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Insightful research and a clear roadmap for Alpha: MCA Discovery

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has an ambitious strategic vision to develop the best digital system in the international maritime sector. MCA’s UK Maritime Services Governance Project Lead Richard Paddock comments: “The MCA aims to be a world-leading maritime organisation, putting our people, customers and planet at the heart of everything we do. Digitising our processes will help us to achieve that vision.” 

A significant part of this strategy involves the development of their new portal, currently dubbed MyMCA, to improve the efficiency, security and accessibility of their users’ experiences through digital transformation. Richard comments: “When looking at the seafarer services area, it seemed quite obvious that this area would offer the biggest improvement for our customers. A lot of the processes and systems are very old.”

Use of a legacy system means services are still heavily manual, executed through email and paper applications. Paired with a vast range of services and user types results in challenging, complex and often frustrating processes. Users would have to extract information from several sources to perform common actions, struggle with inefficient data transfer, or find themselves unable to check on progress of applications without contacting MCA directly.

MyMCA would seek to modernise the MCA’s offering across their entire user base, enabling 24/7 online access to information, and role-based access to help support streamlined, effective user journeys. 

illumo digital and cxpartners won a DOS opportunity to carry out a Discovery in partnership, to help MCA understand the requirements for the new portal.

A Miro board documenting risk factors within the Discovery

The Discovery process

After confirming our delivery goals, we undertook desk research and workshops with key stakeholders within MCA, enabling us to identify pivotal user groups and map out MCA’s business processes. 

One initial concern lay around locating the best-fit service users, ie seafarers, in time to conduct the required research within the Discovery’s slim timeframe. We were able to mitigate this through smart utilisation of the MCA’s network of contacts. For much of the research we used 1-2-1 or small groups, which proved invaluable for deriving rich data, and consequently became a key part of our Discovery strategy. 

Our user research involved more than 20 seafarers/vessel owners with a range of experience, types of vessel and location. We kept MCA informed through daily stand ups, and show and tell events at the end of each three-week sprint, which were widely attended. Communications between the teams was excellent, with the MCA acknowledging our ‘one-team’ approach, and open and honest comms.

The results 

Delivered on time and within budget, through our Discovery we were able to identify a set of eight key user needs, plus five opportunity areas for Alpha. After delivering our findings and a set of recommendations, we worked in collaboration with the agency to build a clear roadmap for Alpha. 

The work from the team has been recognised throughout the MCA, as Richard comments: “The work Helastel (now illumo digital) and cxpartners did during Discovery has helped inform and shape our vision for developing our agency-wide systems, particularly around identity and access management. Senior stakeholders are engaged and keen to see how this project develops and how it will impact our strategic direction.” 

Following this successful delivery MCA is well on its way to achieving its strategic digital vision, and our strong partnership and quality output has provided MCA with a template for success. “We’re really proud of this project,” comments Lead Service Designer Amy Phillips, “and we are able to use it as a demonstration of how these kinds of projects should run.”

Alongside cxpartners and MCA, we continued to work together on the MyMCA portal, having moved into delivery of Alpha. 

“Our business, the shipping industry, and the nature of our work is often complicated and unfamiliar to many people,” comments Richard. “However, the two partners quickly familiarised themselves with our work, our people, customers and our processes, to help us get to where we needed to be.”

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