The Client Voices Journey

After over a year developing the new and improved version of Client Voices, it seems appropriate to reflect on the entire Client Voices journey which surprisingly spans over 15 years.

CV on CD

In the early 2000s, The New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services (NZFFBS) commissioned an individual developer to create a client management system. This was the first conception of Client Voices.

Two likely reasons for this development are:

  1. The NZFFBS was looking to standardise budgeting practice within their membership
  2. Make it easier for NZFFBS members to provide accurate Annual Statistical Returns (an membership requirement).
  3. Record information the NZFFBS deemed important (Debt information, community education, training etc.)

Because the NZFFBS membership included a variety of different organisations, some with their own Client Management Systems, use of Client Voices was always optional. In 2007, the number of services using Client Voices was 25.

This early version of Client Voices was burnt to CDs and distributed to services using the software. Each time an update was developed, new CDs were distributed for services to install the updated version.

Problems arose when services didn’t run the updates, and an array of versions were active at any one time. Because of this, the NZFFBS determined to develop an online version which would always be up-to-date.

 

Client Voices Online

The NZFFBS put out a tender for a developer to build an online version of Client Voices in 2009. From that tender process, PocketSmith was selected.

Records show the project was funded by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Westpac Bank.

In 2009, Pocketsmith was a new start-up with two developers and their own personal budgeting product called Pocketsmith. What they saw in Client Voices was an opportunity to do a public service and develop an application to support people in financial hardship.

The development was completed and rolled out to budgeting services in 2010.

Development did continue on an ad hoc basis as needs arose from 2010 to 2018. The NZFFBS was allocated 8 hours of development time each month.

Since 2010 Pocketsmith have grown from a staff of two to 15 as their core product has become more popular.

In 2017, Pocketsmith expressed their desire to hand Client Voices on to a new developer, so they could focus more on their core product.

 

FinCap

In July 2017, FinCap was established, and Client Voices inherited from the NZFFBS.

 

The earliest challenge was allowing non-NZFFBS services to have access to Client Voices. There was some concern that the divergence of budgeting practice outside the NZFFBS membership would leave Client Voices mismatched. This concern proved mostly incorrect, and for most of these services Client Voices was far superior to their current systems.

 

FinCap continued to chip away at development work unfinished by the NZFFBS.

In the wake of Pocketsmith’s expression that they no longer wished to support Client Voices, FinCap sought a replacement developer. A tender process saw Boost approved as the preferred developer by FinCap interim Board.

Boost is a Ruby on Rails developer that will only agree to work on projects they believe will make a positive and lasting impact.

Redevelop Client Voices

In early 2018, Boost looked at the Client Voices source code and discovered it was too complicated, fragile and out of date.

When Client Voices was first developed, Ruby on Rails was a new development language, and development convention had not yet been established. Because of this, the code was too complex to interpret for third parties.

Also, the Ruby and Rails versions had not been kept up to date, putting the application in danger of not suddenly working.

It was decided that Client Voices was too valuable to lose, and a new version had to be developed in order to preserve it.

FinCap used the Autumn 2018 Regional Hui to gather feedback from services about what they needed Client Voices to be able to do that it doesn’t already. More than 200 pieces of feedback were received.

A discovery workshop was held by Boost in September 2018. The purpose was to establish the first scope of for Client Voices 2. This workshop was attended by people from:

  • FinCap
  • Four budgeting services
  • MSD
  • Malatest
  • The Commerce Commission

People from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) were also invited.

The hundreds of post-it notes from this session were then arranged in order of priority.

Musts: Features we cannot complete the project without.

Shoulds: Features that we should develop if there is enough resource to.

Coulds: Features that we might consider developing in the future.

Boost produced proposal based on this prioritisation.

These priority levels were relabelled to Bronze Silver and Gold in an effort to make the concepts easier to understand.

Refining the scope

Before development began in February 2019, user feedback from the Regional Hui and feedback from years of user support was used to build a more granular scope. This scope was made up of user stories.

A user story is a tool used in Agile software development to capture a description of a software feature from an end-user perspective. A user story describes the type of user, what they want and why. A user story helps to create a simplified description of a requirement.

The 14 high-level bronze features were expanded to more than 50 user stories.

During the development, the scope was redefined as needed in accordance to the Agile process. These changes were made based on User Testing, stakeholder influence and new funding opportunities.

Pilot

After 14 sprints (26 weeks), we delivered an incomplete version to 13 services that volunteered to take part.

The Pilot began on 24 September 2019 with data migrated the previous night from CV1 to CV2. Almost immediately when Financial Mentors began using it, feedback poured in regarding what was good, bugs and important features that needed to be developed which included reports, cashflow and printing the budget worksheet.

The pilot has produced the most reliable notes on what is needed in Client Voices before we can roll it out to the other 113 services. The earlier you can get a piece of software into the hands of users, the better.

Urgent and Important

All the feedback from Pilot users was collected and a list of Urgent and Important features was collated. Prioritisation of these features is based on how many of each service expressed need a feature.

This priority list was used to continue development from October 2019 all the way through to July 2020.

A large part of this journey was the completion of Penetration Testing, Security Risk Assessment, Privacy Impact Assessment and all remedial work to make sure Client Voices is as secure as possible and totally in line with the Privacy Act. We are very privileged to have the resources and opportunity to bake such high-level security and privacy features into Client Voices.

Full release

Here we are now on the verge of releasing Client Voices to the rest of the roughly 100 services that use Client Voices. At this point it seems appropriate to reflect on successes and things we’re thankful for. FinCap is a small charity with a big mission, and we’re proud to have taken this project so far.

Supporting Client Voices in the new context

It has been no small task to translate Client Voices from its original context within the NZFFBS to a new context where support is delivered equally to all services.

Finding a developer

With help from Pocketsmith, FinCap embarked on a journey to find a developer to replace the unreplaceable Pocketsmith. Our goal was to find a developer to support Client Voices and eventually redevelop it. It was important to us to find a developer that was philisophically aligned with FinCap’s values and could develop a completely bespoke client management system.

We are very thankful to have found Boost, a development company whose values align well with FinCap’s values.

Securing funding

We are extremely grateful for the support from MSD and MBIE. We are also thankful to MSD for helping us secure funding from the Cross Government Digital Innovation Fund.

Without their support, Client Voices would almost certainly have ended in 2020, losing years of insights to come.

Input from services and stakeholders

We are thankful to more than 200 people that provided feedback before development began, and for those who attended the Discovery Workshop.

  • Training and Budget Services
  • Manawatū Home Budgeting Service
  • Christchurch Budget Service
  • Newtown Budget and Advocacy Service
  • The Commerce Commission
  • MSD
  • Malatest

Discovery workshop

We are grateful for the manaakitanga of the four services that hosted our user-testing sessions.

  • Whānau Family Support Services Trust
  • Petone Budget Service
  • Newtown Budget and Advocacy Service
  • Family Finances Service Trust – Upper Hutt

These sessions were invaluable in the early stages helping us to stay on the right track.

Pilot release

Several financial capability and budgeting services pioneered an early version of Client Voices. It can hardly be expressed the difference the feedback from these services has made to the quality of Client Voices.

  • Dunedin Budget and Advisory Service
  • North Harbour Budgeting Services
  • Catholic Family Support Services
  • Training and Budget Services
  • Mangere Budgeting Services Trust
  • Nelson Budget Service
  • Budget Advisory Service (Rangitaiki)
  • Foxton Districts Budget Service
  • Christchurch Budget Service
  • Tupoho Iwi and Community Social Services Trust
  • Te Hau Awhiowhio o Otangarei Trust