Laying the framework for digital transformation

Part 1 of how I’ve introduced and helped to institutionalise UX strategy, research, and design at St John New Zealand


Why are we here, who are we, and what are our core values?

By mid-2017, the national digital transformation programme at St John New Zealand had been a concept years in the making. The digital manager had been gaining executive support over time to bring together all of the commercially siloed efforts into one consistent, platform and process based approach. Aside from the core ambulance operations, St John NZ’s B2C and B2B first aid training service that teaches 90,000 people per year was deemed the most complex problem to solve that, in doing so, would lay the best foundation for the future of this renowned charity.

I, myself, had just moved to New Zealand a few months before I heard about this brand new programme from St John’s then-solution architect who told me that this programme was to be “customer centric”, yet the team was still in its infancy and could use someone with my experience and user focus to lead that cultural change. After a brief presentation to the digital manager and enterprise architect, I was welcomed on board as a consultant and immediately got to work as their first-ever User Experience (UX) strategist, researcher, and designer team-of-one (due to the constraints and unfamiliar nature within the organisation).

For me, it all began with helping our programme to clearly understand and articulate our intentions over the coming years, our importance to the business as a whole, and what it should mean to say and know that our customers and supporters actually live at the heart of all of our designs and decisions. The national marketing and brand manager at the time had started a set of customer experience (CX) principles for our team to rally around, but was less experienced in this domain, so had quickly trusted me with revising, establishing, and championing these.

The genericised version of the UX, CX, and Service Design strategy principles I wrote for St John NZ and which I’ll bring with me in my future endeavours.

Cultural change moves at a glacial pace, if at all, and so nearly two years later now, it’s no surprise that it is still an ongoing effort to keep these tenets at the forefront of our team members’ minds, lest we revert to naturally assuming that our customers and service supporters think like us, know what we know, and would do what we’d do. By becoming a trusted voice over time in the ears of our digital manager, new CX & brand manager, product owners, programme manager, national directors, and more, I can try to keep the promotion of these principles flowing top-down. One of our go-to introspective questions is, “Are we doing what is right for the users or what is easier for us to develop?”

With the heads of ICT and architecture leading more of what it means to digitally transform the way of doing business rather than merely digitising products and services, we had the backbone of our repeatable framework in place that we all had a hand in crafting to ensure each of our unique perspectives were adequated addressed.

Our programme’s definition of what digital transformation means.

What are we trying to do?

(“Minimum viable” project phase story below - full story in draft, but always ready to tell it over a cuppa)

Collaboratively understanding our initial business opportunity assumptions, value propositions, constraints and more using lean canvases

A sample from my value proposition workshop guide written using what I’ve learned from various sources and experiments that I introduced to our programme’s leadership team so that we could begin articulating in simple terms what we wanted to do and who it’d benefit.

Eliciting the business and brand’s experience vision as the guiding star for what we work towards henceforth

The experience vision that our St John digital transformation programme's leadership team and I collaborative wrote to ensure that every system or process we design over the next 5+ years in the business-wide transformation isn't siloed, starting with first aid training.