High Speed Two (HS2) grew rapidly throughout 2015 as they progressed through the House of Commons legislative process and began to prepare for construction of the railway. As part of a broader business transformation programme, HS2 needed to deliver information systems capabilities that would maximise organisational effectiveness.

High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd is the company responsible for developing, delivering and promoting the UK’s new high speed rail network. With over 1300 staff employed across four main locations in London and Birmingham, HS2 is funded by grant-in-aid from the UK government.

HS2 commissioned Rainmaker to assist them in achieving a step-change in its ability to design, deliver and operate high-quality IT solutions that would be better aligned with the needs of the organisation and its users.

Client director, Sarah Taylor, explains how Rainmakerworked with HS2 to meet this challenge:

Rainmaker’s solution

We provided a small, multi-disciplinary team to undertake a ten-week user research project, that would provide the data to support all decisions around organisational culture, ways of working and the design and delivery of services.

In collaboration with HS2’s IT Business Analysis, the project team employed a design research methodology focused on user needs and building empathy between users and designers — in this case, users being HS2 staff and partners, and designers being those with responsibility for creating and maintaining the IT systems.

We conducted a series of interviews and cultural probes with over 100 users from across HS2 to better understand high-level user needs, pain points and personas in the organisation. These engagements helped HS2 gain a wide understanding of how and why people interacted with technology and they informed strategic decisions about technology design and procurement.


“Rainmaker don’t beat about the bush. They have been able to tell us quickly what needs to be done, but in such a positive way that it has created fantastic results within the team — real energy, passion and a belief in our collective capability.

The project delivered on time and to budget. As an added deliverable, intended to maximise knowledge transfer, the project team developed a user research tool kit, published on GitHub for the benefit of the wider user research community and now featured on the GDS website.

With our support, HS2 was able to understand itself from the perspective of the people that worked in the organisation and develop a digital strategy which put technology at the heart of the organisation.

As a result of our initial engagement, we were asked to continue working with HS2 to help them implement the recommended structural changes to its digital infrastructure.

After presenting our user research findings, the Sponsor said:

“The team and Rainmaker worked together on each stage to co-create and co-deliver, and I’m pleased with the results. Rainmaker have acted as true critical friends and engaged with the team throughout.

“Everyone needs to understand both the value chain of delivery and their part in that chain. Rainmaker helped us to embed this culture and integrate this thinking across the team. In sporting terms I would call them coaches! But it is real hands on organisational coaching from experts with tremendous experience and capability — and they are not afraid to roll their sleeves up and dig in when they need to!”