Parliamentary Questions tracker

Working in a multi-disciplinary team at MoJ Digital Services, collaborating with the MoJ Parliamentary Branch (who field parliamentary questions) for 20 weeks to produce the UK government’s first open source parliamentary questions (PQs) tracking tool.
 

MPs and Peers will ask regularly ask questions of government departments, who are obliged to get them answered and returned in a timely manner. Our aims were to be able to make the processes of doing this at MoJ Parliamentary Branch much more effective, whilst being able to track the progress of every parliamentary question.
 

Our starting point was being able to make use of ‘tabled Parliamentary Questions to be answered’ API, developed by government to open PQ data to all departments. We worked closely with the MoJ Parliamentary Branch staff to understand their pain-points and designed a system that allowed them to download PQs first thing in the morning so they could then set about allocating them to the relevant person to be able to draft a response.

“This is an excellent example of collaborative working between the PQ Team within Parliamentary Branch and MoJ Digital Services. This case management system will help us to continue to improve our performance and will give us a much better chance of hitting our targets and delivering a quality service to Parliament. Please keep up the hard work.” MoJ Permanent Secretary, Dame Ursula Brennan

Tasks included:

  • Discovery work analysising and understanding the parameters of the existing process.

  • Process-mapping the existing process. Applying service design principles focussing on activities, needs, goals and barriers of key potential users of the service.

  • Paper prototyping with users.

  • Building and user testing HTML protypes.

  • UX, UI using GDS design principles.

  • Working with a Kanban process.
     

Outcomes:

  • The PQ tracking tool solved huge problems by status-mapping communications with 3rd parties engaged in answering PQs, enabling greater transparency of information shared between those writing the draft answers and Parliamentary Branch.

  • The PQ tracker also dramatically improved PQ turnaround times and produced accurate up to the minute MI data.

Client:

Ministry of Justice

Project dates:

Jun 2014 to Sep 2014

Category:

• Service design

• Interaction design

• UX design

• UI design

View related public government web page

Understanding and analysing the existing process to identify pain-points and opportunities to change or improve the service is the starting with most projects.

It will begin with lots of drawing on extended A3 paper sheets and will eventually become a designed artefact to be used by the team and the stakeholders.

Many clients have been astounded to see the process they use every day plotted out as a process map.

User research activity was carried out with the Parliamentary Branch staff to understand how they might perceive a user interface for the job that they do.

Paper prototyping using drawn interfaces with cut out paper illustrating relevant functions of the job or tracking Parliamentary Questions. The activity involved the users putting together their own preferred functionality jigsaw to understand what was important to them, but also to get them thinking about their process as an interface.

An early design interface design drawing to pull together a PQ list with a PQ details page.

This is the interface for the daily download of PQs that need allocating to ‘answering officers.’

Once an answering officer is allocated by Parliamentary Branch staff, the tracker sends an email with a tokenised link to the officer where they can accept or decline answering the PQ.

All actions by participants are tracked in the service, so Parliamentary Branch always know where the PQ is in the process.

Once a PQ has been accepted and a draft drawn up, it will go through a process of validation before it gets to a minister to sign off.

All of these stages are tracked, enabling transparency of data and accountability of all parties.

The PQ tracker displayed the PQs as list items as well as exposing the status and details of each PQ.

It also produced MI reports and allowed Ministers to have read-only views of the PQs relating to their department.

Process mapping the service to show the mechanics and inter-dependancies of the PQ tracker tool.

Working things out in 21st century style with marker and whiteboard table ;)