Week #105 at the Digital Service: Notes for 29 April–3 May 2024

Veröffentlicht am
A laptop computer showing a diagram with various circles inside each other titled ‘Participatory product development’ with various peoples’ faces next to it
The collaboration onion illustrating how our justice team works with partnering federal states and pilot courts

This week marked my two-year anniversary at the Digital Service. I’ve just filled the wall with notes for an extensive written reflection, which I will finish shortly. This note isn’t that. But it’s linked.

Sharing our justice services work with UK colleagues

On Thursday, Marlene, Sonja and I got invited to Justice Digital’s UCD meetup. Our UK colleagues had asked us to stop by and share our work in the justice space in Germany. Marlene and Sonja delivered the proper content; I gave context and set the stage.

I explained where Germany stands regarding digital capability and user-centred public services compared to its European neighbours (lowered third). I also talked about the complex, fragmented government landscape of Germany. I called it ‘devolved government on steroids’ to create an image of what 16 states and almost 11,000 municipalities that primarily work independently from each other feel like. 

To make things tangibly confusing, I had to show the picture puzzle of the actor landscape for implementing the Online Access Act. I then explained the role of our organisation, how Digital Service came about, and how we are working across different areas and topics. I introduced our user-centred design team and reassured everyone we were working in the right way. There was no way of not acknowledging that there was no single domain, no overarching government brand, no open design system, no governance models, and no quality assurance for public services. However, I also explained what we do to circumvent that in the design and user research team.

Then, Marlene and Sonja took over and offered a view into their work on the legal application services. In the fragmented landscape we operate in, collaboration is vital. So, Marlene gave an overview of the breadth of collaboration formats and showed how we work closely with and at pilot courts. The how was at least as interesting as the what. They covered the significance of measuring things across the user journey and talked about how the team builds towards bigger change across the justice service ecosystem.

I closed with 5 related reflections to further contextualise the work and to compare our different circumstances in the UK and Germany:

  • There is no mandated Service Standard, and contemporary working methods are rare in the German public sector.
  • In contrast to the UK, lawyers run German government, and there are few digital in-house capabilities everywhere.
  • Important things are written into the law in Germany, and even the change of a form needs to go through the upper parliament.
  • The power fragmentation across levels of government is painful and we need step-by-step consensus building to get work agreed and done.
  • There is great interest in our ways of working, and capabilities are slowly increasing.  

Some 45 folks from across Justice Digital teams listened, hit the emoji reactions numerous times, and left many comments and questions. 

The collaboration onion was the most popular slide, and we had to return to it in the questions section. We highlighted the importance of pre-agreed time with pilot courts. For our team, we can spend 4 hours each month in any way we need. That can be time with the judges to review the feasibility of a new flow or spend time on-site to test a new version of the service.

“We’re absolutely stealing that” was the comment that showed our input was worth their time. It left me contented and proud about the progress our team has made in the past 1.5 years. The best things are still to come, with much bigger justice services work on the way.

Welcoming a new designer and user researcher

On Thursday, I also welcomed new starters Giang and Joshua. They are joining the Digital Check and Access to Justice teams, respectively. With Digital Check venturing into digital tools to support lawmakers and policy writers, Giang’s interface and interaction design expertise will be greatly valuable. Joshua has been the very first user researcher in the last two organisations he joined. Luckily, that’s not the case at Digital Service. Here, he is the third user researcher on justice services alone. The Access to Justice team now has the most substantial UCD setup in our organisation, with 10 designers, user researchers and content designers working across 2 streams.

Last month, I took the time to create a new welcome deck and structured list of links and pointers, which paid off. My welcome notes are more structured and concise now.

They have 12 onboarding sessions in the coming days, so they have much ahead of them. I will run 2 of those next week, so we’ll meet again shortly.

The user-centred design team is now 27 people strong. That is some significant growth, and we’ll need the coming months to get to know everyone who joined in the last few weeks.

Providing feedback on shared government assets

After I missed the third cross-public sector working session towards a shared design system, I caught up with Charlotte, Christin and Tine this week to understand what I missed. The joint review and feedback process will continue and we will prepare and facilitate the next session in a few weeks.

The folks from the KERN Design System also ran an open lunch session that some colleagues attended. I will join an interactive morning format later in May when we discuss procurement and how to ensure usability and accessibility are appropriately considered.

Let’s talk about procurement! As in-house capabilities in the public sector remain low, there is no way around contracting external teams to build some digital public services. But we better make sure they do it in the right way. On 21 May, we’ll talk just about that www.kern-ux.de/community/we…

[image or embed]

— Martin Jordan (@martinjordan.com) May 4, 2024 at 8:27

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I have been trying to adopt and apply the 4 building blocks of the in-the-works digital umbrella brand for the German state. Members of my team and I have shared our observations and reflections with the colleagues working on the various blocks. We will continue doing that in the coming days and look a bit further.

What’s next

We are preparing internal and external activities for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which is less than 2 weeks away.

Despite other obligations, engineer Merlin took a stab at a German version of the handy ‘How many people?’ tool colleagues developed at the UK Department for Education. This week, I looked for data and stats on disability, impairments, and conditions in Germany. Some 3 hours in, I found plenty.

Understanding your users’ situations is vital to offering services that work for them. For that, you need data. We’re looking into creating a German version of DfE’s ‘How many people?’ tool* that @andyjones.bsky.social & team made. So, I collected data. * design.education.gov.uk/tools/how-ma…

[image or embed]

— Martin Jordan (@martinjordan.com) May 1, 2024 at 18:41

We will bring everything together in the coming days. I’ve made a fork, and despite my limited programming skills, I will try to make suggestions and changes directly via a pull request.