Building a Better SafeMeasures®
March 6, 2017 | Sarah Hesse
“Make it easier for users to find what they need.” Tim Connell, director of application development, scribbled those words on his dry-erase board over a year ago, as he pondered the next version of SafeMeasures®.
SafeMeasures, NCCD’s web-based analytical reporting service, turns human services data into accessible information that agencies use to monitor performance and inform upcoming work.
During its early years, SafeMeasures focused on providing supervisors with timely data to monitor and manage caseloads and compliance. That changed about five years ago when workers in Riverside County, California, approached the SafeMeasures team to request a worker-focused display that would show them when tasks for their clients were due. Our solution was the My Upcoming Work display, which uses icons to indicate the status of various tasks for each client on a worker’s caseload.
The positive reaction to the My Upcoming Work display helped SafeMeasures evolve with more targeted reporting for workers. Thus, as SafeMeasures team leaders compiled a list of technical requirements and priorities for the next version of SafeMeasures, they viewed every potential enhancement through that worker-focused lens: Will this make it easier for users to find the information they need to do their jobs and, ultimately, improve safety and well-being for the children and families they serve?
For starters, per user feedback, the SafeMeasures team knew the service needed to be more mobile-friendly. Users also have stressed a desire for maximum information with minimum clicking, so we developed a few new features that achieve that.
One key to successful development is to test early and often, especially to ensure compatibility on various mobile devices. Ideas that look great as sketches are not always feasible once executed, nor are they guaranteed to pass muster with our users. After months of building, testing, and tweaking, we convened a group of enthusiastic, outspoken users from our client agencies across the country, knowing they would provide honest feedback.
The purpose of this preview was threefold: First, we wanted to show it off and generate excitement. Second, we knew some of our changes could confuse users, so we wanted to gauge reaction. Third, it’s hard to know for sure if users will like a feature until they see it. Our crew of users offered fantastic suggestions—most of which we could accommodate—and helped determine how much support users would need to make the transition to SafeMeasures 5.1.
Next, it was time to get more eyes on SafeMeasures 5.1 by opening a beta version for all our users to test. Beta-testing always results in a flurry of activity. Everyone—from our operations staff, who fielded user comments and questions; to our developers, who fixed and tweaked SafeMeasures as fast as our operations staff could submit requests; to our outreach staff, who developed a suite of user support materials—gave it their all before we officially released SafeMeasures 5.1 in mid-January.
About six weeks later, reaction to SafeMeasures 5.1 remains positive, and we are seeing increased and sustained usage. In our eyes, that means we have met our goal, as scribbled on a dry-eraser board: More of our users see that SafeMeasures does indeed make it easier to find the data they need to help them serve their clients.