National Entitlement Card smart ticketing – Meeting digital standards

May 30, 2024 by No Comments | Category Digital Assurance Office, Digital Scotland, Technology Assurance Framework

Guest blog by Laura Johnstone, Continuous Improvement team, Digital Assurance Office.


Some Scottish island citizens are entitled to concessionary ferry travel.  The aim of the Ferries National Entitlement Card Smart Ticketing project was to transform the existing service by moving from a manual paper based service to a digital and smartcard service.


This is the second case study on the delivery of this service and the experience of the service team and their approach to maturing their delivery practices.  The first focused on creating a multidisciplinary team.

Having a robust understanding of the needs of the user was essential to ensure that the digital and smartcard service being created would work, and the transition from paper to digital would be as easy as possible.   The quality of user research was called out as noteworthy by the Digital Standard Assessment team. This case study explores how the team put in place delivery practices to put the user at the heart of service design.


  • From the outset the service team demonstrated a desire to improve the service for all users. The need for user research was known, but gaps in resource had meant that the user perspective wasn’t there from the start.
  • The User Researcher who joined the team in Alpha brought previous experience of working with the Digital Scotland Service Standard (DSSS) and the expectations set out in the Minimum Evidence Framework (MEF). The framework being used by the user researcher mapped back to the requirements in the MEF and that provided reassurance to the service team that they were doing the right thing.
  • The service team undertook a systematic approach to segmenting users by focusing on the barriers that they face. This helped the service team to approach sampling in a more intersectional way and was identified by the assessment team as a good example of user segmentation and sampling.
  • The user centred approach involved the whole team, with collaborative sense making and insights into action sessions. This led to good design choices made collectively, with the whole team kept informed about research insights.


  1. Operating in an agile way, putting users at the heart of a service design, means the approach to providing a service might change and that may have implications for timescales (and cost). This needs to be actively managed by the service team, and needs good governance and communication within the project and to the Sponsor/leadership team.
  2. The approach to some elements of the Standard, for example service mapping, evolved over time and can be challenging for a small team to resource.
  3. A service team needs to understand what user research is and what it might mean. There can be a cultural shift to ensure that the user is at the heart of things, and that cultural shift has to be supported by strong team ways of working.
  4. Outreach and engagement with a small group of users in a remote rural location was challenging. An external recruitment provider had been unsuccessful at Discovery and the team took on the recruitment of participants themselves.  Changing approach, nurturing relationships with stakeholders to help provide access to harder to reach groups was ultimately successful with the team exceeding target numbers, however this was very time consuming.
  5. The value of doing the user research in person was key to success. Part of the benefit in developing and nurturing these relationships is the ongoing role some of these organisations will have in assisting and supporting the delivery of the digital service.

Find out more

The Technology Assurance Framework (TAF) is designed to help prevent digital projects from failing for common reasons, improve delivery and ensure that the lessons learned from previous experience are reflected and embedded in future practice. The Digital Assurance Office are working with organisations to share information which might help others deliver digital projects.  If you want to get involved contact us at

For more information about this case study contact


The Digital Scotland Service Standard first five criteria are focused on meeting users’ needs,  further information and guidance on each criteria is available.

For expert guidance to help you deliver high quality digital services visit the Digital Scotland Service Manual.

The Scottish Digital Academy is the public sector centre of expertise for digital capability and can provide information, advice and guidance on developing digital, data and technology skills to support transformation.  There are specific courses available on working with the Standard.

The Programme and Project Management Centre for Expertise provide advice and support on programme and project management. The Scottish Government programme and project management principles are available and apply to any project of any size.

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