Whilst mapping services for the Ministry of Justice and making a digital prototype tool called ‘Service Mapper’, Sarah Herman, James Darling and I learnt lots of interesting things about services and transactions.
We met with lots of brilliant people from GDS, MOJ and the court system and had many in-depth conversations about what a service is and how we can make them better.
Without getting into too much detail on the ‘service mapper’ tool (because it could be a post of its own right) here is the brief overview. It is a prototype to make open source mapping tool for drawing and collecting systems data by joining up the transactions in a service journey. The aim was to open up mapping to all of the team not just to those with the skills to draw.
So with out further ado this is what we learnt.
So what are services?
As Louise Downe at GDS says "Services are things that help people do something". That something can be to achieve a goal, solve a problem or find resolution (and this is by no means a definitive list.)
Often in the justice system the 'something' is more about solving problems and finding resolution. What people want or need to do, for example 'I want to visit a family member in prison' or ‘My tenants are not paying rent’ are delivered by services.
Services are made up of transactions
It takes many smaller steps to deliver a service — these we call transactions, for example ‘making a prison visit booking’ and ‘applying for an accelerated possession claim’ are both transactions. Sometimes these transactions are used by more than one service for example there are many types of civil claims that use the same ‘warrant’ transaction for their enforcement.
So we started to define what people are trying to do as the way of grouping transactions and defining services. What we noticed was that services can be grouped in many ways depending on who is using them and where they are in the journey — think of it as kind of more like tagging.
Services can be user goals
Sometimes a service can be a user goal it can contain other smaller or related services that are slightly bigger than transactions. Making services more user focused with higher level user needs is something Louise Downe, Amy Whitney and the joint GDS-DVLA team have been working on. Their service becomes ‘learning to drive’, instead of a selection of smaller services like finding a driving instructor, arranging a test or applying for a licence. What the user wants from the service depends on where they are in the service journey, they interact with these smaller service stages they are move toward achieving their bigger service goal.
Services can have breadth and depth
This is all great and made complete sense to us, but when we talk to others it gets really confusing. Across departments and teams people are using ‘service’ and ‘transaction’ to mean different things. So when we talk together all our wires are getting crossed!
Also it gets confusing when some transactions are very big and they seem to deserve the title of ‘service’. For example court fine payment is a transaction, but it has 1.9m actions per year across many different court services. So some people think of this as a service, but in fact it is a transaction that sits within many very different user journeys from many different services.
So what we ended up looking at was a concept to make more sense of this, and we started to think of services in two ways. Those that have depth with a long connected journey and those that have breadth intercept with other services.
So with this rationale we can to start think about the services we have and how best to work with them.
These different types of service have different types of challenges. For example knowing that ‘breadth’ services need to interact with other service journeys allows us to make better decisions about how to deaign them and make sure they integrate for different users.
Making change starting with transactions
We noticed that by showing the full service it becomes easier to explain how a single transaction can be the catalyst for service change. We know the service map works well for the ‘big picture’, but we needed to explain in more detail the transactions we were changing.
For service mapper James Darling defined a transaction as, a step within a service that 'has a single trigger and a single path through our internal systems’. By thinking like this we can see how single transactions can have the same outcome, but deliver it in different ways. For example in prison visits a booking transaction can be made on a website or on the phone for assisted digital users. This means we can easily show the different iterations create a product pipeline.This can get really complicated!
For example in money claims service there are many different ways people can make a claim, this means there are many different transactions paths within the service and it looks pretty crazy. However this is actually this just faces up how complicated the service really is!
Changing one transaction can benefit the whole service
By making changes to the beginning of the user journey we can effect problems that occur much later in the journey. This means a that by changing a single transaction we can affect the quality of the service as a whole.
Sarah Herman and I found from our research that common opportunities in justice services are around helping people understand their options (and the experience of court) before they start and helping make better applications. By doing this we can help deliver better service latter on. This can help reduce errors and we prevent time consuming processes for fixing them later on.
It is never over!
As we all know with services — the job is never done! There is always more we can learn, but I hope our experience can help other teams, departments and at the end of the day the people that use our services.