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The value of conducting user research with stakeholders

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At GDS we’re all about user research. We do user research with citizens, businesses, with civil servants - whoever will be the users of the services we’re building.

Another group that it’s beneficial to do user research with is our own internal stakeholders, for example members of our service team or wider programme. This helps us improve our working practices and helps everyone here understand our own programmes better.

Carrying out research with stakeholders

GOV.UK Verify is a large programme. When I took over as Lead User Researcher for GOV.UK Verify in 2016, I wanted to improve my understanding of it, and identify ways in which the user researchers and designers could work better with the rest of the programme. I decided that the best way to do this would be to use my skills as a user researcher and run a ‘mini discovery’.

A yak and the GOV.UK Verify team sign

I interviewed internal GOV.UK Verify stakeholders - team leads from across the programme - to explore these research questions:

  • what are the key responsibilities of each team?
  • what challenges do they face?
  • what is their understanding of what the user researchers and designers do?
  • how does their team use the findings from our work?
  • are they aware of the GOV.UK Verify user needs and, if so, how do they use these?
  • are they aware of the recommended exposure to user research: ‘2 hours every 6 weeks’? And how is this prioritised for their team?

What I found and what we’re doing

I’ve interviewed 9 team leads so far, and uncovered a number of insights:

  • researchers and designers were working effectively across the programme but embedding them more fully in specific teams could increase their impact
  • better awareness of what designers and researchers were working on would benefit all team members
  • new joiners were not always familiar with GOV.UK Verify user needs and how we work

Based on these findings we’ve already implemented a number of improvements. For example, we have now:

  • embedded user researchers and content designers into cross-functional teams within GOV.UK Verify
  • established better representation at the Senior Management Team level
  • created monthly induction sessions for new starters to introduce them to how we do user research and design, and to introduce the GOV.UK Verify user needs

The value of this research

It has been incredibly valuable to take this time to improve our understanding of the programme and to discover how we can work better with our internal stakeholders.

I’d encourage all user researchers to take the time to conduct research with their internal stakeholders too. It not only helps to understand our stakeholders and their needs better, but also to strengthen how we work with one another, all to the benefit of our end users: citizens.

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