Find the service design sweet spot - balance divergent requirements for optimum results!

Find the service design sweet spot - balance divergent requirements for optimum results!

It's widely understood that good service design is not just how something looks, it's how something works. It needs to work for customers and end-users and it needs to be work-able for those responsible for delivery. So when we're designing, we're not just designing user journeys end-to-end, we're also designing services front-to-back - service blueprints illustrate the whole journey.

Holistic service design therefore needs to balances user, organisational (or system) and technical requirements:

  • What is desirable for users? This is user-focused
  • What is viable for the organisation? This is the business or organisational orientation
  • What is technically feasible?

Each of these criteria are critical to successful delivery, but take care not to prioritise some aspects at the expense others. I like to view them as moving parts that need to work in synergy. Sometimes trade-offs are required, what's right for you depends on the context you're working with, but ultimately these elements needs to support each other rather than compete. Bring these elements together and you have a much more systemic and synergistic solution for successful delivery.

Below is an illustration of how these elements need to hang together for new service design and delivery. I call the space - where user needs are aligned with vision and strategy and enabled through technology - the sweet spot.

Find the service design sweet spot - balance divergent requirements for optimum results!

Understanding your current sweet spot

First you need to understand your existing sweet spot - where you're current capacity and capability people, processes, technology and service delivery meets user needs well.

From a user perspective:

  • Who is currently using your service?
  • How are they using your service?
  • Why do they use your service?
  • What user needs do you currently meet well, partially meet or not meet at all?
  • What do they value or find desirable about your service offer?
  • Are they loyal advocates or are they on the look out for something better?)

From your organisation's perspective:

  • What current capabilities are you optimising to deliver this service well?
  • What are you doing well?
  • Where do you think you could improve?
  • What do employees value?
  • What do you reward? (Are you aligned?)
  • What is the dominant culture/style across the organisation?
  • What is the dominant culture or your organisation?
  • What is the general appetite for change?

From a technical perspective:

  • What technologies are you utilising to your advantage?
  • What do you think you could you be doing differently, that would give you a competitive edge?

Tools that help you understand the intersection between how well you meet user needs with your current organisational capabilities include:

  • User journeys with your existing services / organisation
  • Solid organisational diagnosis supported with detailed service blueprints to illustrate front-to-back activities, silos and/or collaborative networks, bottlenecks, pain points and opportunities

Understanding your potential sweet spot for design (and innovation)

This is what you're aspiring for. You may want to grow loyalty across your user-base or grow your user-base or market share. To do this you need to understand what can drive that growth in terms of what you need to offer to target or potential users as well as what you need to do to differently to deliver this new offer. You cannot change what you deliver to customers (outside-in change) without changing what you do or how you work so you are engaging differently with customers (inside-out change). Additionally, you cannot exploit existing technologies without the appropriate capacity, capability or mindset across your organisation - exploiting technology alone is rarely sufficient.

From a user perspective:

  • What are the ideal experiences your current users are seeking?
  • What do their current journeys tell you about their needs, pain points or what really matters to them?
  • Can you quantify these opportunities?

From an organisational perspective:

  • What opportunities with users best align with your organisation's vision and goals?
  • Do the opportunities identified align well with values or behaviours across the organisation?
  • What's the scope of the change? (Level of complexity and time required?)
  • What capabilities do you need to develop to deliver against the opportunities uncovered in the short, medium or longer term?
  • Are there any quick wins that you can exploit in the shorter-term?
  • Are there constraints outside of your control that you need to consider such as regulation and/or policy at corporate, national, regional or global levels?
  • And are these likely to change in the future?

From a technical perspective:
Technology is a service enabler, rather than the solution in-and-of-itself, so proposed solutions need to be technically feasible.

  • What's currently technically feasible?
  • What's not currently technically feasible?
  • Does some or all of the technology already exist?
  • What needs to be developed from scratch (that could give you a competitive advantage)?
  • How complex (or innovative) are the potential technologies?

Tools that help you to understand your opportunity for change include:

  • Idealised end-to-end user journeys (for targets personas)
  • Prioritised opportunities and how these align with organisational goals, ideally quantified
  • New service propositions, to be tested and validated directly with users
  • Detailed service blueprints which illustrate end-to-end and front-to-back activities, i.e. how the service will work holistically

Exploiting (and growing) your sweet spot for design

Take an iterative and holistic approach to developing insights, evolving the design of the new service and building capabilities for a balanced and synergistic solution:

  • Find the opportunity gap
  • Define your priorities (or bets for ongoing learning)
  • Ideate solutions (that align with existing and/or aspirational capabilities)
  • Test and measure desirability, viability and feasibility directly with users and stakeholders (against well defined success criteria)

Click here to review an overall approach to service development.

Find the service design sweet spot - balance divergent requirements for optimum results!

When the service you deliver is supported by organisational capacity and capability, you are more likely to satisfy or even delight users.

User frustration or pain usually occurs at points where there is a poor synergy. For example, you may understand the user needs but lack the capacity or the capability at key touch-points to deliver effectively. Alternatively, you may have misinterpreted how important some experiences are across the journey and therefore fail to invest adequate resources to drive satisfaction.

You need to uncover the root causes that's driving pain - interaction points end-to-end and/or front-to-back delivery - across the service and take a balanced approach to alleviating and fixing problems.

Find the service design sweet spot - balance divergent requirements for optimum results!

It is possible to expand the design or opportunity sweet spot.

When you deepen your understanding of users you can develop service propositions that are more meaningful and add more value. Think of new journeys as the front-line end-to-end - what a user directly experiences (sees, hears, touches)

When you grow the capacity and capability for learning and innovation across the organisation you are better positioned to exploit these opportunities as-and-when they arise. Think of the capabilities you need front-to-back to deliver the service effectively - the people, processes and technologies that directly and indirectly impact users' experiences (service blueprint).

The key message here

If you were staying in a hotel that had comfortable bed but no hot water, you'd think twice about making a booking. It may be hotel that hooked you in (desirable) but the cold water (capability issues) is certainly impacting your experience! When you're booking a holiday, you may start with a sunny destination in mind as you visualise yourself soaking up the rays with a sangria in hand (what you desire), but if the plane is delayed by hours or even days (capacity issues), it's not an experience you're likely to forget any time soon. (Just ask the people who've been waiting days for their plane to take off from London airports during school break June 2022!). The key message here is that it's not either/or - users vs technical vs business needs - you need balance and synergy across the spectrum to deliver service value add.