In our tenth episode of 15 Minutes With we’re talking to Swathi Rocque. Swathi is a Manager (Senior Consultant at the time of recording) with Deloitte.

Swathi is an experienced E-commerce business analyst with a long history of working in the information technology and services industry and has worked with large scale business and brands not only whilst at Deloitte but also when she spent time at both Accenture and KPS.

In this episode, Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Her unique perspective comes from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.  


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Shelley  00:13

On this episode of 15 Minutes With we’re speaking to Deloitte Senior Consultant Swathi Rocque on the importance of user centric design. Swathi explains in practical terms how we manage and how we balance the real world challenges that we face when user needs and business needs fail to align. Swathi has a unique perspective from her experience in both private and public sector digital delivery projects. Most recently, Swathi has been involved in the COVID-19 response technology commissioned by the UK Government.

Graham  00:45

Hi, Swathi. Welcome to the podcast.

Swathi Rocque  00:46

Hello. I’m happy to be here.

Graham  00:49

Excellent. Excellent. We’re really excited to have you. So can you tell us a little bit about what a user centric design is?

Swathi Rocque  00:56

Yeah, definitely. So user centric design is more applicable when there is demand versus supply. When there is a demand from the users, this is where the user centric gets more important. User centric, has a lot of other derivations. So if you take a user centric design, from the angle of the public sector, or from the angle of private sector, it’s a bit different because on the private sector is where the user centric design closely sit with actual audience and the feedback that comes into the actual use. But on the public sector, it’s the same, but there’s layers of approvals or things that needs to be done before it reaches out to public. So what I feel is user centric is really important, because that’s where your starting point is to understand what the public needs and what the user needs. But sometimes this can get overridden from the business centric requirement, I would say, because the business will say, okay, user needs this, but we have a budget of this, we wouldn’t be able to satisfy the customer demand. So that’s when all the ifs and buts and trying to get the ties down comes into picture.

Shelley  02:06

So is it safe to say that two of the biggest hurdles in your experience have been budget, and also perhaps attitude of the business, particularly if that’s influenced by whether it’s private sector or public sector?

Swathi Rocque  02:18

Exactly. This is where things start sensing a bit different when you’re working. So there might be a product example. So when you take in a private sector, you might have a module or example module that you can sort of envision and you can start building the user centric flow, because you’re not starting from a blank page, you know, who is the audience, and you know, who are your competitors. But when you come to a public sector, this is where things a bit different, you might not have much competitors, no one competes for countries to countries, websites or demand, we do a user centric research. But you wouldn’t be necessarily satisfying the end results, because that’s where the complexity starts. Yeah, this is a user centric flow. And this goes to approval by the time you get approval, users could have moved into another at one stage, I feel it’s a very different feel when you work on both sides, and things are treated differently.

Shelley  03:14

Private sector, is that much easier than to get that understanding at the end user and public sector, do you ever really get a true sense of that audience? Particularly like you say, if there are no real competitors, it must be really, really difficult to get a firm grasp of the user, if you’re trying to create a user centric design, be it for a website, be it for an app, whatever it may be for?

Swathi Rocque  03:38

Yes, because that’s where on the public sector, you start with an empty page, you don’t know what the user needs here. You might sort of get the essence. Okay, this had worked before. Now, we are trying to draw some another line. So for example, we have the COVID application, this is a very, I would say, a very peculiar example, because we didn’t anticipate that COVID is going to come and hit us in such a bad way. And taking that as an example. It was like an empty page, when things got started, the way the progression made was good, but we didn’t necessarily have idea how the audience would accept the design or anything that we are trying to research on. And on the other end on the private sector, you know the demands, so based on the demand trend, you sort of start picking up, okay, this is what the user needs. And this is what the user has gone through. And this is what the other competitors are doing. So public sector, when you’re starting with any new stuff, it’s a blank page, you might have some information, but that’s not really applicable to the end user. This is where you need to spend a lot of time understanding the audience and sometimes I don’t think this efficiently happens. It happens but not an extent of how we do it on the other fence like on private sectors.

Graham  04:56

So is it safe to say that when you kind of compare them, Customer Experience somewhat takes a backseat to business need, right? We’re going we need to gather this information. We want to gather it in this way, because that’s how we want to look at it. And actually, people need to just figure out how to use it. And it’s less about creating a beautiful, friendly experience and go, You know what, you don’t have a choice, you have to use this thing. Just use it.

