Ongoing project

Strategic engagements and communications tracker

Reshaping how the Army manages strategic engagement information.
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Summary estimated reading time: 2 mins

Overview

Client

British Army HQ: International, Communications & Enagements (IC&E)

My role

Research, analysis, interaction design, user testing, development

Team composition

2x UX Designers
2x Power Platform Developers

Timeframe

3 months

Due to the nature of the client and for privacy reasons, I'm unable to share many artefacts or go in great detail on the process.

The solution

Summary
The Army's International, Communications & Engagements (IC&E) department manages strategic engagements and outputs through audience centric effects-focused engagement and effective comminications activities, spanning internal, domestic, and international arenas.

A strategic engagement is an activity that aligns with and contributes (or can contribute) to achieving the Army's strategic outcomes.
Outcome
A bespoke Management Information System (MIS) to support the management and tracking of Engagements and Communications (E&C) activity and the ability to manage resource allocation. This has resulted in the following:
Improved situational awareness of E&C activity across the different branches
Better understanding of value of information to help prioritise E&C activity
Reduction in manual input and workload allowing for more efficient workflows
Increased engagement across other departments and wider defence
My impact
Shipped full end-to-end service within a short period, collaborating with cross-functional partners across all stages, from research, design, to development.
Conceptualised the vision, ran user research, and defined the solution by producing visualisations of business processes and concepts to provide clarity and direction.
Improved the Management Information reporting capbailities by designing custom dashboards that senior officers would use to report back to the 1 star general.
Streamlined the design to development process with a bespoke design system and accompanying component library as well as being involved with development.

The problem

Strategic engagement information is held in multiple locations by various people, making it difficult and slow to obtain, manage, transfer, and consume. This has lead to the following problems:
Lack of situational awareness on what is happening in each branch
Inability to project resource allocation for E&C outputs
Risk of inaccurate information as a result of many avenues of incoming information
Difficulty in tracking and prioritising workloads
As-is: a fragemented data model
Strategic Engagement and Communications data is manually recorded and then transformed using several standalone tools.
The supergrid only records the name of the event/activity and dates it's due to take place over and is one of many similar spreadsheet trackers.
Backstory
The International, Communications & Engagements (IC&E) department is responsible for supporting the delivery of key Army outputs, whilst safeguarding and enhancing the Army's brand and reputation.

The primary stakeholder for this project was the Policy & Plans (PolPlans) branch and their duty is to cohere all E&C activity, ensuring it relates to wider defence communications objectives and set the strategic direction for the department.

Approach

Discovery (research)
For this project we primarily worked from from secondary research, however, due to a 1 year lag time between the research being conducted and starting this project we conducted supplementary research in the form of semi-structured interviews to validate the previous research and uncover any new insights.

We focused our attention to the branch leads of the IC&E department to understand their business processes and this proved valuable as we were able to rapidly identify pain points and build upon the existing research.

We worked closely with the theme leads from the respective teams, taking a co-creative approach to tailor the user experience to the needs of the different user groups. Our questions were geared around uncovering the following:
What the current process looks like?
Where does information come from?
How do you engage with the current tools?
What has the biggest impact on task time?
Where does the information go?
What blockers do they currently face?
Hypothesis
We believe that a single source of truth for strategic information for information providers and managers will result in increased situational awareness.
How do we make it easier to obtain, manage, transfer and consume strategic engagement information?
Process mapping
One key finding we uncovered from speaking with users was the hierarchical structure of E&C information flow. The mapping shown below was important in helping us conceptualise how we wanted to visualise this information flow and inform the layout.

We mapped out the different M365 tools we'd be using relative to the different stages of the user journeys, looking at what permission models would be applied to the different user groups.
User persona types

Information managers

Permission: Edit
Collate information from information providers and forecast whether it may align with strategic objectives.

Information providers

Permission: Edit
Provide information about upcoming events and engagements that the team can exploit and communicate.

Trackers

Permission: View
Need to be aware or informed of strategic engagements and comms plans and may provide input.
To-be: a streamlined information flow
Our primary objective was to rationalise the number of M365 tools to minimum and streamline the E&C. We workshopped different ideas on how we wanted to make it easier to input, consume and visualise the information to support decision making and reporting.
Information is added in a model-driven app (backed by dataverse), viewed in a canvas, and real-time reports are produced using Power BI.
Proof of concept
We were able to rapidly produce an MVP of the solution using a model-drivel Power Apps interface to demonstrate the efficiency and value of our solution. The tradeoff with this interface is that the UI is not as flexible or customisable as a canvas Power App, however the next step was to iterate and develop the MVP into a fully-fledged canvas app.
Design decisions
The intent with the visuals was to capture a rich amount of information in a hierarchical way with a layout that allowed for easier consumption.
Key screen breakdown
The features I'd like to highlight aren't particularly revolutionary but I can assure you they are impactful in allowing users to fulfil their goals and meet our hypothesis.

Feature

Tabs.

Action

Seamlessly switch between different sections of the interface.

Benefit

Easily follow a simple navigation structure, improving accesibility to relevant information.

Feature

Comments section.

Action

Dedicated area to access comments relating to an event.

Benefit

Unified communication mechanism so that people can keep each other in the loop.