#newEEN – digital principles and approach to get there

(Not blogged for a while whilst getting my head around the new job. Picking things up again and republishing here so I have a record.)


Hello. I’m Andrew, digital manager at Innovate UK on the Enterprise Europe Network project in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

(Since January 2015, the Network has been led by Innovate UK in those countries, with 20 other partners across that geography. Enterprise Europe Network’s advisers combine international expertise with local knowledge to help businesses grow faster through tailored support, new commercial partnerships and access to finance.)

I’m excited to launch this blog. It’ll be our scrapbook for ideas, prototypes and progress for digital and non-digital work. For this first post, I wanted to set out the stall for how we’ll improve our digital offering from here on in.

There are a lot of benefits for EEN clients now that we’re an integrated consortium of UK regions and countries that deliver EEN services, with Innovate leading. To realise these benefits we have ambitions for stronger interconnected technology, which will improve the customer experience but also enable us to work smarter. Hence #newEEN in the title of this post.

That ambition may end up with a new website and will certainly mean changes to this one. Consider this website a working prototype that we’ll build upon. I should say the agency behind it has been great. Thank you.



These are #newEEN’s digital principles*

  • Start with user needs (not our own) – The design process must start by identifying and thinking about real user needs. We should design around those – not around the process.
  • Insight led, data driven – We routinely use feedback from users and performance data to make objective decisions about what to deliver and when.
  • Do the hard work to make it simple – Making something look simple is easy. Making something simple to use is much harder, especially when the underlying systems are complex.
  • Iterate. Then iterate again – The best way to build effective services is to start small and iterate.
  • Work in the open – We share what we are doing as often and as freely as possible because scrutiny from users and colleagues makes us a more effective team and improves our products and services.
  • What would GDS do? – We’re following a well-trodden-by-government path where many issues are not new and solutions to them can be reused, as can intelligence to make our own.



Innovate UK is part of BIS, which is a government department. That means as lead partner for this EEN consortium, there’s an approach we, Innovate UK, have to follow to ensure efficient spend on the right solution. That means a no-stone-unturned discovery phase. We then prototype an alpha, test that, and if that works develop the alpha into the fuller service, called beta. We then test that, and so on.


Once we’ve made the alpha, this whole project gets assessed by a Board at BIS (not unlike a PhD viva) against an 18-point service standard. If we pass assessment, we progress to beta, which again will be assessed. We then go live but with the website ‘beta’ badged so we can really test the service. Once everyone’s happy, the badge gets removed. It doesn’t stop there though. Iterative improvements will be made to the live service throughout its lifetime until it’s retired. This might sound heavy handed but, trust me, this really sharpens the product. We’ll come out with something better as a result.


What next?


Starting on the right footing

Our England, Northern Ireland and Wales consortium has set up a comms working group, of which digital is a part. Members are working on a style guide for all authors to work to. Some others are trialling utm tagging URLs we publish, so that in Google Analytics traffic can be apportioned by partner and other parameters. Following successful trial, this will roll out across the consortium. This group will also review analytics data and insight from usability testing to inform tweaks to the current site. Expect blog posts on all of this in due course 🙂


Pre-discovery discovery

Most of my time is being taken up with getting ready for the agile process. Proper discovery will start when we have appointed a supplier. We’re in the throes of business case approval so can’t appoint until after then. I’ve already shortlisted a couple of suppliers from gcloud so the project can get going quickly.

Other things done in readiness for kicking off the project…

  • Worked up user needs that the management team and comms group contributed to and I’ve validated with GDS.
  • I’ll be interviewing participant clients for each group so I (as a newbie) can get under their skin, but also see the robustness of the needs we’ve come up with.
  • Usability testing to identify fixes for the interim site.
  • Configuring Google Analytics so it plays the way it should and benchmarks can be established. I’m also trialling Decibel Insight which looks very interesting.
  • 301 redirects from legacy sites as well as referrals from GOV.UK and the European Commission.
  • Meeting other gov colleagues who work in the SME space. For assessment, I need to be clear how the different propositions hang together to warrant their web presence.
  • Understanding the assisted digital needs of our users, starting off with number crunching that some new friends of mine at BIS are kindly doing.
  • Technology architecture. This is a biggie. Sitting behind the new website we come up with, there will be a customer relationship management tool that needs a lot of configuration. My colleague James has been beavering away validating requirements, writing user stories and data dictionary, and so on, ready for when the agile process can start. CRM is a big piece of the digital service puzzle but isn’t insurmountable. Our biggest hurdle will be APIing partner opportunities from the European Commission’s site. This is an ever-changing challenge. I’m getting my head around it, but this will be the appointed agency’s biggest challenge at Discovery. That and stakeholder interviews to make sure the service we build to meet user needs works for us internally too.

Phew. Long blog. Sorry. Clearly a lot to do. To coin a Mike Bracken phrase just this once… Onwards!

*Borrowed / adapted from Government Digital Service design principles as well as Ross and Matt.