Our successful application to the Local Digital Fund for a digital service for taxi licence holders.
Exploring and prototyping a digital service for taxi licence holders to manage their licences.
Taxi licensing service users expect a convenient digital service with which to manage their information and undertake key tasks to ensure their licences remain valid. Please see our discovery documentation for more information. This collaborative Alpha will build on existing Discovery and Alpha work to determine:
- Are licensing user needs common across different local authorities?
- Can these needs be met with a consistent, scalable digital service solution?
- Can such a solution deliver meaningful and realisable benefits?
Problems and hypotheses
Taxi licensing users include:
- Hackney Carriage and private hire driver licence holders
- Taxi vehicle licence holders
- Private hire operator licence holders
- Local authority staff in licensing and supporting teams
Taxi drivers and taxi company operators require a licence to operate. To acquire and retain their various licenses they need to know what information to provide and when, to ensure the licences they hold remain valid and lawful. Licence holders interact with these processes intermittently and struggle to take appropriate action independently and at the right time.
Licensing staff meet this need by contacting licence holders, by phone or email, to notify them when information or tasks are due. Licence holders provide required information by phone, email or in person. Officers validate the information they are provided and may make further contact regarding outcomes. This situation and challenges in communication and clarity invariably leads to errors, lost time and frustration for both licence holders and licensing teams. In acute cases this can result in taxi drivers unable to work.
Our research shows that licence holders expect all this to be possible online via a secure, digital service. No collaborator has found a viable market solution to meet this need; either as an integrated digital service layer or as part of a complete licensing system.
The proposed service would address multiple problems for users:
- Lack of access to licence information and status at source with dependence instead on officer availability
- Time consuming manual checking and communication of basic administrative information
- Manually re-keying and copying of data between systems
- Reduced officer capacity for highly-value, proactive enforcement and human assistance activity
Licensing powers are universally exercised in around 280 district, metro-district and unitary councils with 251,100 licensed vehicles, 343,800 drivers and 15,100 operators in 2021, based on the statistics from the Department for Transport. This need is assumed to be equally universal.
The Alpha project will test these hypotheses to further explore needs and solution development:
- The priority of user needs and features are common and consistent across the collaborating authorities’ user groups
- And therefore: the product prototype is in line with licence holder users’ expectations
- A product based on the prototype can be reused across many councils with ways of working
- Collaborators can implement and reuse this product in their local technological setting
- Collaborating licensing service will realise the scalable benefits of this product as expected
Outcomes and outputs
The Alpha phase will:
- Create a research plan to test the five hypothesis of the Alpha phase
- Map user journeys for each licensing service; create user stories; prioritise user needs and product capabilities for prototyping
- Explore collaborator technical environments, requirements and constraints, including council DDaT team needs for digital service implementation
- Explore differences in needs, priorities, processing and technology and their potential impact on service/product design and implementation
- Test technical and non-technical concepts and prototypes with stakeholders as appropriate, including
- Licence holders
- Licensing officers
- Support system administrators
- Document our research, participation, prototypes, testing, results and findings in a final user research report
- Create an interactive, shareable, tested digital service prototype for each collaborator
- Identify measures required to optimise and evaluate the product, including the user experience, to support iterative improvement
- Present project conclusions with next steps and product roadmap
- Produce a benefits case for any potential Beta project
- Create shareable communication media throughout
All collaborators will work alongside an user researcher and their engagement with the project and local stakeholders will directly shape Alpha work and build each authority’s experience of iterative, agile service development. Project outputs will then support further decision making for all collaborators, regardless of their next steps.
