Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Building the argument to digitise low volume paper-based services.

GovernmentGo digitalListen and learn


The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) had dealt with the digitisation of their large volume services as part of their digital transformation, but a number of business areas needed further investigation.

We were engaged to conduct User Research (Discoveries) across FCDO Consular Services to evaluate, assess and build business cases for what services should be digitised or further developed, as well as provide technical solutions of how to deliver digitisation with maximum impact at the least cost.

The resulting work was so successful, in particular concerning two business cases, that it realised £500K+ of benefits, resulting in praise from the FCDO Board.


The FCDO had a 'long tail' of offline, paper based and manual services delivered across the globe and were unsure whether this could or should be digitised, in addition the actual work being undertaken was not well understood, and a general overview was lacking.

While the FCDO had digitised their large volume services, a wide range of different international government policies demanded careful evaluation of how to best reduce non-essential interactions while retaining and digitising key long tail services for customers. Creating clarity was a challenge. Terminology describing the services was inconsistent and there was limited management intelligence (MI) data on the exact services, and a fundamental issue of how to make an impact across a global portfolio of small transactions.

What services should be digitised, and based on which criteria of return on investment (ROI)?


Our expert team identified user needs from members of the public and consular staff accessing services, as well as via documents from UK FCDO offices, embassies and high commissions abroad.

We were able to augment the existing FCDO Management Intelligence data with our research, find reusable patterns in the types of services provided, and most importantly provide a coherent picture of the actual work that was taking place. User research very quickly identified problems with offline paper based services, thereby strongly endorsing the approach to retain and digitise a specific set of long tail services and the ‘Digital by Default’ strategy the FCDO is required to take.

By seeking out the few services with common patterns in locations with highest volumes, we devised a digital approach which could be replicated at a low cost and rolled out to any of the other FCDO services in the long tail in the future.


We were able to provide actionable insights by outlining a complete qualitative overview of FCDO consular services and by identifying areas where digitisation would deliver significant benefits to customers and staff in terms of reduced processing time and errors. For example, a new digital approach to “Affirmations of Marital Status” provided in an accessible format, reducing user errors and legal risk for the FCDO.

While the pure financial return for the FCDO in digitising some of these services was limited, we could translate the time saved by FCDO staff into a 50% ROI in pure financial measures (£150k of savings).

The full digital roll-out approach was approved by the FCDO board.