Using Human Centred Design

Brands around the world like Netflix and Dominoes create ways to hook us in, to create understanding and through that seek to influence us to choose to spend our time with them rather than their competitors.

With all the tasks and pieces of administrivia that demand our attention every day, recordkeeping is also finding itself competing to influence. Regardless of how much we seek to change behaviour and to influence we see standards of recordkeeping decline year on year.

At QSA we have tried various means to ideate our way out of this scenario. More post-it notes have given their lives to brainstorming sessions than we care to admit. Words have been scrawled across whiteboards, to be erased, re-written and erased again. It might feel hurtful to admit but we found ourselves locked in a Groundhog Day existence, trying to move forward and make changes but inevitably resetting, uncertain of how to transform our ideas into reality.

That was when we introduced Human Centred Design (HCD) into our toolkit as a means of transforming the insurmountable into the knowable, of turning aspiration into reality. Our first step was to set a design target, a focused challenge, so we chose something “easy” to start with:

“Design and develop a simplified and relevant Retention and Disposal Schedule (RDS) for specialists and end users within all levels of the Queensland Government.”

That design prompt became an inhouse project called Project Zeus. The ambition was to make a simplified RDS not solely for record managers but for our ultimate end user: the everyday public servant. To solve this puzzle, we followed a HCD methodology that can be set out in four key steps:

HCD Methodology

In the DISCOVER stage we started to try and understand the needs of the end user. HCD challenged us to move away from a focus on process and recordkeeping and instead explore the needs and wants of our end user. Through a series of interviews, we sought to unpack what an average working day was like for the end user. Our interview questions had some recordkeeping related themes, but most were focused on understanding how people worked, what they needed, and how managing and using information related to them.

The interviews with public servants across Queensland Government provided us with a large data sample of what end users needed. In the context of recordkeeping the following were some of the main recurring themes:

The next step, DEVELOP, asked us to reframe the problem. We had set out purely to simplify an RDS but now the data was telling us that there was a bigger concern for the end user that was integral to our initial problem.

That concern being the language we use.

We considered how this problem might impact our project. Ideation took place, moving from divergent to convergent thinking, exploring all potential options, discarding no ideas as nonviable.

This took us into the DESIGN phase. Selecting those ideas that we thought were answers that would help alleviate the issues raised by the end user. We commenced prototyping and testing various minimum viable products (MVP), from flashcards to a visual RDS (which became known by the project team as the Donut of Disposal/.

The final stage is that of DELIVER.  Here we refine the prototype, iterate, launch and measure.

Then we start the process all over again.

We aren’t at the deliver stage yet and our design challenge has changed. Influenced by the responses given to us by end users, we are still working on the development of a simplified RDS, but now it’s joined by three other sets of work: the language we use, the way we communicate, and what working on improving our understanding of the end user and their needs.  

Now our reimagined design challenge is:

“How might we stop talking about recordkeeping and start talking to people about what they need?

 Also, how might we stop using that word recordkeeping as well?

2 thoughts on “Using Human Centred Design

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. I think it’s great that you’ve reframed the problem and identified these 3 key issues.

    I work in CITEC, Information Brokerage and we’re also using Agile implementation and HCD principles to deliver our improvements. I would love to speak with someone in your team regarding your approach with Project Zeus interviews, questions, prototyping and testing.


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