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How CYB helped a government service reach 99.75% processing rate

Working with the FCDO on Emergency Travel Documents, CYB were able to improve the percentage of straightforward ETDs issued within 48 hours from 83%
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John Drinkwater

Performance Analyst

09 Nov 2023

When Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB) were tasked with improving the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) service for Emergency Travel Documents (ETD), the initial brief was to increase efficiency to make it easier for FCDO staff to cope during peak demand. 

Yet since launch, we also found that the ETD service (used by Brits abroad who have lost their passport) has seen the number of straightforward cases - those processed and issued within 48 hours of applying - go up from 83% to 99.75%. That’s a huge increase in compliance - the service succeeds in making it quicker and easier for users to get the help they need at a particularly stressful time. 

How did CYB achieve that? By working with the FCDO to apply performance analysis methods for operational improvement - identifying and fixing causes of rework and resource waste, applying research learnings and ultimately implementing technical changes.

CYB’s associate Senior Performance Analyst John Drinkwater explains....

Identifying rework and resource waste 

The process of managing applications for ETDs follows a flow very common in government services:

  1. first checking information and documentary evidence provided by applicants

  2. then corresponding to request any further required information or evidence

  3. finally processing the application to determine an outcome before arranging delivery

So our first step was mapping of the process and identification of potential instances of rework or waste. Rework is effort that repeats any step in the process, for example asking for information or documents that were requested but not provided, or follow-up questions.

Resource waste is unproductive effort, for example time taken to hand applications between staff for processing. This was a significant issue we had to face. As can happen in systems and processes developed over time in rapid response situations, there was lots of waste due to cases being dealt with by multiple agents at different times. 

When more than one agent works on a case end-to-end, you inevitably get issues with:

  • the additional time and effort costs of refamiliarization

  • context switching - having to focus and refocus on different tasks 

  • the constant rework - the fixing of mistakes etc

  • time and effort lost on questions and clarification 

If that is the situation, you end up with more over effort in your quality checking, which again wastes time. 

Understanding user types and user journeys 

To solve these problems, the CYB team decided to upgrade data collection systems to enable better understanding of processing and contact staff behaviour, identification of issues that impact performance, and sizing of opportunities for improvement. But, crucially, we also gained a better understanding of the people we were trying to help - the users.

My colleague and CYB’s Head of User Research, Katie Alden-John, wrote a detailed blog on how exactly we did this by using validated user segments - in short, by identifying the different user and journey types. Our user research gave us an idea of different user types and journeys that weren't previously available, allowing us to ask questions like - are they a solo traveller? Is it a family? Are they travelling from and back to the UK? Are they backtracking through multiple countries?

From there, we could start to identify different groups from the available application data set and case notes, which gave us a great insight into who was using the service, why, and how their needs differed. 

Implementing policy, operational and technical changes

Next the team worked with operational and policy teams to design and implement a number of policy, operational and technical changes to eliminate or reduce the root causes of rework – updating policies to simplify the process while maintaining policy intent, updating guidance for processing staff to reduce errors, and improving the online application experience to better collect information and evidence needed for each application.

Once these initial changes reduced the frequency and range of rework, we designed and supported implementation of a new operational model to reduce staff task handover and context switching, further reducing delays -  increasing target compliance to 99.75%. This was a fantastic result for the team - especially given our initial aim was not to improve compliance, but efficiency, especially during peak demand. 

Staff are happy with a big upgrade in their capabilities; stakeholders are delighted with such an improved success rate; and of course, users also feel the benefit of a new, improved service which will help them at a stressful time. 

Next steps 

But that is not the end of this journey. We feel there are big opportunities for further improvement to the service both pre-and-post-application, including a redesign of the applicant interview process and an improvement in efficiency for the ETD collection process - which we feel could use AI document processing.

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