co-creation sessions.

Storyboard of concept

The storyboard reads from left to right.

Value proposition of a scalable concept

The concept integrates Microsoft teams which is the main operating system that DCC use for virtual meetings and communication. This means that DCC staff have an understanding of how to use Microsoft Teams to communicate in teams and use as a tool within their projects. Beta resources and design thinking methods will be initially shared on the Microsoft Teams Innovation Network. This will act as an MVP for DCC Innovation leads to use within department projects. In scale two resources and design thinking methods will be moved to a web based platform which will allow all DCC staff to access and learn about the use and benefits resources can have in their projects.

Mapping assumptions for testing

As a team, we used assumption mapping as a technique to determine which features of our concept were the easiest and most important to test and validate first and which assumptions were less important and too hard to test. The image on the right shows the assumptions which need to be tested. The post in the top right shows the most important assumptions that need to be tested now, and the bottom right shows assumptions that are too hard to test and are not as important.

Open source design thinking resources that DCC could use in their projects

Using open source tools and resources will limit the amount of work needed to start to implement and promote the use of innovative methods within department projects, meaning that a minimum viable product could be created with Microsoft Teams and open sourced innovation resources while more specific style Beta resources are developed. Some of the resources Beta offers are, using Twitter as a research tool and validating a project before implementation. Some of the open sourced design thinking resources that Innovation leads could use are validated assumptions on the board of Innovations website or how to set a pilot plan for a project on Ideo's design kit website. Resources like these could be displayed on the innovation website, and Innovation Leads could introduce resources like these into their department's projects to get better results and outcomes. 

UX audit of Beta website to determine if it is suitable to use as a resource platform

A UX audit was carried out on Betas existing website to determine if it could be used as a place to store innovative resources for Innovation Leads and DCC staff to use in their projects. It was determined that the website had too much existing content, and new users may be confused and put off from interacting with the website. Also, the website didn't use DCC branding, which may lead new DCC users to believe the website wasn't an official DCC website.

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Experience prototyping with Microsoft
teams as a potential MVP for the entire concept

As a team, we had the assumption that because DCC used Microsoft Teams as their primary form of software communication, it would be a suitable place to build an MVP model for the Innovation Network, which would be built up of Innovation Leads from each department. As a team, we tested a number of feature with DCC staff on the platform to see if they would be useful for creating an Innovation Network for Innovation Leads to share resources and ways to spread an Innovative mindset when completing projects in DCC. It was determined that Microsoft Teams could be used as a way to build an instant network due to the features it has. Below are some of the features that were utilised within Microsoft Teams.

Innovation Network group

The basic team feature in Microsoft Teams could be used to connect Innovation Leads from different departments. A space like this would allow them to communicate and would allow the manager in charge of the network to call annual meetings and share new information about the network.

Share resources in the file section

The file feature on Microsoft Teams would be used for sharing resources with Innovation Leads during the initial stages of implementation while it is still at the MVP stage. Beta resources aswell as open sourced resources could be shared here for Innovation Leads to use in department projects.

Use Yammer to get advice from others 

Yammer is a feature of Microsoft Teams that work similarly to modern-day social media feed. Features such as discussion, questions and polls could be used by the Innovation Network to help department Innovation Leads make decisions or ask questions about problems they are having. Yammer allows Innovation Leads to help other Innovation Leads in a peer to peer way, without having the need for one manager to answer all questions regarding the Network

Low - fi usability testing of the resource website with DCC staff

Scale 2 of the concept requires an innovation resources website for resources and information to be stored so it can be accessed by all DCC staff. To create this, initial low fidelity sketches were drawn up to get an idea of what features the website should have. These low fidelity sketches were used to test with DCC staff as they would be the potential users of the website. Pain points and feedback were mapped out from usability testing to determine pain points and recommendations for iteration and development of a medium fidelity prototype. Below are a few quotes, pain points and recommendations from our usability testing with DCC staff.

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Innovation Network resource website interface

After carrying out usability testing of low and medium-fidelity wireframes, and completing a number of iterations from recommendations and pain points, the below screen were developed as high fidelity final screen of the future Dublin City Council Innovation Resource website for DCC staff to use within their projects. The final design allows DCC staff to see how to use the resources and see a case study of the resource in use and the benefit it had to the outcome of the project it was used for.

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Timeline of implementation 

Outcomes

The MVP model of the Innovation Network was fully supported by senior staff in Dublin City Council. It is intended that this will be implemented on a small trial scale to be tested with a few DCC staff as a possible way to combat the issue of implementing projects before validating them and to develop an innovative culture within Dublin City Council.

Further development of strategies would be required to help Innovation Leads to combat institutional inertia within their department. Innovation leads often don't have enough power in their department to force others to use the resources to benefit their projects. A priority would be to develop a way to show the impact and value that using resources has on projects, but this will become evident as time goes on and project performance becomes better.​

Certain DCC staff will ignore the potential resources they may have on their project as they want to implement the project as quick as possible to receive credit for implementing projects in a timely fashion. This is a separate design challenge that needs to be addressed at a senior level within DCC as they currently award quick implementation of projects because of the demand for them in the city. This is one of the key factors that challenge the implementation and success of the Innovation Network within DCC currently.