Swathi Rocque  05:21

Yes, definitely. That’s something I would say is like a strong voice that comes out. In private sectors. If you’ve taken an example of any site, you have for each and every journey, you might get into like a feedback or someone saying virtual hello for you. So for example, you go to Argos site, you browse for two seconds or more than a minute, there might be a pop up coming. Are you looking for something? Can we sort of assist you? So this is where like, yeah, the user feels that they’re not left alone, they have, there are some helping hands when they’re trying to go through their journey. And you can ask for support when needed. But on the other hand, for example, you’re filling up something on HMRC or any other forms, you will be lost, you will have so many questions. So you go to frequently asked question page and you start researching, taking an example of my experience. So recently, I had applied for my extension of my visa application. And visa application extension is such a big work like you have almost like 14 pages of forms to fill in. And it’s an online form, I was pretty much lost, because the questions they asked were some like, yes, I do fall under this particular brand or category. But somewhere, I was like, what does it mean? What is there any alternate meaning for it? So this is why I had so many questions. And I tried to ring every day to the visa office to clarify my questions. But I was not like a happy customer at the end of the day when I finished my application. So this is where there’s, I would say there’s a clear difference, what you expect from each of the sectors.

Graham  06:55

That clearly creates an opportunity for people to go, how do we make this a better, more usable experience? Because ultimately, if you do that, theoretically, there’s less of a need to have a whole bunch of people sat in a call centre answering phones or not answering phones, as the case might be. If you just built a usable, good experience in the first place, you would somewhat mitigate the need to have all these other support systems around it.

Swathi Rocque  07:20

Exactly. That’s definitely I think that’s something it can be in future implemented, or they can think about it. Because if you just go to any other websites, which is owned from the public sectors, you might feel the reviewers if the thing is the best thing is I sort of go through the review comments what the people have added, they could have said, Oh, it’s not user friendly. I lost my time here, I sort of missed the application. And in fact, I was worried that my application would get rejected because there was so many questions, which was uncertain, like I said, okay, yes, for a couple of questions they asked, and I didn’t know the meaning of it. The reason is, they hadn’t given out enough explanation or justification, what does it mean? And the best thing is, I skipped a step. And I just went to the final submission. And I realised after skipping the step that oh, God, I missed the step. And I’m trying to go back and it says, error. So that was like, if I don’t sort of go through the step, it means like, I’m not applicable to access any NHS funds or stuff, because as a visa application, when you’re doing and UK, you got to pay certain amount for NHS, I think for the facility. So I don’t know how exactly, it just got missed when I was doing my application. And I was like whole all over every place trying to call agents and the like the answer what I got from the technical support, or the customer support group was like, if you’re missed, you just need to wait for a case officer to contact you. And then you can proceed with it. It took almost like two months for the case officer to contact me. I was literally lost in that whole process. I would say,

Shelley  09:00

Swathi, I can completely relate to the visa process and all of the un-user friendly features of it. I mean, it’s just a black hole or a rabbit warren of poorly designed non user centric features.

Graham  09:13

But what’s really interesting as well is that both Shelley and I have travelled a lot, right? We’ve been and you too Swathi, we’ve been all over the world.

Swathi Rocque  09:20


Graham  09:20

And it seems to be Well, I certainly haven’t come across any government that’s gotten this right, everybody seems to follow the same design idea of let’s make it as difficult as humanly possible to lead people into corners. And nobody has thought, actually, why don’t we look at what people are doing from an ecommerce point of view. And the experience has been built into that and replicate some of that on the other side it. To us, we obviously work in the industry. It seems like a really simple thing to do, but for whatever reason, no one’s thought about it.

Swathi Rocque  09:52

Exactly. I think yeah, that’s that’s where is the actual gap lies in terms of understanding and the I would say It’s more like educating the team itself like the the whole public sector, I wouldn’t sort of point your point fingers on, the things are working fine here in public sector not. And in private sector things are a bit different. I would necessarily say like when you try to align between the private and public sector, that’s where the experience is quite different as individual what to sort of go through each journeys, I wouldn’t sort of solutionise yes things here, I think it’s more like awareness, like if they sort of take a step to understand what the user needs, because user definitely needs the journey to be done pretty well on the public sector. So for example, visa, this is one of the complex thing, and it’s a very essential thing rather than me going and buying a product from Gucci. And so I want my experience to be well defined, and I shouldn’t face any sort of glitch or any back and forth, which I went through. So I think if they had done a bit of user centric research, they might have got a lot of information. And that could have been fed into the system. And it could have saved people’s time, call centres calls, and also the back and forth messages or the anxiety, it’s like when you don’t get any response. That’s where you start getting anxious. Oh, god, did I do it dry? Did I not do it? Right. So this a lot of things. It’s not just user experiences, the emotion of the user also is tied into that particular thing. So that can be sort of looked after pretty well. That’s what I feel.

