GDS assisted digital lead Alan Rider talks about how departments recently came together to share their views and experience on meeting business users’ needs for assisted digital support.
Researching assisted digital (AD) support needs for business users of online government services can be a tricky business. Services are sometimes unsure of how best to find their business users who need assisted digital support and carry out research with them.
There is nothing like putting our heads together on these sorts of challenges, so together with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), we hosted a half day workshop on 25th November 2015 with a range of government departments to pool our collective ideas and experience.
To warm things up, we started with headline figures of businesses digital capacity. For example, did you know that *23% of Small and Medium sized Enterprises lack digital skills and *2% of them do not use the internet at all? Or that most businesses are small with *78% of all businesses in the UK consisting of just a single person? We also heard from departments about research work they have been carrying out with businesses and employers.
For me though, the best part of the workshop was the breakout sessions that followed. Attendees were asked to consider how many of their business users are likely to need support?, where they currently go for support?, how to find business users to research? and share their ideas for areas where we can help each other and join up?
Many heads are better than one (or two)
There was a palpable (and pretty noisy!) buzz in the room during these sessions, which resulted in some great findings. For example:
- There are a wealth of business advisory and support groups out there - both voluntary, funded by government and charged for e.g;
- Chambers of commerce/industry bodies
- Local authorities
- BIS agencies
- Growth hubs and local enterprise partnerships
- Regular industry events and roadshows
- We know who businesses are - it’s a highly regulated sector - so it’s not hard to find business users, but they may not regard their support needs as being ‘assisted digital’ and many businesses tend to use intermediaries (accountants, agents, etc) if they are not digitally literate themselves.
- Business forums and networks are a good source for finding business users who need support as they know the individuals well.
- To carry out research, we need to go to where they are. Time is money, so most won’t have spare time to come to you.
- Research techniques will differ from those for citizens. Cold calling can be effective, as can telephone surveys or even email (as email users may still lack the digital skills needed for online business transactions).
- Research incentives also need to be different than those for citizens (eg offering free places on courses). Offering small cash incentives to businesses isn’t likely to work well.
- There are common business user journeys touching on multiple government departments and services. We can share contacts and research and work together on combining research effort for these users.
It’s good to share
Everyone made full use of the opportunity to network and collect useful contacts to follow up with afterwards and there was a clear appetite for further workshops to be held on other assisted digital topics. All in all, everyone was in agreement that it was an afternoon well spent and was a really useful exercise. This was summed up best in a comment made at the end “it was just really good to know that others were thinking about these issues too and I am not alone”.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
We aim to share examples of good assisted digital for business users on this blog over the coming months, so keep an eye out for those.
*http://resources.lloydsbank.com/insight/uk-business-digital-index/ UK Business Digital Index 2015