How we will make local government services safer, more resilient and/or cheaper to run
The project aims first to:
- Develop a practical, efficient, available, digital service solution, meeting user expectations, consistent with contemporary GOV.UK services
- Reduce licence issues that prevent taxi drivers working and reduce taxi availability
- Reduced administrative costs may be converted to licence fee reductions, benefiting licence holders
- Maximise time for value adding services activities that improve public safety outcomes
- Develop a secure, user-centred digital service capability that:
- Fills a gap in the existing product market and the user experience
- Is technology agnostic, ensuring flexibility for reuse through built in configuration options for integration, scalability and reusability
- Allows configuration and adaptation for a wide range to regulatory services and systems
- Opens significant reuse opportunities for other regulatory services and secure data sharing, including to support safeguarding
The project team will:
- Engage licence holders via existing service communication channels and direct on-street engagement to promote the project, recruit research participants and share progress
- Promote and hold regular, engaging virtual show and tells, maintain a blog including sprint notes. Live sessions will be recorded for later viewing, as will short videos with content designed for specific audiences, such as the licence holder cohort
- Work closely with each authorities' licensing, customer service, DDaT and legal teams, sharing progress and planning output from sprint ceremonies
- “Work in the open”, promoting and sharing progress on www.rushmoor.gov.uk/transformation and by leveraging local and cross-government digital and service networks. This will include, the LocalGovDigtal community, licensing officers groups, local taxi trade associations, licensing sector technology suppliers and interested parties from similar regulatory service areas
Local government sector organisations
The Institute of Licensing and the Hampshire and IoW Licensing Officer’s Group (HILOG) have expressed interest in the bid and are engaging in discussions on possible involvement in the Alpha project. The similar engagement will be sort with the North East Strategic Licensing Group (NESLG).
We discussed our proposal with the Local Government Association, who expressed interest in how this digital service might improve the speed of licensing activities; the need for faster licensing services having been communicated by taxi and private hire vehicle trade bodies, in various national forums. There is also significant Local Government Association interest in the role of taxi/private hire vehicle drivers in Safeguarding, which will be in scope of the user interactions examined by this Alpha.
In developing digital prototypes, we have and will continue to:
- Use components from the GOV.UK design system and service patterns wherever possible
- Investigate opportunities and technical integration requirements to leverage existing GAAP services such as GOV.UK Notify.
We have already conducted Alpha work in our local setting and tested prototypes with users confirming some, but not all hypothesis in scope of this project. This Alpha seeks build on this work by testing the five stated hypothesis, in all collaborator settings.
A 3 month agile Alpha project of time-boxed sprints will deliver required outcomes and outputs in accordance with the project plan.
We will test each hypothesis with users by researching, developing, testing and iterating suitable prototypes. We will gather data and opinions directly from users to shape this process and evidence our research conclusions. The licensing SME from North Tyneside will, in addition to supporting the project team, contribute data and insight from significant existing analysis assets, created in past work with the service locally.
- Steering group agreement of project team staffing arrangements at each council and agreement of specification to commence required role procurement
- Lead council and steering group award/complete recruitment to complete the project team
- Project Kick-off
- Agreement of user research plan, commencement of recruitment
- Commencement user research activities
- Commencement of prototype development and testing
- Completion of internal user research
- Start testing of full collaborator prototypes
- Completion of all user research and prototyping activities
- Completion of user research report and concluding presentations
- Project closed
Prior to project close, there will be an all collaborator and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities discussion of Alpha outcomes and next steps.
To support agile delivery of the project we propose:
- A multi-disciplinary team, working in the open together throughout the project with the following roles:
- Product manager
- Delivery manager
- User researcher
- Service designer
- Technical writer
- Software developer
- Time boxed sprints reflecting delivery of the project plan with a delivery manager facilitating ceremonies and participation from each collaborating authority (sprint planning, stand-ups, show and tells, retrospectives)
- User researchers working in each collaborating authority throughout the project are a key relationship to ensure local user engagement; to evidence robust testing of hypotheses and prototypes with users; to share and promote learning within the project team and local stakeholders
- We aim to first fill these roles with local authority staff to maximise the development and retention of skills and experience. Projected costs are based upon potentially sourcing roles from the digital marketplace and existing skills supplier relationships. Staff assuming roles will be supported, if needed, by Rushmoor’s digital and licensing teams, who will share their experience of agile, iterative methods, tools and templates, from their discovery and alpha work to date.
- Prior to the project’s delivery plan timeline, a one month ‘sprint zero’ will be facilitated by Rushmoor BC and the project steering group, to complete any team role procurements, and source any back-fill and training required by the project team
With over 400km between collaborators, digital collaboration will be essential and is a listed risk. Well established tools, such as Microsoft Teams are already in place and in use between collaborators. Past discovery and alpha work over the pandemic has proven a range of available tools for both collaborative work, such as Miro, and research, such as Mentimeter. Rushmoor will provide such tools and training therein as required by the project team and collaborators.
