This post is my first attempt to set down some of my thoughts on the difference between designing a service (or a multi-touchpoint experience that happens over time and involves the participation of user and provider), and the broader role of design in helping service orgnisations set strategy and organise how they manage their workforce and deliver their service to customers.
I think that the two activities are often confused - and with good reason because they are closely connected and most service design projects involve bits of both. However, I think that there are big differences between the two practices that have lots of implications for how we progress the practice, pitch and manage projects and ultimately teach service design to others.
Certainly, its been useful for me to mentally separate the two out over the past few years, and I don't claim to have all the answers here - this is an initial exploration and I very much welcome feedback and thoughts from everyone, either here or on Twitter.
The bare bones of my argument is that:
1 - There is an important difference between 'service design' and 'design-led strategy for services'
2 - Service design, or the design of multi-touchpoint experiences that happen over time and involve the participation of user and provider, is a challenging and seductive idea/practice for art school trained designers. It sounds like a great idea - design more of the experience a the same time and make more money from bigger projects!
3 - Service design requires different skills to other design disciplines, but it is not very far away from most user centred design practice - the biggest difference lies in the ambition of the service designer to design a 'total experience'. The core practice involves:
3.1 - Problem identification and definition
3.2 - Agreement on a Design Process
3.3 - Co-design (and research) activities with users and providers, either in the field or in workshops
3.4 - An iterative approach to experience prototyping through creative design activities that can take in any form of service touchpoint, including:
3.4.1 - Digital touchpoints
3.4.2 - Physical touchpoints
3.4.3 - People (person to person interactions)
3.4.4 - Business processes
3.4.5 - Marketing and proposition development
3.4.6 - Strategies and plans
3.5 - Specification of the final service design concept and the beginning of traditional design management processes in the case of traditional touchpoints
4 - Service design projects like this way are great for creating a unified vision of a total user experience, but they can not be delivered as total experience designs - they must be divided up and delivered as separate elements and thus can never be experienced as 'total experiences' for the customer.
5 - This is because service organisations are not setup to deliver innovative service designs across many touchpoints at the same time. And rightly so - if the whole organisation had to change all at the same time it would create a disastrous user experience.
6 - Instead, most service innovation happens organically across the organisation, and takes the form of small incremental changes that respond to customer demand. The problem is that this type of innovation is very inefficient (different teams responding to the same problem differently) and in turn creates confusing experiences. Which is why service managers commission connected 'service design' type projects to create a unified vision to work towards.
7 - And we're back at the beginning.
8 - Many agencies that have tried to deliver on big multi-channel mega service design projects (like IDEO and Engine) have realised that the challenge is not so much creating the unified vision of a service, but is in figuring out how to help everyone on the organisation to think of themselves as the designer of the organisation's service working towards that vision.
9 - In other words, the challenge is to help everyone appreciate that their service can be designed, and then to equip them with the ability to design it!
10 - Design-led strategy and capability building for service organisations is a more accurate way to describe this 'service design' practice.
11 - It's very different from the type of multi-touchpoint experience design practice described above (although it requires a good understanding of it, and the two types often piggy back off each other during client engagements) but it is closer to practices like 'management consulting', 'training' and 'change management'.
12 - There are various ways which 'design-led thinking' can help people who work in service improve their organisations and design better service experiences:
12.1 - Promoting the idea of an open design process that turns problems into projects
12.2 - Encouraging work in small multi-disciplinary teams
12.3 - Using the user-experience as the ultimate anchor for decision making
12.4 - Involving users in the creative process
12.5 - Visualising and prototyping ideas quickly
12.6 - Incentivising people to tackle the 'wickedest' problems
13 - A lot of these ideas are well articulated by the 'design thinking' community. One of the best ways to describe this kind of activity is to see it as the reversal of design management - from managing a design to managing as a design activity!
14 - These two different practices - service design and design-led strategy for service organisations - both of which are valuable, have very different requirements on the 'service designers' who work in consultancies and in service organisations
15 - In turn, this has deep implications for how service design is taught and how service designers, service design departments and service design studios position and pitch their practice
Clearly, there's more than a blog post in the argument above, and there's lots missing, not least examples examples examples (unfortunatley most of my Engine examples are confidential) and a lot more detail to the latter stages. and indeed the whole thing. However, I think its best to get the prototype out first, however jumbled and see what people think. What do you think? Is it worth separating these two types of activity out? Can practitioners do both? Do you have to do the first before being able to do the second? Hopefully this will lead to more specific posts in the future!
September 14th, 2009
/ Tags: servicedesign, serviceinnovation / Trackback