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Operating a live service

Services are end-to-end user journeys that allow our supporters and clients to achieve what they came to us for. We have teams who create services and other teams who operate them.  

A foundation of Shelter’s approach to operating live services is that completion of creating a service does not mean the completion of our work. We don’t leave things unattended once they’re live.

Most services stretch across a number of channels (ways of accessing our service, content, or tools - or communicating with us). We're focusing here on the digital elements of services, although all Shelter services have non-digital elements as part of the full user journey. 

Graphic showing the 'operating a live service' part of Shelter's digital lifecycle

The role of content in a service

What operating a live service involves will depend heavily on the type of service. A team operating a service of support through content such as written information would consist largely of content designers, whereas a team running a webchat advice service will consist mostly of housing experts providing one-to-one advice. 

With a content-driven service, the content needs to be managed through a cycle of measuring and monitoring, maintaining and iterating. This cycle will then often inform future planning, helping generate new opportunities and ideas.

Teams that operate services do so often with support from other disciplines like marketing, user research and service design, as well as cross-functional product teams that can develop new features, products or services. 

Example of a Shelter online service:

Screen shot of Shelter's tenancy rights checker

Measuring and monitoring a live content service

To measure how a content-based service is performing, a team focuses on how well user needs and business goals are being fulfilled. Quantitatively, analytical metrics for these usually include:

  • length of online visit

  • where website visitors came from

  • which other information they may have looked at

  • signs that users didn’t find what they needed (low time-on-page, exit rates etc)

  • search data

There may be other specific metrics, for example assessment tool completion rates, depending on the service.

Qualitatively, we speak to users through various feedback routes including user testing, and gather data to understand whether our individual pages, sections or journeys are working. 

Performance monitoring is the process of following measurement, trending over time or in comparison with other services, normally captured on a dashboard. Service-operating teams have custom dashboards that display a number of specific, agreed metrics.

Many of these metrics will have benchmarks to be met or exceeded. Benchmarks are established either by the service team or business, or sometimes by an external body such as a government department.

Sample screen capture of Shelter's weekly digital health report

An example of a performance dashboard

Maintaining a service

For the team operating a service, maintenance is the ongoing process of keeping content consistently relevant, useful and accurate, and thus as high-value as possible for users. Inaccurate or outdated content not only reduces user confidence in the service, it also reflects poorly on the Shelter brand.

Since many Shelter services provide advice tied to government policies and regulations, as these change, so does our content that explains them.

Content maintenance also means identifying ROT:

  • Redundant - content that is:

    • no longer needed - for example, specialist advice following a local emergency

    • duplicated elsewhere on our website, creating potential confusion for users

  • Obsolete (or outdated) - content that:

    • is time-sensitive such as event details

    • conveys outdated information such as an address or phone number that’s changed. This also covers external links - for example, if an external site’s page URL changes

    • is about people we’ve helped whose consent to use their story has expired

  • Trivial - content that doesn’t add value for users. This could be a rarely visited page or rarely-clicked button. Measurement usually reveals what is trivial

Service iterations and pivots

Iterations tend to be small changes and additions. At regular intervals, a service-operating team will review whether a service is still meeting its goals. Usually, small strategic corrections - in content or UX design - are enough, informed by the team’s product/service strategy and plans.  

Sometimes a service requires a radical shift in service goal or direction, which we call a pivot. Or if that’s not enough, at some point the service needs to be retired. 

Teams that operate services work with product teams to validate the need for a pivot and identify the right one. For us, typical pivots of services are:  

  • Expanding one user journey or feature of the service to become its main component, with other features being retired (Zoom-in pivot

  • Supplementing the journeys or features you considered the core of the service with additional journeys to meet user need (Zoom-out pivot

  • Reconsidering the business model of user journeys, for example high margin/complexity and low volume or low margin/complexity and high volume. This often involves a shift to additional channels (Business architecture and channel pivot

  • Shifting to a different technology architecture, to reduce operational cost or increase efficiency and better meet user needs (Technology pivot

The term pivot comes from the Lean Startup, a methodology that has transformed how products and services are built and launched.

Read the definition of pivot and other digital terms in our digital glossary.

Who delivers these steps

The responsibilities of measuring and monitoring, maintaining and iterating a service normally belong to content managers within the operating teams. They might turn to specialists for delivering certain aspects, such as digital analysts for measurement or product teams for technical iterations.

Other phases of the lifecycle

Creating a live service

Future vision and business planning

Contact us about the digital framework

Have a question or comment? Found a bug? Or maybe you’d like to contribute to the framework? Use our contact form to get in touch.

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