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Why develop a Digital Service Design Standard?

We recognised the need for some underpinning principles and foundational guidance to support system transformation around the design, development and delivery of services to the public. A lot of work has been undertaken in this space by our Digital 7 (D7) country partners. We didn’t want to re-invent the wheel, so we looked to reuse what our partners have done where possible. However, we also needed to take into account the uniqueness of the New Zealand context and our operating environment. This is reflected in the Standard we developed.

Digital 7 group of digital nations

What are the benefits?

There is potentially significant benefit for the public in government providing a seamless and consistent experience for users of public services. Designing and developing services that place service users at the centre, which are accessible to all users, and reduce the effort and complexity of dealing with government, builds public trust, and supports New Zealand’s reputation for openness and transparency.

Ultimately we believe that a consistent approach, across government, to making our services better, more user-friendly and more accessible and trustworthy, benefits everyone.

Improving government services in the digital age

A key purpose of the Standard is to raise awareness and system capability in user-centred design and the importance of user experience and insights in the development and delivery of government services. It is intended to support the provision of public services, which are easily accessible, integrated, inclusive, and trusted by all New Zealanders.

The approach taken in this instance is a set of principles that can be followed by any agency, at any scale, to make better decisions and provide more user-centric outcomes. The Digital Service Design Standard is an ‘umbrella’ publication, in that we brought together existing mandates, directives, guides and approaches where they were already in place and filled some gaps were we found them.

Design thinking

Taking a collaborative design approach

The development of the Standard was informed through an open and consultative approach. We engaged with key interest groups, government agencies and the public to produce a standard that will assist government to build and deliver excellent services for New Zealanders. We spoke to our stakeholder communities, from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, to come together and help define the standard’s principles and approach.

We worked directly with over 20 government agencies and sought feedback from the public using the Loomio tool.

Workshops were also held with cross-agency groups, including a Techweek workshop where over 40 attendees discussed the perspective of Māori stakeholders.

Thirteen formal written submissions were also received directly from agencies, vendors, consultancies, and a range of user and practitioner interest groups.

We also received feedback from peer agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Scotland, Australia, and Taiwan. However, by far the most interesting and rewarding part was the Techweek event, speaking face-to-face with your users and peers, was so instructive. It brought home that even in the digital environment the power of listening and discussion is still central to the human experience, in achieving any outcome. We are continuing the conversation through running further sessions and setting up an ongoing Loomio page to facilitate our korero.

Digital service design standard consultation

Techweek workshop

Continuous improvement

The Standard is published as a ‘living standard’ and it will continue to be updated and evolve over time as we better understand the complexities involved in putting the principles into practice, and as our collective maturity increases. We will seek and foster ongoing stakeholder engagement to provide input to help refine and improve this guidance.

We want to 'practice what we preach', so we are using the approaches that we set out in the Standard to inform its ongoing development. Standards-based principles were, for example, used to inform the development of the SmartStart service design.


What services are covered?

The Digital Service Design Standard applies to all New Zealand government services that are public facing, or inter-agency, including those undertaken by third parties on behalf of government.

Digital is often a synonym for ‘online’, but when we spoke to our stakeholders they want digital transformation in both the ‘back-end’ systems and in our ‘front-end’ shop windows. The world is moving on and people want service delivered through new mechanisms, like voice with Siri and Alexa, and through a range of channels and devices, as we all become mobile, and hands-free.


Amazon Alexa

How do agencies meet the standard?

We have collated a suite of reference, guidance resources and existing directives, which inform how agencies can demonstrate ways to meet the Standard. Wherever possible, we have referred to existing guidance and directives to build on our current best practice and mandates. Our next step is to engage with our stakeholders to establish a conformance and support model.

Next steps

The next steps for the Standard are to identify what type of conformance and support model should apply, to support the implementation phase from March 2019 onwards. It is proposed that this work be completed by October 2018.

The conformance and support model consultation will identify suitable options for supporting agency uptake and application of the Standard, including options for assessment and measurement of performance against the Standard.

Any decisions on the conformance and support model will be considered within the context of the broader, emerging government digital strategy, and the wider authorising environment within the public sector context.

Options for conformance and support

An assessment of the current state in New Zealand, and an assessment of the international environment, has been undertaken to propose four options along a spectrum of an increasing level of mandate:

  • The Standard is a discretionary resource to inform government agencies when designing services, with a suite of reference guidance supplied.
  • The Standard is a discretionary Standard supported by a self-reported, self-assessment maturity model, with a suite of reference guidance supplied.
  • The Standard is a discretionary Standard underpinned by a centrally-reported, self-assessment maturity model, and supported by centralised support resources.
  • The Standard has a centralised mandated governance model (e.g. design authority) and supporting conformance structures.

These discussion models are not final options; they are primarily a mechanism to stimulate debate and surface potential barriers, concerns and opportunities, and subject to discussion and amendment.  We want to find the approach that delivers the best results overall.

Development timeline

The standard will be released through a multi-phased approach, with ongoing refresh cycles.

Table 1: Development timeline

Phase Timing
Phase 1 – Publish and launch Standard June 2018
Phase 2 – Promote and raise awareness   July – August 2018
Phase 3 – Conformance and support model consultation August - October 2018
Phase 4 – Consult on v.2.0 October - December 18
Phase 5 – Publish a refreshed standard with conformance model March 2019

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