Shelley  11:32

And they could have saved a lot of money, right? I mean, it’s, it’s easy when you look at a project and you measure it upfront, and you give it a budget upfront, but like you both touched on earlier, you’re not measuring the after effects, and all of the knock on effects as part of that same project, you know, the cost implication of having to open call centres to answer everybody’s questions, because FAQs and user journey is so poor. So Swathi, I wanted to ask you off the back of all of this, what happens when you have to continue you have to forge on and the design is being directed in a non user centric direction?

Swathi Rocque  12:09

That becomes challenging. So as a business analyst, or as I would say, consultant, it’s quite hard when you don’t understand what the user needs, and you get dictated from business. But that’s a challenging, like, every time when you start doing analysis based on what business needs or user needs, you start questioning, what is the business impact? And what is the user impact? So this is the one of the checkpoint that always I tend to ask for the stakeholders understanding. Are they trying to drive any business needs here? Or is there anything that it benefits the customer. I have been in situation where it’s not user centric, like it’s not actually up directly applies to us or what features we are doing, it’s more like business benefit. This is where complexity starts, because it is okay for business. But when it reaches to the end user, I’m not sure how it will be accepted from the end user. The thing is, there’s a couple of things like experience that I can share, like there might be a fancy website that we are creating and one of the business user says “oh Gucci has done that beautiful USP on their website, can we get that here on our site?”, but the background of it, we haven’t done enough research, whether the Gucci’s product, Gucci’s website has got that USP, there’s more users using it or what is the traffic? Like what is exactly influencing the product? Or is it sort of getting some benefit for them? If you sort of blindly copy what the other products have done? This is where the challenge starts. You’re just borrowed the concept, but you haven’t thought about the background of it, whether it is essential for user yes or no, you haven’t researched from your product angle, it might be helpful for Gucci, but not for you for your website, because it’s a different product. And it’s a different set of customers who’s going to use this. So this is where I feel sometimes when business is dictating what the user needs, sometimes it’s misleading, they could have not done enough research. So that’s why we need a more of user centric research, the understanding and the analysis, whether this requirement is really efficient, or it’s fetches value as a team or as a product to our company.

Graham  14:26

If somebody is going through this process, and they’re trying to kind of balance this out, and they’re going look, you know, this is this is what the business wants, because it looks cool and shiny, and we think we know what our customers want, but we haven’t really asked. What sort of tips or advice would you give to anybody going through this process that would put them in the right track and make sure that they don’t end up in a situation where they build something that nobody wants to use.

Swathi Rocque  14:50

Understand the market demand first. So first, understand what your brand is because you need to understand whether your brand is strong enough in the market. And then understand how the other products actually managed this. I know it’s a bit of research that you need to do with your competitors as well. And the next is your user, understand the types of user that you’re targeting. And based on it, you can sort of do a lot of researches, you can send a feedback forms, you can do a survey, you can actually, I remember, actually one of our clients just literally standing in a mall with the handout sheets, like asking them to fill up the survey forms. So you have a lot of methods to cover. But the main thing is set your product vision and the audience, right. If the product vision and the audience are not right, then I think it’s going to be a big failure. You’re targeting incorrect or a different audience who are not supposed to be as a part of your target group.

Shelley  15:49

Swathi, thank you so much for your time and your insight. It has been incredible talking to you. And it’s been so interesting hearing about the balance between public sector, private sector, and how that influences user centric attitudes.

Graham  16:03

Yeah, it’s been amazing. And I think if the one takeaway that people get from this is to just think more about the users will be in a much better place.

Swathi Rocque  16:13

Exactly. Think more and also try to action it. Not just thinking, put it into action.

Shelley  16:19

That was Swathi Rocque, Senior Consultant at Deloitte speaking to us about user centric design methods, challenges and insights within private and public sector projects. Swathi shed light on the realities that businesses and digital teams face in order to deliver on both user led best practice and also tread the fine line that balances this approach with providing short term gains demanded by stakeholders. To everyone listening we hope you enjoyed this episode, and we look forward to welcoming you next time on 15 Minutes With