The merit of methodology in digital co-creation

The obvious value of co-creation is seen in the outcome of the customer-centric solution. Its hidden value, however, lies in the methodological approach to designing the digital pathway and execution framework.

It wasn’t too far back that most client-consultant relationships adopted one of two common scenarios – either the client sat in the driver’s seat or the consultant did. Whichever way, the outcome was almost guaranteed to reflect a singular point of view that only resolved a portion of the problem.

But there was a third way of working that the few more forward-thinking organisations explored with great success. It required both sides to have one hand on the same steering wheel by openly sharing data and engaging each other in the design of the best possible service experience for the end user.

Today, that working style is known as co-creation.

Embarking on a co-creation approach

Broadly defined as an equal partnership in the creation of value, co-creation has a significant role in the methodology behind developing a new product, service or business. More so, if that development is part of a larger digital transformation agenda.

Glenn Markovic, a senior project manager at Australia Post, tapped into the potential of co-creation when project managing a digitisation methodology for a government agency a year ago.

That agency was the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation (DoJR), for which Australia Post has been providing the Working with Children Check (WWCC) service since 2006.

In 2014, the team initiated a discussion to further digitise the application process to meet DoJR’s objective of reducing time in-store and boosting the compliance rate of submitted applications.

By the following year, a solution framework was ready. It included an improved online form, electronic ID verification and digital photo capture.

As the team continued working on a detailed design, Markovic began mapping out his project management approach. Having previously worked on similar solutions for other government agencies, he had a clear idea of how to streamline the delivery of the digitisation project.

However, he was also keenly aware that the only way the newly improved service would deliver the desired user experience was if Australia Post and the DoJR created it together. And so the resulting methodology was designed around this strategy.

Exploring and designing a digital pathway

Experience had taught Markovic that many organisations approaching a digital solution for the first time tend to perceive it as a new and risky frontier when compared to a traditional in-person service.

“They’d rather let someone else trial it first so they can observe how it’s done and its implications,” he explained. “It’s a bit of a paradigm shift so it’s our responsibility to guide them on the journey.”

With the DoJR, this meant setting up five separate and specific workshops. The first was a kick-off discussion session around the challenge and scope of work.

“As consultants or vendors, your role is to get an idea of the client, their customers and your own offerings,” Markovic said. “Then you need to pull those elements together and balance them. It’s a triangle that you constantly try to optimise as best you can.”

The second workshop was a follow-up session based on those discussions and which focused on how digitisation would work in the envisioned end-to-end process.

“Clients understand a solution better when it’s presented from the perspective of the end user. Many times, your direct client needs to explain and support the solution in front of another committee of decision-makers. Our job is to give them the confidence to do that.”

The third and fourth workshops were dedicated to assessing and deciding on the most appropriate electronic verification rule based on the different Level of Assurance (LOA) frameworks and their implications.

“This is where you bring in the specialists to explain in-depth how the rules work, and what frameworks other agencies and counterparties have used that could be suitable for them too. But the final decision is always theirs to make.”

The last workshop focused on explaining technicalities and increasing understanding of how the recommended digital solution would interface and if any back-end processes need to change.

After a three-month evaluation phase, the teams were given a five-month timeline to create a solution that included an improved online form and an electronic identity verification service that would eliminate the need to manually scan a photo and signature.

Structuring an execution blueprint around user experience

The next step in the methodology was building an execution framework that was structured around a joint working group, governance and communication channels and a joint working schedule.

“This is also what we call the functional design stage,” Markovic said. “This is where you conduct user experience or UX research, use the findings to map out the solution and use this opportunity to point out regulatory or legislative constraints within which you’d have to work.”

The joint working schedule required serious commitment from both sides not only for the project to meet its deadline but also to nurture internal collaboration within the working groups throughout the series of co-creation sessions. With that commitment in place, it was only a matter of time before they started seeing the desired results.

"The Australia Post project team's approach to co-creation was sound and based on the aspiration for both sides to understand, not just the inputs to the technical build, but also the end point stakeholder impact,” said Brian Westbrook, Deputy Director for the WWCC Unit in the DoJR.

“Issues were raised and resolved in a methodical way which required patience and diligence from both sides to meet objectives. It was this commitment to the process from all sides that led to a successful solution in a compressed timeframe."

Delivering an omni-channel solution

The new WWCC solution that went live in December 2016 features a true omni-channel service delivery approach to the customer experience. Submission of applications and identity verification are done online, and applicants then head in-store for an interview and a digital photo capture.

The solution aims to reduce over-the-counter processing time and the cost of paper applications as well as enhance the customer experience. Capturing digital photos in-store, meanwhile, is expected to improve the compliance rate among the 160,000 applications that are processed annually.

For Markovic, this is an outcome driven by a willingness to step up to the challenge of change in order to put the customer first. It’s also a prime example of the merits of co-creation.

“Being a consultant or vendor is not about emptying a box of Lego on the table and asking the customer what they want you to build,” he stressed.

“Don’t be naïve to think that you can build anything because you’ve got the Lego. Everyone’s got the Lego. It’s putting it together with the client in an intelligent and relevant way that you truly provide value.”

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