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Jul 19

A new era of capturing data from our sector

Posted: 1 July 2019

Dave GriffithsDave Griffiths, Skills for Care’s Product Owner for the new Adult Social Care (ASC) Workforce Data Set, the online data collection service that covers the adult social care workforce in England, shares his experience of creating and shaping this new service. It will shortly replace the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC).

These questions make up a typical ten minutes of my day. ‘But what if the worker was born in Cameroon, has French nationality but now also has British citizenship – what’s the correct flow of questions?’ ‘The developers need to know which of their jobs take priority.’ ‘Users have identified defects during the user research session, can you help prioritise them?’

We’re building our new service following an agile way of working and to Government Digital Service (GDS) standards. It’s the first time Skills for Care has worked in this way and we’ve been on a steep learning curve. We’re putting users of the service at the heart of everything we do.

My role as product owner is to ensure that our service reflects the needs of our users while delivering the data and intelligence it was created to collect. It’s also to set priorities for our designers, developers, user researchers and content designers, to sign off final designs and, importantly, listen to everybody involved to help me do it.

Generally, each week for the last six months or so has been a bit of a rollercoaster – one part of the build is going well while another aspect of the service has uncovered issues and is now delayed. We’ve had users (care providers) accessing parts of the new service since March, so we’ve been gathering and acting on their feedback as we go. Some of their feedback has meant stopping building parts of the new service so we can fix the bugs they’ve identified. All of this is really useful in our journey.

GDS and agile guidance is to build your minimum viable product (or MVP). Get that out to users and gather feedback while you build the rest of the service. Part of my role has been to define what the MVP is for the new ASC Workforce Data Set service. Having listened to users and worked with colleagues we defined it as users being able to enter and edit workplace and staff records and to have access to some reporting functionality. That will be our MVP, but there’s plans to build on that in the weeks after its release.

Building a new service has been, and remains, very challenging. We have a large and diverse user base and our data is relied upon by the government, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), local authorities and care providers. The service must deliver from day one.

It’s also replacing a service (the NMDS-SC) which, while now a little dated in its look and feel, has generally performed well and provided Skills for Care and the government with high quality workforce and sector intelligence for over a decade. We must maintain those standards while giving our users a much-improved experience while using the service.

Overall, the feedback we’ve had from those who are using the new service, or have used it as part of our regular user research sessions, has been good.

“I found the site really easy to use, simple and clean i.e. not too much info on a page to confuse. Overall a thumbs up and I look forward to seeing the new sections added in due course”                    

“Fast, simple and clear design”

At the start of the project we developed our mission statement:

Give users a simple way to input and maintain information and help them to make better use of it so it has more value to them and the care sector.

I think we’re on track to deliver this. We’ve had, and still have, challenges. We’ve had a lot of useful feedback that we’ve taken on board and we’re working flat out to build the best service we can. I think we’re getting there, but you’ll be able to judge for yourself in the next few months. Make sure you let us know what you think.

Find out more about the ASC Workforce Data Set.