Valtech @ My NHS – Project Challenges: Part 2

Healthcare Director - UK
Valtech UK

september 02, 2016

In this, the second of three posts on our recent data project at My NHS, we look at another of the main challenges we faced: how to gain valuable user insights to inform iterative development. 

Valtech have always been firm proponents of agile delivery and user-centric design, and have been instrumental in the Government Digital Service transformation, a fundamental principle of which is a focus on user needs. As such, our challenge was to identify, meet, and work with relevant users of the My NHS service to achieve the main goal of any Discovery phase – establish that a user need exists for a digital service. So how did we do this within such a spiders’ web of an organisation as the NHS, in such a short space of time?

So how did we do this within such a spiders’ web of an organisation as the NHS, in such a short space of time?

Engage stakeholders from the start

Working with the My NHS product owner we quickly established four main areas of health on which to start to focus, namely Hospital, Mental, Dental and Cancer care. We ensured that stakeholder specialists from all of these attended our Discovery kick-off meeting, to act as representatives and thus streamline access to applicable users for research.

Furthermore we used the following project inception techniques to drive value from user access:

  1. Establishing and prioritising epics - large-scale user stories - based on value and data availability produced the following order of focus for the project.
    1. Hospitals – sprint 1
    2. Mental Health – sprint 2
    3. Dental – stretch goal
    4. Cancer – parked
  2. Using assumption mapping for Hospital, Mental health and Dental we were able to understand areas of high urgency and high uncertainty where hypothesis-driven prototyping would deliver value and identify user needs quickly
  3. Collectively we created hypotheses using the following pro-forma (similar to the Business Driven Development user story format) We believe that …………..
    For …………..
    Will Achieve …………..
    When testing this by …………..
    We learned …………..
    So we will …………..
  4. We agreed the delivery cadence of 2 x 1-week sprints, to include:
    1. Rapid prototyping on days 1, 2 and 3
    2. User Research and affinity sort on day 4
    3. Playback and retrospective through an open Show & Tell meeting on day 5
  5. This meant that by the end of day 1 we had a good understanding of the types of users we needed to talk to and when, allowing the Product Owner Julie Fidler to arrange user research sessions by the end of day 2. By quickly agreeing appropriate users for each care area, the prioritised epics, and the planned user research days, we had mitigated the significant risk associated with user availability, which can often set back projects by weeks.


Based on the outputs of our Agile and Lean UX techniques in the Discovery kick off, we were able to schedule user testing labs in advance and thus gain valuable user insights across our two core focus areas. This helped us to produce a number of iterated UX prototypes of the My NHS service in just 2 weeks, validating the existence of a user need and thus paving the way for an Alpha phase.

We look forward to showing these plus the broader results of the project at the upcoming NHS Expo in Manchester. We’ll be on stage at 1pm on Thursday 8th September. 

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