The digital arm of the NSW government is taking a new holistic approach to the delivery of government services in an effort to improve citizens’ life journeys. Interacting with government agencies should be simple and effective, particularly in time of need, according to Digital.NSW.

That means eschewing the “customer journey” mindset in favour of “life journeys”, according to recently appointed executive director, Digital Government Policy and Innovation, Pia Andrews.

“Mapping the full experience of people through significant life journeys, like end of life, retirement or starting a family, provide a way to understand and meet their needs that goes beyond the limitations of focusing on a single step, service or agency view,” Andrews told Which-50.

“Normal ‘customer journey mapping’ misses this broader context and can therefore, miss the opportunities to dramatically improve the journey as a whole.”

The state government’s digital agency is starting by improving the government services necessary when someone dies. While still in the early or “ideation” phase for service design, “end of life” has been earmarked as a priority. 

A Life Journeys team at the Digital.NSW accelerator lab has begun looking at ways to make it easier for NSW citizens to navigate the bureaucratic process which follows the death of a loved one.

The team has started by breaking the journey down into three end of life “slices”: Death and ceremony, estate management, and planning, grieving and support networks.

The idea is to analyse the slices and what role government services plays in each one in conjunction with other stakeholders from the private sector, not-for-profits and NGOs. Then services can be designed around citizens’ life journeys to include easier integration with these groups and ultimately a better outcome for citizens.

Pia Andrews, executive director, Digital Government Policy and Innovation. Source: finance.nsw.gov.au

In times of need, like end of life, stakeholders can include government agencies like Births Deaths and Marriages, Coroners Court and NSW Health integrating with non-government groups like funeral directors, nursing homes and banks. The end goal is to deliver services which reduce the pain points of tasks like funeral arrangements and other unavoidable administrative tasks associated with death.

If those stakeholders are better integrated the burden on families and executors can be reduced, according to Andrews.

“By understanding all the service providers and user pain points generally found on a life journey, we have a way to collaborate on improving the entire experience,” she told Which-50.

“It also provides opportunities for reducing (through integration) the steps of that journey, and improve outcomes and dignity for users, and to create greater integration and improvements for agencies and society as a whole.” 

Digital.NSW has already sought advice from citizens and stakeholders, as well as indigenous consultants and a social impact NGO, and is now in the ideation phase for end of life services, what Digital.NSW calls “how might we”. Validated solutions are expected by the end of February which will then be assessed by the relevant government agencies and tested by citizens. Agencies will then develop their own schedules for deployment.

The initiative is part of NSW Government’s Chief Information and Digital Office, currently led by Greg Wells, and is supported by the Digital Transformation Agency, a whole of government agency designed to accelerate digital government services across all levels of Australian government. But NSW is also turning to other countries like New Zealand and Portugal, where life journey services are more advanced.

Life Journeys

According to Andrews, the advantage of a holistic approach, rather than improving journey points in isolation, increases the spectrum of information available to inform the design of cohesive services.

“Our research has shown that there is so much information out there but it is currently in silos and we have found that with ‘end of life’, the journey can differ vastly from person to person and the steps a family member, executor or friend has to go through following a death differ. 

“There isn’t currently a one-stop service that covers these differing experiences, making the experience for many citizens disjointed and confusing at a time when they are typically also dealing with grief and other emotions.”

But so far Andrews says she is delighted with the response from a number of relevant agencies and non-profits.

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