As set out in our Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Strategy 2024 we are shifting to a product-centric approach in how we deliver and operate our products, systems and services in the Home Office.
This product-centric approach means our product teams base decisions on how they can help people get the best experience when they use our services. The ideal unit for delivery is a multidisciplinary team of technical, design and user-focussed roles all concentrating on different elements of the product.
This blog is about how our delivery teams adopted a product-centric approach to establish the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
The EU Settlement Scheme service
The EUSS was designed to help European Union (EU) and European Economic Areas (EEA) nationals and their families settle in the United Kingdom (UK).
To obtain settled and pre-settled status, EU and EEA nationals were required to demonstrate a period of residency in the UK.
The challenges we faced in delivering the service
The successful delivery of the service relied on overcoming complex challenges:
- a new system for managing applications needed to be ready ahead of an immovable deadline
- as the scope and rules for the scheme changed, the requirements for the system were also changing
- many aspects of the application process were new and innovative, such as real time checks with other systems
Scoping the project to meet user needs
So that we could design a service which would enable EU and EEA nationals to demonstrate a period of residency in the UK, product, delivery, research and design teams worked alongside data and engineering teams to break down requirements into user stories.
In six months we grew our team of three into multiple delivery teams with over 200 people. A small team of business analysts worked centrally across all the delivery teams, assessing new requirements and determining which teams would need to be involved in their delivery.
We assessed the timescales, risks and interdependencies regularly to inform our roadmap for delivery. Working iteratively allowed us to adapt quickly to changing requirements.
We worked closely with stakeholders to explain practical realities and trade-offs.
Understanding user needs and outcomes
Our multi-disciplinary product teams did comprehensive research, working closely with colleagues from across policy, development and operations, to understand how the product-centric service could meet user needs, which were to:
- understand the scheme and the options under the scheme
- easily provide evidence to the scheme and prove identity
- access and update information held by the scheme
More specifically, based on feedback we also needed to:
- ensure the application process was easy and quick to complete, for example, by having a user-friendly authentication process
- introduce efficiencies to facilitate quicker decision making
- verify an applicant’s identity remotely during the application process
- allow applicants to retain access to their information and easily update it
- assist those who are less confident using digital technology
A successful product-centric approach
Over a million applicants applied to the scheme in the first eight months of opening. Feedback from applicants showed they appreciated that we listened to their views and created solutions to make the application process quick and easy.
The product-centric iterative approach meant we could continue to align with the scheme’s changing scope and rules, while researching new user requirements associated with these changes.
Ensuring lasting impact
The product-centric approach meant the delivery teams also capitalised on using innovative technology including:
- digital ID verification - applicants can verify their identity remotely using their ID document and a smartphone device
- digital immigration status - applicants can view and share their digital immigration status rather than needing biometric residence cards
- user accounts with secured authentication - applicants receive a PIN by text message or email to access their accounts
- the ability for applicants to digitally add or append further evidence to their applications
Our multidisciplinary teams have shared their learnings and innovations with their professional communities.
This has meant many features of the service have laid the foundations for other work the Home Office is doing, such as digitising and streamlining the work undertaken by our Visas and Immigration case working teams.
You can read more about our product-centric approach in our 2024 DDaT Strategy.