Before you choose software or set up any processes, you will need to understand three types of needs
Understand the needs of people who will use your service
Define who will be using your service (the people you want to support). Talk to them. User interviews are usually the best place to start. Ask them
about their digital behaviours
what they need from a service
what ways suit them to communicate with a service
what might stop them using a service (barriers to access)
Build in your safeguarding process from the start, especially if you will be communicating with vulnerable people.
Understand the needs of those who will run the service
Talk to those who will deliver the service, such as caseworkers or support workers. Ask them:
what core functionality they need from a service
how you could send and receive messages
what CRM integration needs they have, such as how data should be stored and shared.
anything else they might need to run a service.
You can do this through:
Understand what data the service needs to collect
Ask the question: “What information do we need to find out and record from people using the service?”
Start to gather your requirements, for example:
how and what data should be recorded
how cases are tracked and managed
what data you need to report on
if and how notes and transcripts should be available.
Run a data protection impact assessment to be clear on what data you are storing and why you need it.
Action for Children conducted a research programme with young carers and families to understand their support needs. They found that young carers were not putting their own needs first and they did not want to overload carer services or mental health services. In response, Action for Children proposed to offer a service where young people could get emotional wellbeing support in a convenient way by talking about their lives in safety, confidence and anonymity if necessary.
The service needed to be:
possible to validate quickly
easy to roll out without a lot of upfront dev work
easy to access for young people, allowing anonymity.
Through user interviews, ideation and prototyping, Action for Children decided to pilot an SMS helpline service for young people. They chose Twilio for SMS as they were already using the platform and it offered integration potential with their CRM.