A steering group with representatives from each collaborating authority will govern the project. As lead authority, Rushmoor will chair this group. The steering group will monitor progress against agreed milestones in the delivery plan, respond to issues escalated by the project team and sign-off key project outputs and spending decisions. The steering group, with senior stakeholders shown in brackets are:
- Victoria Hickie, Business Improvement & Administration Manager, North Tyneside (Joanne Lee, Head of Public Protection)
- James Knight, Service Manager, Place Protection, Rushmoor (James Duggin, Head of Operational Services)
- Rob Draper, Regulatory Services Manager (Tom Payne, Head of Environment and Community Services)
- Alex Shiell, Digital Manager at Rushmoor
The project team will self-manage project delivery under the coordination of the delivery manager. The project team will include a lead licensing officer/manager from each collaborating council.
Risks to project success include:
- Unexpected/unforeseen operational issues preventing proper participation of licensing team staff and SMEs. Mitigation: flexibility of project team staffing arrangements built into the plan to allow collaborators to balance their resourcing; daily stand-ups to monitor and react to issues; availability planned each sprint; depth and breadth of skills in supporting teams
- Poor engagement from licence holder cohort. Mitigation: user research plan designed with local licensing teams and experienced user researchers; use of multiple engagement formats including on-street (visiting taxi ranks and businesses); consistent and responsive dialogue to manage expectations and demonstrate how participant feedback is shaping the project
- In-effective remote collaboration: all collaborators will agree collaborative ways of working, tools and training requirements; effectiveness and issues will be discussed at daily stand-ups and retrospectives with rapid remedial action; project team will support each other with additional support from Rushmoor’s digital team
Our constraints are:
- Technical limitations in information systems such as API capabilities and security requirements
- Variations in licensing service staffing structures, responsibilities, priorities and practices
- Data availability issues such as consistency of data formats, structures and relationships
- Legal or procedural requirements such as local licensing rules and data protection
- Team capacity, budget and timescales
Project monitoring and evaluation
Contact between licence holders and licensing staff is not captured in a form that lends itself to easy analysis or evaluation. In licensing case management systems, contact is apparent based upon notes and actions recorded. Manual review of these records has enabled the projected efficiency and saving potential of this proposal.
The proposed Alpha will explore the correct measures and collection approach to effectively monitor the success of any potential service. This will be a key component of the Alpha hypothesis regarding the realisation of the scalable benefits of the product. This must be explored with collaborators to better understand the requirements and practicalities that any potential system of measurement will contend with.
We will know the Alpha phase is successful if:
- We can robustly test and evidence the five-given hypothesis with our stakeholders, including a representative cohort of licence holders
- We can produce functionally consistent prototypes for each collaborator that 90% of user participants say they would use on testing
Benefits and savings
Licensing services set fees to cover the costs of licensing activities, including those in scope of the proposed solution. The proposed solution will:
Save staff time
Reducing the continuous overhead on licensing teams of contact to 'chase' information or documents with licence holders required to ensure licences remain valid. A conservative estimate of the cost of this activity is based on an estimate of average time spent across collaborators charged at a lower-end staffing grade hourly rate:
- Annual officer time required per 100 licences = 52 hrs = £1735
- Projected time across all collaborators for 3,858 licences = 2006 hrs = £67,000
- Projected time required nationally, 610,000 licences = 305,000 hrs = £10,260,200
Licensing teams may choose invest time in their other key public protection activities and outcomes, which include outcomes supporting key national agendas, such as the tackling Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. Rushmoor’s internal Alpha work has identified that licence holder drivers prefer to raise safeguarding issue with licensing officers, despite signposting to official safeguarding contact.
The service would reduce the use and expense of postage, the most expensive contact channel. Each letter sent per licence on a national scale equates to £244,000.
As a digital, self-service option, the availability of the service increases for licence holders, removing delays from manual contact activity. This is expected to reduce incidence of delay driven licence suspension or refusal that prevents drivers working, impacts their business and reduces availability of taxi services.
Gateway capability for other services
The secure, digital capability of this product has much wider potential usage in similar service problem areas, including other licensing and regulatory services.