Christian Bason. Image all rights reserved Robert Tjalondo

What gets measured gets valued

Vicky Teinaki
Dec 18, 2019 · 3 min read

The data track of Rotterdam’s #govdesignconf19

This is one of 4 blog posts about the 2019 International Design in Government Conference. It took place in Rotterdam from 18–20 November 2019.

Talks:

  • Five dimensions of value — Christian Bason (Denmark)
  • Measuring service quality — Willem Pieterson (Netherlands)
  • Public information and communications service visit, the Hague
  • Trust, simplicity, use — Gerry McGovern (Ireland)

One of my criticism of service design done badly is when it’s about deliverables rather than impact. Several talks at the conference discussed how to measure impact in government services better.

The conference kicked off with Christian Bason talking about how to the importance of evaluation in government. While design is about value creation, we’re bad at measuring it. (Rockwool is one of the few organisations that is good at both design and evaluation.)

They investigated what value means for government. The value is different from private sector since government “isn’t about saving money but creative ways to spend money”

Based on extensive research, Bason suggests 5 key values:

  1. Results
  2. Productivity
  3. Democracy
  4. Service experience
  5. Employee satisfaction (one he added after railing against it. He added it to make sure employees are remembered)

In a similar vein, Willem Pieterson’s team did an investigation into conceptual models for value in government.

There are hundreds available from the 1980s to today. The team found 18 concepts that grouped into 4 key themes:

  1. Safety and security
  2. Health and support
  3. Accessibility
  4. Service design

They then used these to get citizens to evaluate what mattered to them this against two dimensions (quality and satisfaction). They were also able to slice data against demographics, media use, and role (citizen vs company).

The results were fascinating:

  • security and trust are important for quality (maybe a form of service hygiene?), but
  • service design is important for satisfaction
Christian Bason at the International Design in Government conference

I also visited the Dutch communications department in the Hague. They’ve used Google Search Console data to find where departments are have content competing for search terms. This is a losing situation for everyone. The results give departments the means to discuss what they can do to consolidate content.

A group of us heading off to the Hague. (What this doesn’t show is us getting drenched shortly after!) Image all rights reserved Robert Tjalondo

Finally, Gerry McGovern talked about top tasks and measuring success. He showed some horrors of sites, including a site that had:

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • More Frequently Asked Questions
  • Other Frequently Asked Questions
  • Most Frequently Asked Questions

He pushed for teams to test against tasks before making changes, and again after making them. This helps build a business case for design. It also can help with difficult and unsexy tasks like getting rid of content or maintaining it.

Gerry McGovern at International Design in Government 2019

Further reading:

  • Transform: A rebel’s guide for digital transformation, Gerry McGovern
  • Top Tasks: A How-to Guide, Gerry McGovern
  • Leading public sector innovation, Christian Bason
  • Leading public design: Discovering human-centred governance, Christian Bason

The 2019 International Design in Government Conference took place in Rotterdam from 18–20 November 2019. The full list of blog posts are:

  1. Being a changemaker in government
  2. Designing for difference
  3. What gets measured gets valued
  4. The lifecycle of design systems

Vicky Teinaki

Written by

Interaction designer working in UK central government, co-organiser of NUX Newcastle. Kiwi, UK immigrant.

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