How does the signal of demand get through to your organisation?

Benjamin P. Taylor
2 min readJan 5, 2022

Are you actually able to hear where you can create value?

I was once in a project to redesign a council’s Housing Benefits form, and ‘make it digital’.

The form was 60 pages long, and optimally designed for approximately 2.2% of applicants.

That’s because the vast majority of applicants were already on a ‘passporting benefit’, so we really only needed to verify that and could start housing benefits almost immediately.

On the other hand, really complex cases needed a lot more bespoke attention than just the form.

A small business owner was making a loss and, after several hours with their accountant, we worked out they were eligible.

​After weeks of research and work, where we mapped out routes and flows and logic trees, and sketched out an early ‘bot’, we had optimised the 60-page form down to 40 pages.

But we suddenly had a realisation:

‘the form is the problem’

​Too long for simple cases, too short for the really complex, the form needed to be taken out of focus.

How could we understand the demand? The opportunity to create value?

Everything that was being done to ‘optimise efficiency’, the form and workflow, and optimise the use of the time of the experts was actually creating work.

People looked on the web or phoned up and got a bit confused; they made an application, but usually got it wrong and provide the wrong information.

But they submitted it online or it was scanned at reception, then it went into a workflow Document Management System were it could eventually be seen by a highly-trained expert.

I won’t go into what they then did to make their figures look good, or the cycling-back once the form was actually studied and we realised the citizen had provided the wrong information.

To provide a quality service, what’s critical is really understanding the need — the opportunity to create value — quickly, upfront — and, most importantly, correctly.

Most organisations, acting on seemingly rational, logical ideas which are based on the idea ‘we will know what the customer/citizen needs, and we know how to add value’.

The answer was, of course, to remove the form — and instead ask the question ‘how can we reliably learn’ those things.

Where have you seen organisations put a ‘form’ in the way of understanding?