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Lessons from the sharp end: Delivering the Waste carrier registration service

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waste carriers

In the continuing series on lessons from within the Transformation Programme Jake Barlow, GDS Transformation Lead, looks at the ups and downs of delivering Waste carrier registration as a digital by default service.

So it may not be glamorous, but the way waste is managed is important. New EU legislation requires all waste carriers be registered. The existing digital service received 35,000 registrations a year but was really complicated, slow and difficult to use. This prompted lots of calls to the Environment Agency call centre, so the Environment Agency team have worked closely with users and GDS to develop a new, simpler digital service. Despite tight deadlines, we got the first phase of the service into beta and available to the public within 3 months. Businesses can now register as a waste carrier using a quick and easy online service.

The good stuff

We’ve had a steep learning curve during this project. There have been many setbacks but we’ve still achieved over 20,000 users registered in the first 6 months. The user satisfaction level has stayed high, consistently averaging well over 80% since inception, and digital take-up is consistently over 90%. We’re rather pleased about that.

We’ve got really good at developing and improving the service based on user needs. This is particularly important as the service has a very diverse range of users, from small independent carriers to large commercial brokers. We’ve worked hard to make sure we use a variety of research techniques and approaches to make sure we understand the needs of these different groups. This included research to understand the support that some users - for example those with lower digital literacy - may need to access the digital service. From the feedback received we’ve put plans in place for our call centre to help users to access the digital service. 

The challenging stuff

It's not all been about positive statistics though. Possibly the hardest challenge has been the cultural change within the Environment Agency. Encouraging a move from traditional project management techniques to agile methodologies - and making sure that happens throughout the organisation and not just in the exemplar team - has been a challenge.

At first we struggled with agile methodologies as it was not something the team or the department were familiar with or had used regularly. Also we were very reliant on suppliers to develop and support the service which wasn’t something we wanted to do long term. We've tackled this head-on by upskilling our team. By bringing more aspects of the service's development ‘in-house’ we have far greater control and can be more responsive to changing user needs. It also means that the organisation learns from the development of the exemplar. We use this to keep improving Waste carrier registration as well as transferring this knowledge to new digital services. We’ve had to prove to our department that this approach works by simply doing it, rather than talking about it. Sheer persistence has paid off and we’ve become an exemplar project in our department, promoting best practice an an approach to service design and delivery that is now spreading across the Environment Agency.

What’s next?

We’ve been working on the next phase of the service which includes a payments and renewal function. It’s just passed the the Digital by Default Service Standard beta assessment and we’ll be releasing this as a beta service in the next few weeks. The next stage is to get the service to live.

But most importantly we want to share the lessons we’ve learned, and will continue to learn, across the Environment Agency and DEFRA.

You can find the Waste carrier registration service here.

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