UserCentriCafé #11: Ghent's Life-Event Scan

Ghent Cafe

On our latest UserCentriCafé, the host city of Ghent represented by project leaders Sarah Spiessens and Iris Coorevits, presented their life-event scan, a methodology aimed to simplify administrative procedures from the users’ perspective.

Ghent’s approach to simplification starts by understanding that there is no such thing as a user. Users can differ in all kinds of dimensions from language barriers to accessibility and expectations towards the service, these variations impact how each user experiences the service. So, simplifying means being user-centric throughout the whole process. Putting yourself in the place of the user at the start of a life event in order to reach a broader perspective, not just of the service, but of the life event itself.

The life/business event refers to an important event or situation in the life of a citizen or entrepreneur where they are in contact with different public services. The “scan” method offers an integrated and overall approach where the city administration works together with the teams and departments involved in each specific service, by starting from and focusing on a user-centric perspective. Ghent’s life-event scan method usually takes around three to four months where, using different methodologies, they are able to collect a wider range of insights and feedback to transform them into a list of opportunities for improvement of their services.

There is a specific criteria to select the life events before undergoing the scan which include relevance, complexity, support for change and likeliness to succeed. On the other hand, some of the methodologies used during the scan are for example assessing the opportunities and their feasibility plus impact, interviews with users and stakeholders, customer journeys per persona, workshops, modelling processes, observation at the city counter and benchmarking other cities.

At the end of the scan, the list of opportunities to improve the services, collected via the different methodologies is evaluated according to how big the impact can be and how feasible the action, to be then translated into a plan of action which requires ownership from the teams and departments responsible for the service.

Ghent’s approach has already provided them with some valuable lessons learned on how they can improve the method. Every scan is different and needs a customised approach depending on the situation and context. There is also a need to check the preconditions from the get-go and differentiate a mini vs maxi scan depending on the scope and time availability. Furthermore, it is fundamental to have a support base by validating the appropriate approach at the start by a higher management level and determining the preconditions, with a clear understanding of the roles and commitment of the various teams involved.

As for next steps, they are aiming for an even more integrated approach, securing alignment of the different stakeholders, while also involving and engaging more real users through co-creation sessions. Ultimately, the idea is to spread the overall insights and lessons learned to inspire a city-wide approach.

García-Blásquez Lahud
5 April 2023