The Hansard Services team at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia is responsible for producing, broadcasting and publishing reports of the debates and proceedings of the legislature and its committees, as well as other related products and services. These products and services are essential for the functioning of the democratic process. They are also invaluable sources of information for government officials, the legal community, civil society groups, researchers, journalists, educators and the public.
However, we wanted to know more about our stakeholders and their needs and test our assumptions and anecdotal information, so that we can better allocate resources and have data to back-up requests. We had often heard from government officials, colleagues at the Assembly and members of the public that they were impressed with the quality of the products and relied on them for their work. However, anecdotes are hard to include in a budget request and are a thin basis for sound decision-making.
Therefore, we decided to conduct a stakeholder analysis and a survey, to gather more systematic and reliable feedback on our products and services. We also wanted to identify areas for improvement and innovation.
The stakeholders involved in any project or process can be put on a graph, with their interest in the project on one axis and their influence over the project on the other. Broken into quadrants, this puts people with high levels of interest and influence in the top-right quadrant. There may be far fewer of these people but they are important to identify and understand.
To start, we set out to interview a selection of these high-interest, high-influence stakeholders. These stakeholders included internal staff—able officers, law clerks, librarians, researchers, indexers—as well as Ministry staff, academics, journalists and representatives from the legal community. We relied on the professional contacts of Hansard and Assembly executive staff and over the course of a few months, several agreed to come in and speak with us directly. They told us that they relied on our products and services to do their work, but we also heard that they did not understand our mandate and services, our deadlines and priorities. Even our most sophisticated stakeholders who are using our products and services daily did not have a clear understanding of what we do and why.
This was a surprising and valuable insight for us. It showed us that we need to do a better job of telling our story and explaining how we operate and what we offer. It also showed us that we need to provide more guidance and training on how to use our tools most effectively. For example, the index is a complex but highly useful tool that allows users to search and browse Hansard transcripts by topic, speaker, item of business and so on. However, many of our stakeholders were not aware of this rich resource.
The stakeholder analysis was a qualitative and exploratory exercise that gave us some rich and nuanced information. However, we also wanted to collect quantitative and generalisable data from a larger and more diverse sample of our stakeholders. Therefore, we developed a survey in consultation with R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd, a professional research firm. The survey was conducted online by the firm between April and June 2023, during the end of the spring sitting of the Legislature. Approximately 300 responses were obtained from various groups of stakeholders including MLAs, political staff, non-partisan Assembly staff, government officials, members of the legal community, the media, academics, educators, students and the public.
The survey asked respondents about their awareness of, use of, satisfaction with and preferences regarding our products and services as well as their suggestions for improvement and innovation. We posted a link to the survey on our website and through Assembly social media channels, and we invited some of our key stakeholders to participate directly.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. We heard that we are providing reliable, accurate and timely products across the board. Our stakeholders appreciate the professionalism and dedication of our staff and the quality and accessibility of our products and services. The survey results were valuable for team morale and satisfaction with the work. As the results landed so firmly at one end of the spectrum, this meant that there were meagre offerings for what we might improve. There is always room for improvement and we were hoping to get some constructive criticism and fresh ideas from our stakeholders. The most common suggestion was to improve the navigation and wayfinding of our website and products. We publish such a large volume of valuable information, but stakeholders want to get to the specific information that they need quickly and easily.
Implications and Next Steps
The results of the stakeholder analysis and the survey have been very useful for us in several ways. They have confirmed that we are doing a good job and meeting the needs and expectations of our stakeholders. They have also identified some gaps and opportunities for improvement and innovation. They have provided us with data and evidence to support our requests and decisions and they have helped us to build and maintain relationships with our stakeholders and to increase their awareness and understanding of our work.
The results of the survey have proven most useful in guiding the redevelopment of the public website rather than Hansard products and services. We are working with the information technology team and the dedicated web team to create a new and improved website that will enhance the user experience and the accessibility and discoverability of our products and services. We are also developing new communication and outreach strategies to better tell our story and to provide more guidance on how to use our tools most effectively.
We plan to use the data gathered as a baseline for future surveys, which we will continue to invest in to identify trends over time and test future improvements and service changes. We also plan to conduct more stakeholder analysis and interviews to deepen our understanding of our stakeholders and their needs. We are grateful to all the readers and viewers of Hansard who participated in our research and who took the time to provide us with valuable feedback and insights. We look forward to continuing to serve them and to improve and innovate our products and services.
Dan Kerr is the Manager of Publishing Systems at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Canada.