Scottish Exchequer: fiscal transparency discovery report

This report seeks to understand the accessibility and connectedness of current fiscal information and data and describes how we could implement improved fiscal transparency services and the benefits that could generate.

1 Introduction

1.1 The purpose of a Discovery project

At a high level the purpose of a Discovery project is to understand a problem that needs to be solved. This includes:

  • Learning about who the users and stakeholders are, and what they want to achieve;
  • Identifying drivers for change, e.g. good practice and policy intentions;
  • Investigating the current situation;
  • Defining the high level benefits of making the change;
  • Identifying ways that the situation can be improved.

These elements allow a decision to be made on whether to proceed further with the solution.

1.2 How we worked

The project involved a mixed team of Scottish Government Digital Transformation Division and Scottish Exchequer staff, working with an independent researcher. An Agile approach was employed, with five x two week sprints.

The project consisted of four workstreams:

  • User Research and service design with a range of external non-Scottish Government stakeholders;
  • Consultancy work with key internal owners and producers of fiscal data and information;
  • Research into international examples of fiscal transparency;
  • Research into national and international guidance on the implementation of fiscal transparency, and the benefits involved.

Interim project findings were shared with stakeholders by means of two workshops (internal and external) in week six of the project, with an internal Show and Tell of the final draft findings in week eight, and an external Show and Tell at a slightly later date.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions all work was undertaken remotely. The input of all stakeholders to the project is gratefully acknowledged.

1.3 Who we spoke to in User Research

As this was the first Discovery project conducted for the purpose of fiscal transparency in Scotland, our first user research priority was to understand the current situation surrounding fiscal data usage; including associated frustrations and opportunities for improvement.

In order to achieve this within the project timescales, we decided to focus on organisations that are already highly engaged with the current form of reporting due to their professional focus on fiscal analysis or advocacy. They were chosen based on existing relationships, in order to guarantee the most applicable insights for identifying quick wins and foundations for the long-term vision. It is important to note that since we spoke to one or two people in each organisation, we can only claim a general insight into the data usage from the perspective of specific employees rather than an in-depth representation of all of their activities.

While this was the right recruitment strategy for the purpose of this Discovery, it is advisable to focus in the next stages of the design process on the gaps in this research; namely the less engaged potential users - including citizens and groups like journalists, business representatives and the digital technology communities. Any future design work should also explicitly centre on people with disabilities – especially those with visual impairments – due to their specific needs related to data visualisation.

1.4 What we did in User Research

The external user research consisted of semi-structured interviews conducted over Microsoft Teams. First, we asked about current data usage (including its wider context and purpose within the organisation). In the second part we asked the participants to speculatively describe an ideal fiscal transparency portal that would help them achieve their goals more effectively; both in the short and long-term. Thanks to this two-tiered approach we were able to separate the current from the possible and by extension learn about the long-term benefits that this project could bring, not only to people we spoke to but also potential future users and the wider Scottish society.

We also held a separate workshop with the third sector policy officers, sourced through the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations Policy Forum network. The anonymised interview and workshop data was then analysed with the Service Designer and User Interaction Designer to minimise the possibility of bias when analysing individually.

We then built example as-is journeys for the three user groups as they interact with Scottish fiscal information. This grouping as well as their key journeys were sense-checked with Scottish Government employees (to educate and to check feasibility) and with the external stakeholders (to validate what we had heard). This was helpful to make sure we had covered everyone's, needs, concerns and frustrations within our concise artefacts.

The user groups, journeys and key frustrations were further triangulated with the findings from the internal consulting workstream and the international research to validate findings, identify opportunities, make recommendations and create some speculative mock-ups



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