Budgeting services better able to help their clients
FinCap is helping some of New Zealand's most at-risk families escape financial hardship. By rebuilding Client Voices, they’ve given budgeting services around New Zealand a next-generation financial mentoring tool.
Because the new tool is easier to use, these services can provide more in-depth support. And, importantly, the rebuilt Client Voices sets the sector up to deliver ever-increasing benefits in the years to come.
In less than six months since the new version went live, 10,000 cases of financial hardship have been addressed, across 30,000 mentoring sessions.
client sessions in 6 months
Delivering immediate benefits
Used by most of the budgeting services in New Zealand, Client Voices is a custom-built budgeting, client management and reporting tool.
To make the tool as easy to use as possible, the rebuild focused tightly on the key tasks that financial mentors need to complete with their clients.
Simplifying Client Voices means that financial mentors can spend more time helping their clients face-to-face.
“So much better...a lot tidier, cleaner & smarter.”
Driving long-term gains
Along with the immediate efficiencies, the next-gen Client Voices is driving lasting gains.
In recent years, the budgeting sector has moved from simple budgeting services to broader financial mentoring. These days, the aim is to build their clients’ long-term financial capability.
The new Client Voices reflects and enables this. Version 1 was a budgeting tool, Version 2 is a financial mentoring tool.
It will also deliver long-term benefits in other ways.
It’s designed to amplify the impact of the services it supports. It does this by gathering data on:
• what causes financial hardship and what can be done about it
• the performance of both the tool and the budgeting services, in order to guide improvements
• the impacts the budgeting services are having, in order to help them attract funding that will increase the reach of their services.
“OMG Rocky, I’m already in love with the new system. Just got asked how many whānau we support in Wellington...I’ll probably get the funding because I could answer the question.”
Budgeting service manager
Reducing the risk of a restricted budget
Because it was used by the majority of our budgeting services, the first version of Client Voices had built up a unique database. Other countries didn’t have this kind of consistent data to guide their hardship-reduction work.
The problem was the application was unsupported and unsupportable, and needed to be rebuilt from scratch. As a nonprofit, however, FinCap had severe constraints on what they could spend to do this.
The solution was an Agile approach. That way, they could be sure they delivered the maximum possible with their limited budget.
Meeting user needs through Agile development
FinCap started by surveying the users of Client Voices to find out what the existing version was missing.
The next step was a co-design workshop. This brought together users and stakeholders to guide the design of the new tool. Because FinCap supports the outcomes of multiple government agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Commerce Commission, the project was a great example of cross-government collaboration.
The workshop built a shared vision for the benefits the new Client Voices would give users and mapped out how to deliver these benefits.
With budget tight, Rocky needed to prioritise ruthlessly.
“One of the things I learnt early on was that we're much, much better off making it as small as possible, having it as focused as possible, and doing that really well, rather than giving into this desire to make it the solution to all our problems.”
Each iteration, he picked the top task they wanted to enable for users. They built the simplest working software to deliver this, which they refined based on what they learnt from user testing.
Releasing early for rapid validation
Once FinCap had the bare bones of the new Client Voices, they did a pilot release to 13 services.
“If we hadn't done that pilot release and just continued building, I think we would have made some really big mistakes,” says Rocky.
Based on lessons from the pilot, the next release went live in July 2020 and is already making a difference.
“I am most impressed with the layout and navigation of Client Voices and its ease of use.”
Passion inspires a powerful collaboration
“I went in with a lot of energy and motivation, knowing that this is a big, important thing, not just for FinCap, but for budgeting services and New Zealand in general," says Rocky.
And this energy was infectious. “Rocky’s passion was inspiring,” says Boost Scrum Master Rebecca Jones.
The collaboration worked because everyone involved — FinCap, financial mentors, budgeting service managers, government stakeholders and the development team — were driven to make a difference.
“Our culture and values met. That was a really important thing for us to have in developing Client Voices,” says Rocky.
Securing the future
The result is a zero-fat, fit-for-purpose financial mentoring tool, tightly aligned to the needs of the sector.
The Commission for Financial Capability has called it “an amazing opportunity to collect detailed, quantitative evidence on the burden of debt on those in financial hardship.”
“I can’t believe we got it to this point,” says Rocky. “I think we've secured the ability to see the impact of financial hardship in New Zealand, probably for the next 10 years at least.”
And the benefits are already being recognised further afield, with the New Zealand Bankers’ Association coming on board to fund the next stage of development.