Shortly, service design is a method of purposefully designing services through a set process that emphasises co-creation through deep customer research, prototyping, and testing. It is an iterative process that puts the user(s) at the centre at each stage of the process. This is a shift in not only mindset but procedure of how an organisation works. So how does an organisation begin to shift how it designs services and solves problems.
In order for service design to really help an organisation, it must be embedded which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “functioning as part of a larger device rather than as an independent unit or system”. That means that there must be a shared understanding, language, and ability throughout the organisation. This allows people and units to come together when they need to tackle challenges. But how do you get this critical mass of people working and talking in the same direction?
A core team to start
First, an organisation needs to start with a dedicated core team whose job it is to be experts in the process of service design. Ideally, this is more than one service design experts although this is, depending on the size of the organisation, where many start.
The core team’s role is to disseminate through facilitating, training, and consulting about service design t22ls and processes throughout the organisation. This does not mean that this core group of people will be “service designing” or participating in the content of the work. This means that when a challenge arises, they can either help by facilitating the process or to advise on how the process should look. This is a guiding role and those people who are involved in the content of the problem, would lead and work through the service challenge using the tools, methods, and expertise available.
Discover who the champions are
After the core team is in place, their role, in addition to facilitating, training, and consulting, is to look for champions. Within any organisation there will be people here and there that have an understanding and an interest in service design and human-centered design.
Many times, higher education institutions are big and unwieldy organisations. This can lead to people feeling alone or unable to pursue meaningful change through these methods alone. Part of the role of the core team is to identify people throughout the organisation that are interested to understand more and to practice the method more in their everyday work. Once you start looking, it will probably be a surprise as to how many and where you find them!
Training is the key
Training throughout the organisation is also a key feature of embedding service design. There is a need for service design capacity building within all organisations and within all units. What would this look like? It would be internal training on how to use service design to move challenges forward. It would show how to do customer/user research in a more qualitative way, as well as how to properly ideate, prototype, and test various solutions.
The aim is to have a critical mass of employees understand the process involved in problem-solving with service design. This means that no matter where the problem lies, there is the interest and understanding of how to move from point A to point B then to point C, etc. Where different people can come together from different areas to work on one project using the same, familiar, process.
Bespoke project groups
The situation of having a core team, champions, and wider training allows project groups to come together and understand how to work together to solve problems. Each problem will require a distinct group of people to gather – a bespoke approach. But once you have built the capacity of enough people in the organisation to work in a similar way, it will not matter who is needed for the project as they will all be using the same method to move forward. The appropriate tools to be chosen by the group on an ad hoc basis.
These bespoke teams for projects are exactly the kind of flexibility that will make an organisation more efficient and, ultimately, more successful.
Simple but not easy
The process set out above is fairly simple in its structure but this does not mean that it is an easy task at all. What we are talking about is wide organisational change. A change that requires a shift in many parts of a complex structure. But it is also worth it. Using user-centred methods and common processes while including more people in the process, helps everyone to work in an understandable way. It also makes a complex organisation a better place to work by being more flexible and proactive with changes. But most importantly, it allows organisation to be more impactful for both the staff and the students.
One example of deep change that would need to take place is that of how Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are created. Currently, in most organisations in the world, KPIs are set for individuals or units. But this can lead to conflicting outcomes between teams and even colleagues. Whereby one team meeting their KPIs actually leads to another team not meeting theirs or making it difficult to meet theirs. This is because many services are not bound by team boundaries. Usually, many teams are involved in the lifecycle of a service. If you use, as an example, a student starting to study at a higher education institution, that person (even before arriving on campus) touches many different services – marketing, admissions, teaching, etc. So, some of this change would include creating KPIs that go across units rather than within one unit.
Embedding service design methods and mindset is necessary in the pursuit of excellence in service provision in higher education institutions and other organisations alike.
Pamela Spokes works as a Service Designer in Metropolia’s RDI team. Originally from Canada, Pamela has years of experience in university admin focusing on international recruitment, marketing, and the international student/staff experience. With a Bachelor’s from Canada, a Master’s degree from Sweden, an MBA in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea, and her AmO from Haaga-Helia, she is interested in purposefully designed experiences that are centred around the user. Don’t be surprised if she knocks on your door to talk about learning co-creation methods through intensive learning experiences.