Since its founding in 1870, the British Red Cross has spread across the UK, with each region growing and adapting independently. When looking to role out a new case management system (BRM) to track and record every engagement a ‘beneficiary’ has with the organisation, head office realised they needed a better understanding of the services delivered across the country and how they vary from region to region.

Role: UX Consultant/Researcher

Working as part of a team of researchers, we completed 294 interviews across 31 premises around the UK. The interviews involved a range of individuals, from directors, service leads, volunteers and service users.

I was responsible for covering 5 locations across the North of England and the Midlands, observing how staff, volunteers and service users currently engage to map out existing processes. Collaboratively sketching out these processes meant I was able to interrogate each step involved, understanding why certain things ‘have to’ happen, in what order and by whom. This approach, combined with ethnographic-style shadowing of tasks, allowed myself and the team to present back the key challenges faced by staff, volunteers and users across the country.

As you can imagine with such a large quantity of sessions, we generated a huge amount of data that required careful analysis. During the research the team convened back at base each Friday to share what we had learned and begin to identify inconsistencies across service delivery, common themes and recurring pain points.

Findings

Our research revealed that, whilst the goal of a centralised case management system makes perfect theoretical sense, the reality of implementing such a tool would require huge investment of resource and effort for the following reasons:

  • the organic and, often, ad hoc growth and delivery of services across the UK meant a significant portion of staff and volunteers would need to change their processes and, more than likely, re-train 
  • related to the above, many services are delivered on behalf of, or in partnership with, other organisations (such as the local NHS Trust). Whilst the service in Leeds may share the same name of a service delivered in Bristol, the requirements and needs of each partner organisation can vary dramatically, thus shaping the service in very different ways
  • much of the work completed by the British Red Cross takes place ‘in the field’, either at a service users home, in hospital, at local GPs/community buildings and so on. Directly reporting activities and outcomes into a centralised digital platform was unrealistic due to the lack of equipment available (smartphones, tablets etc) and particularly when considering some of the more remote areas in which they operate with poor 3G/4G signal. Given these limitations, staff and volunteers were then uneasy about the concept of subsequently spending time inputting data from paper forms into BRM when that time could be spent helping someone else in need.
  • volunteers, typically of an older persuasion, were often set in their ways and felt uncomfortable with the idea of changing how they delivered a service. This was particularly true when the change involved closer integration of digital tools.

Outputs

Our findings were distilled into:

  • 13 personas, covering staff, volunteers and service users, that highlight key behaviours, attitudes, needs and crucially, how BRM could improve their experience of either delivering and receiving a service
  • 9 service maps illustrating the way in which the core services are delivered and highlighting any regional variants
  • report summarising the key findings and providing recommendations as to how the organisation should proceed with BRM

The project was well received by the British Red Cross, and some months later I was lucky enough to work with them again to explore how a digital solution could improve the Mobility Aids service for beneficiaries and staff/volunteers.