Introducing the eQ project: week one

Hello, I’m Chris Collis the Delivery Manager for a new project to develop an electronic questionnaire capability for the ONS. I wanted to provide some details on the project and what’s been happening in the first week since it started.

The project is part of the ONS’ wider Electronic Data Collection (EDC) programme, the programme is all about changing the way the ONS undertakes surveys, I won’t go into the details but in short, it is enabling the huge number of respondents the ONS works with to provide their data electronically (i.e. online).

The electronic questionnaire (we abbreviate it to “eQ”) within EDC is the system that will allow ONS staff to design an online questionnaire and make it available for businesses and individuals to complete. The vision for the eQ is:

“Driven by user needs with a focus on quality & simplicity, a highly scalable electronic questionnaire solution capable of supporting the multitude of Business & Social surveys, including Census, for the ONS.”

These are some of the benefits I can see our work providing:

• A solution uniquely designed to meet the needs of ONS and its respondents

• Faster and easier for ONS to create, edit and maintain questionnaires

• Faster and easier for respondents to complete questionnaires

• Questionnaires can be completed via multiple device types and locations

• Saving time and money

The eQ project kicked-off last Tuesday (1st September), we’ve partnered with Methods Digital to develop a prototype solution over the next 14 weeks in alignment with the GDS Service Manual approach. We’re undertaking a short “Discovery” phase followed by a longer “Alpha” and working to the Digital by Default standard set out by GDS, which means at the end of the Alpha we will be assessed against the 18 points within the standard. If the Alpha is successful, we pass the assessment and the decision is made to continue I expect we would start developing the Beta from December.

If we’re successful in the next 14-weeks then we will have created a working prototype allowing ONS users to design a questionnaire and respondents complete it. During this time we should have gained a solid understanding of our users’ needs and the technical approach we should be taking into Beta.

Week 1

So what has the first week looked like? Our team members from Methods Digital (four of them) arrived at the ONS Tuesday morning, where I met up with them in reception. After grabbing a coffee at the onsite Costa coffee shop and providing them a brief orientation session (none of them have been to the ONS before) we jumped into a kick-off session where the eQ team met together for the first time and we reviewed what the next 14-weeks were all about. Note the eQ team is a mix of five ONS staff (including myself) and four from Methods Digital.

After lunch in the canteen we spent the afternoon discussing who the users of the eQ were and getting a high level overview of the related workflows and systems within the ONS. It became clear that whilst we had enough prior research into our respondents (who complete ONS surveys) we were lacking information on our internal users (who design the questionnaires). The team focused on what research would help us understand our internal users’ needs better and agreed we should undertake interviews with a mixture of ONS staff who are directly involved in the design of questionnaires today.

By the end of the following Monday we had already made good use of the ONS usability lab, conducted a number of research sessions with some of our survey managers and scheduled sessions with the DCM (Data Capture Methodology) teams who work with our survey managers to design questionnaires. For the sessions in the lab, Ben our User Researcher conducted the interviews in person whilst the rest of the team were in the observation room discussing what was being said and how it can help shape the development of the eQ going forwards. We gained some real insight into how the current workflows and processes operate and potential areas we could collaborate on to make improvements by utilising an eQ solution.

I’d like to thank our colleagues in Business and Social surveys as well as DCM. We asked for their involvement with very little notice and they embraced our offer, making people available to support our work, taking time out of their busy days to talk with us, thank you!

This is just the start of our focus on user needs; we will be continuing to undertake interviews and hands-on sessions with real users throughout the Discovery and Alpha to ensure we’re keeping them at the heart of what we’re doing. As part of this, the team agreed a set of principles for user research, they are:

Our research should…

• Address needs

• Understand motivations

• Help remove/reduce frustrations

• Ensure we are meeting business goals/requirements

• Understand unique pressures and specific scenarios

• Create actionable insights

• Identify outliers

• Be feedback

In parallel to the user research the team has also been exploring the possible technical solutions, setting up team tools and processes, discussing the potential user experience, reviewing work going on elsewhere in the ONS and generally getting to know each other (we headed out to a local Indian restaurant last Thursday for lunch).

Going into week 2 of Discovery, we have more user research planned, user experience design, sessions to establish the backlog for the Alpha, technical approaches to review/agree as well as a night out in Cardiff!

That’s a very quick summary of week 1 on the eQ, I’ll share more info on the project in future posts.