Taxi licensing: Final show and tell
Developing digital solutions to complex problems that have existed for years takes patience, empathy, flexibility and creative thinking. Fortunately, we have found the right mix by blending the taxi licensing and digital staff of Gateshead, Sunderland and Northumberland local authorities, with our team of service design experts Orange Bus.
As the discovery phase of our taxi licensing project came to a close, our final show and tell was packed with powerful insights. The whole group gathered together to do four things:
- summarise the discovery process
- develop our shared understanding of the current reality
- collaborate in finding solutions to the challenges identified
- assess the success of the process so far
Standing back to see the bigger picture
The taxi licensing service as it currently exists across the three authorities - and also nationally - is heavily paper-based. A wide variety of systems are used that rely on multiple points of face-to-face contact. Seeing the entire driver and vehicle licensing processes clearly mapped out on giant posters drove these points home in a compelling way.
We can see where the pain points are, both the ones we knew about, and others we learned about through discovery.
A member of the Northumberland Licensing team commented,
It never clicked that we had so many software tools that didn't work together.
The discovery phase enabled us to put some hard numbers on the current state of licensing services too.
The working group acknowledged that the desire for a digital service was understandably mixed. Creating a new way of doing things doesn't always sound less painful than the present system to some of the stakeholders involved; particularly the taxi drivers.
But overall, the research demonstrated a clear need for a simple, efficient digital process.
Applicants would receive an improved experience with reduced waiting times and less duplicated or unnecessary effort. Licensing staff would gain greater job satisfaction as they receive fewer unnecessary enquiries and follow an efficient process. This would free up their time to focus more proactively on public safety.
The challenges we share
By drawing on the insights of staff from three authorities and combining them with the deep dive research conducted by Orange Bus, we identified the main pain points of the current service.
- Time that the overall application process takes
- Limited resources available to support the service
- Requirement for multiple face-to-face meetings
- Complex language makes self-serve difficult
- Making payments causes additional delays and frustrations
Bringing together staff from all three councils allowed us to see which challenges we had in common. But discovery isn't just about understanding the scale of a problem, it's an opportunity to begin creating possible solutions together.
Developing solutions through collaboration
Our process cultivated creative thinking by allowing the digital and licensing teams to think out loud with colleagues from other contexts. The group could understand one another's pain points without feeling mired in each other's daily frustrations.
Collaborating around solutions involved setting aside, even temporarily, what we think will or won't work in our context. We committed to ending the discovery phase of this project with ideas that communicated our aspirations and ambitions.
After dreaming about 'no limits' solutions to our shared challenges, we did the hard work of looking at the current reality and prioritising ideas to pursue as a group. These included sharing vehicle databases, more flexible vehicle testing, a digital application process and working on supporting content together as a group.
So where do we go from here?
A second, more focused discovery will explore the new driver application process. This would look at the feasibility of digitising the service. Providing this discovery is a success, an alpha phase would experiment with standardising the service on a small scale.
This process generated a deeper, more empathetic understanding of taxi licensing services. But more than that it created a sense of commitment to sharing the load and finding a way forward together. We all face some unique issues, but our ambitions are the same.
We aspire to create hassle-free, efficient and open solutions which release resources to be proactive about public safety on a national level.
Find out more about our process for establishing the need to develop a digital taxi licensing service at digital.gateshead.gov.uk/taxilicensingdiscovery.