This was the first project I lead at nuom, starting in Aug 2020. The project had been worked on for a year by another team but never shipped. Ultimately it was scrapped and we started again. I worked with another one of our junior designers, Madeleine, to conduct the end-to-end design.
Helpforce are a non-for-profit charity that help maximise volunteering service in the NHS. Their focus is to build valuable data to show that volunteering services have a huge impact, thus gathering more evidence for funding.
Volunteers within the health and care sector play a hugely important role. The recognised impact they have is however, built upon assumptions and anecdotal evidence, with a lack of data linking volunteering to overall outcomes of NHS Trusts. Instead of maximising the potential volunteering schemes can have, volunteering services throughout the sector are running with little support or funding, regardless of the impact they have.
Currently there is no easy process for NHS trusts to collect data. Most don’t have the tools to collect any, others aren’t collecting data in a reliable manner. A big barrier to entry is creating a consistent process for measuring the impact of volunteering projects. Each project, and each trust, approaches a project differently.
How do we know if I&I is successful?
I&I would aim to onboard 25 NHS trusts in it’s first quarter. The goal is to go for adoption across the board, as well as reducing the amount time HF staff have to train and support on the system.
“If we can get 9/10 trusts to adopt it and give positive feedback – we’ll start to gather enough evidence over time to generate a case for more funding.” - Helpforce
What We Did ⚡️
Helpforce want to to support NHS trusts to measure the impact of volunteering services, in an easy & consistent way. This means creating an accessible, standardise process for setting up projects that are measurable and actionable.
This lead to the idea of the I&I (Insights & Impact). An online solution that walked NHS staff through setting up a project to the best standards, based on 100s of previous projects that Helpforce had analysed.
This project had already been started before we joined the team. However, the previous version had crashed and burned. We started this phase by doing a review of the current experience and looking at what research we had. It was also important for us to go over with HF why the first version had “failed” and what we could do differently this time.
I bought together our nuom team (Product Owner: Cate, Designer: Madeleine, Engineers: Adam, Loic) and HF team (PM: Paddy, Ass. PM: Sally). I ran a workshop that would look at what was worked about the last project and what didn’t. This gave a good shared understanding of the challenges the team faced last time and how we could avoid any similar issues.
After listening to a presentation on the research that HF had done, we then mapped out the I&I journey. This gave us a good shared understanding of what the key flow was, what goals were trying to be achieved, and who was in play.
From this session we came out with some key challenges we felt needed to be answered for the project to be a success. These were:
How do we explain the benefits of collecting evidence?
How do we get trusts started with a project?
How do we reduce the time investment as much as possible?
How do we fit collecting evidence around the NHS trust schedule?
This gave us the key indicators for the foundations of the products. These touch points were key to making the product a success. We focused our early prototyping and exploratory work on these sections.
After a few weeks, we put together a complex, multi-step prototype to run usability tests with trusts. We looked to focus on the key points around Learn, Define and Share.
We tested with 5 typical users in a qualitative user study over MS Teams. Observing them using the prototype, we asked them questions around how they well they understood the flow and the questions they were asked. We found that overall the key I&I steps (Define, Design, Collect, Evaluate) were simple enough to understand but required information that they don’t have to hand. This information (e.g. designing the outcome models) would sometimes take days or even weeks to gather that information from the team.
We also found that there was little understanding around what I&I was. We knew from our research that there was little understanding of evidence collecting but specifically around our solution almost none had a clue what it was. We decided to invest some time into the Learn stage, but creating a SaaS-style landing page to really sell the benefits of I&I which included social proof from users and past projects showing how the product would work.
The I&I project shipped to beta in Jan 2021. Currently it’s helping 32 trusts collect better evidence for their volunteering projects. Since then we’ve created a feedback loop and sat down with the trusts to see how they’re getting on with I&I. Overall the impact has been massive. It’s too early to tell how much it’s affected the goal of changing the funding across the NHS, but all the staff have seen huge impact improvements across their projects.
However, we aren’t quite at our adoption target. At this point, only around 70% of trusts have used beyond 1 project.
The lack of rudimentary digital skills means there’s a lot of support needed from HF to walk staff through the projects. We’re planning a big UX review in May this year to address some of the key issues.
I’m immensely proud to have lead the design and worked on I&I. Although, I think there are many improvements to be made to the product – the goal it sets out to achieve is one that really resonates with me. My partner is a nurse and also has previously been a NHS volunteer, so this is a pain I see everyday.
What went well
Team onboarding Throughout this project the team changed quite a lot. Staffing changes on both nuom and HF side meant new team members would have to be onboarded onto the project quickly. I took over the project when it was half-way through and we decided to scrap it and start again due to poor product management.
Problem definition Working with a variety of teams and companies, problem defintion isn’t always as solid as it could be. But HF really understand their goal and objectives. They truly feel and live the problem they’re trying to solve, which in turn allows me as a designer to soak that up and let it influence my designs.
What could have been better
Quality of output Most of our work at nuom is building MVP’s so you have to get used to shipping things that aren’t perfect. On I&I, it wasn’t a case of shipping bad product but more that there was so many opportunities to improve it. The project had been handled by another team previously and scapped – so we’d our timeline was shorter than maybe intended.
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