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  1. Service manual
  2. Agile delivery
  3. Working across organisational boundaries

You may need to work with other organisations or teams across your department to build services that make sense to users.

This is because separate teams are often responsible for different chunks of a full end-to-end journey like becoming a childminder or setting up a company.

There are a number of things you can do to make sure the chunk you’re working on forms a sensible part of the journey as users see it.

The first step is usually to develop an understanding of the wider context of your work - the bigger picture surrounding the thing you’re working on.

Having this awareness will help you frame the problem you’re solving in the right way.

Then, at an appropriate time for everyone involved, look to collaborate with the other teams working in the same problem space on things like:

See how teams working on importing and exporting worked to understand their problem space and fix the content on GOV.UK.

Understand the end-to-end journey

The first step to building a whole service is understanding the user’s end-to-end journey and each step within it.

You should learn this during discovery, when you work out who your users are, the problems they have and how they try to solve them.

You can turn these insights into an experience map.

This will help you understand the whole journey from the user’s point of view and how the chunk you’re working on fits into that wider whole.

It should also give you a good idea of who’s working on related products or services. Get in touch with those teams to discuss their work and share insights.

It can be hard to know which services currently exist. See how the Home Office created a list of all the services they’re responsible for.

It’s a good idea to find a mix of people who can tell you about:

  • the existing whole service - so you can update your experience map
  • upcoming changes - for example another new digital transaction, or a change in the law

When you’ve done this, you’ll:

  • understand how government is collectively trying to solve the problem at the moment (sometimes with help from non-government organisations)
  • know who you’d need to collaborate to make improvements and join up separate elements of the service where necessary

Working with other teams and departments

Working together is challenging. It requires you to balance different priorities, ways of working and funding cycles - and it adds an extra layer of bureaucracy.

It’ll also usually involve working remotely from different locations. 18F (the US government’s digital agency) offers tips on effective remote working.

But working in this fashion is often the only way to build services that meet whole user needs. There are a few principles you can work to to make things easier.

Share things from the start

To work effectively with other teams, you’ll need access to each other’s calendars and shared documents. You’ll likely all be using different admin systems, which makes this tricky.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) faced this challenge when they worked together on the Check your State Pension service.

For instance, the DWP members of the team initially couldn’t access HMRC’s project management tools. The team got access for their DWP colleagues by providing HMRC email addresses for them to use during the project.

Sort this as early on in the project as you can.

Don’t worry if it’s not possible to get everyone using your preferred tool. The most important thing is to share things regularly with other teams - even if you have to just email documents to one another.

And where possible, work in the open and publish things on the internet. Anyone can access a blog post.

Use evidence to solve disagreements

It’s inevitable that you’ll disagree on some things.

Even if you’re all fully focused on building the best thing you can for users, you’ll be facing different pressures from your respective stakeholders and have slightly different priorities.

The Check your State Pension team found that testing and measuring things was a very effective way of resolving these issues.

It gives you the evidence you need to support a decision and is fairly quick and easy to do when you’re working in an agile way.

Give everyone a seat at the table

It’s important that representatives from each team are present at research sessions and ceremonies.

Where you can, invite people to attend the sessions in person - if that’s not possible, invite everyone to watch the research sessions remotely. This helps foster team spirit and keeps everyone up to date with what’s happening.

And make sure to share research findings with everyone.

HMRC and DWP followed this approach when they worked on Check your State Pension. It allowed them to introduce their policy and legal colleagues to user-centred design principles and made it much easier to set up pairing sessions with content designers.

Tell us about your experiences

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve got experience of working in this way. You can contact us at service-standard-and-manual-team@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk.

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Guidance first published