Help Centre News Key Discovery Findings

Key Discovery Findings: User Experience & Journey Maps

Innovate UK Blog Post Series

Published: 19/12/2023

As our ambitious Innovate UK research project in partnership with NHS SBS and the Behavioural Insights Team continues, we move into our second stage, “development” from our initial ‘Discovery’.

So what did we learn in our Discovery? In a previous blog post, we shared our approach to considering and measuring social value. Ensuring a level of interoperability and alignment in an industry which is constantly evolving and changing with users. 

In this blog post, we will be delving deeper into our findings with regards to the user experience research undertaken. When considering user research, the goal of this was to understand the overall procurement experiences of users currently in the public sector, and identify where new features could be further developed, but also to assess how/what social value measurements would drive improved outcomes for users.

User Research

As part of the discovery phase, we identified the key journey that both buyers and suppliers will take when procuring either services or goods.  This included developing four ‘persona groups’, namely, NHS SBS Internal Procurement team, NHS SBS Customers and NHS SBS Suppliers and Other Stakeholders. 

There are 6 keys steps that were identified for both journey maps, with the buyer journey starting at Strategy & Business Case, then Specification & (wider) Preparation, followed by Pre-Procurement Planning, then Procure & Contract Award, then Contract Management & Supplier Relationship Management and the last step is Purchase to Pay (Purchasing & Invoicing). The journey map for the supplier journey starts at Onboard, followed by Notified, then Bid, then Contract Awarded, then Order & Deliver and finally Invoice.

For each stage of the user journey we analysed six questions to consider all perspectives to inform our discovery:

From this research a number of consistent themes appeared across personas and their user journeys:

Understanding and use of Social Value

The main consistent theme throughout the research was users' lack of understanding and awareness of social value and translating this into constructional obligations around the Social Value Model. Where there was some understanding, it differed amongst users depending upon their role - this could be because of different teaching approaches taken to social value.

A common reason cited for this was the continually changing and evolving landscape of social value so this means that it is still a learning in progress for many members of a team. 

Another key challenge was that there is not clear enough constructional obligations surrounding the Social Value Model within procurement.

“The challenge is having those early conversations and building it into the procurement, then translating that into constructional commitments” and “Implementation and what it means for customers in healthcare is missing, how to interpret it.”

Users reported a range of methods when including The Social Value Model into their procurements, which can vary greatly depending upon the interest of procurement managers. Applications of the SVM ranged from undertaking pre-tender meetings and webinars with suppliers to understand what is needed and tailoring questions to a particular market to using guidance from Cabinet office to use regional based approaches where appropriate.

The current lack of sustainability/social value procurement experts means that the work cannot be quality assured in an effective manner. Also given the lack of structure & guidance on how tenders are structured, it can be very difficult to agree on the right questions to ask between internal stakeholders.

“We only have 2-4 questions, how much information on social value can you get from the suppliers here?”

Issues with the current procurement process/platform

There are a wide range of e-procurement platforms being used by the NHS SBS procurement teams, and the subjective satisfaction score of those platforms was scored at 5.3 out of 10. The feedback received ranged from platforms not being agile, clunky & slow and that suppliers who don’t work in the public domain find it very hard to onboard and use.

Users shared that they sought levels of automation especially with questioning elements to speed up the process for both buyers & suppliers.

Gaining information on best practices of other organisations and of suppliers

Interviewees highlighted that there are a range of methods to learn more about best practices in the industry. Practices are broad and vary by individual - they include using experience from previous roles, training & webinars, round table discussions and engagement with Cabinet Office.

When considering supplier activity, a number of methods were used to discover those suppliers who deliver and drive higher social value. These methods ranged from pre-market engagement, case studies suppliers provide and research online or on dedicated procurement platforms.

Whilst it's useful to see users not sticking to one method to gain their insights into best practice and activities undertaken by suppliers, it is evident that there is a large scope for further development here to improve the processes for both the buyers and suppliers involved. There is a lack of education for both buyers in including social value in their tenders, and for suppliers in responding to the social  value questions, often responses are not enough or not satisfactory and to the standard of the NHS SBS organisation.

So what have we learnt?

Whilst further research will be undertaken to validate our findings, the initial phase of user research has been invaluable to drive a clear understanding of the issues and to develop design ideas for our initial phase of work (wave 1). It is clear from the research that:

Next Steps

All of the themes of challenges identified in the user research will be explored and tested in our ‘wave 1’ of design ideas. As a project team, we will be designing these idea concepts, testing them with users and then building into the Cimple platform. 

Some of our wave 1 of design ideas include:

To stay updated on all Cimple news, follow us on LinkedIn and X