Posts tagged ‘public sector’

The public sector tends to organise in very similar ways and wrestle with very similar questions. Increasingly, as technology advances they are wrestling with questions like:

• What is our digital strategy?
• Where should our Chief Digital Officer sit?
• How do we manage digital in comparison with legacy IT?

After a number of years of deep engagement with ICT sections of small and large public and private sector organisations we’ve come to the realisation that these are increasingly the wrong questions to begin with.

Digital has matured. Digital is real. Digital is not an app. And it is not an add-on.

Digital is the underpinning of the service relationship organisations have with their customers and clients.

The question isn’t “where should our Chief Digital Officer sit?” The question is, “By understanding that digital is embedded and enabling our entire business, what is our service offer?”

In this, the first of three related posts, we explore how we have seen the notion of digital evolve – from front-facing ICT component to business and service strategy driver.


The Evolving Digital Definition

As recently as last week we were in a room listening to a senior ICT Executive presenting on the differences and separation between his and the digital world.

While his views seemed to sit well with much of the IT-leaning audience, we firmly believe that the idea that digital is the outward-facing part of technology, or a ‘blue-sky’ technology strategy, has shifted significantly.

The digital promise has become the business reality.

The introduction of digital as a concept historically was positioned as a way of refining an existing, under pressure ICT model. Where ICT had been seen as a reliable but large and hard to navigate enabling capability for the delivery of services, the digital promise embodied the speedy, competitively advantaged, ‘responsive to customer world’ capability that business was looking for. Business needed this kind of technology response and ICT also needed this view of digital to reinvigorate investment outside of large legacy funding.

Digital has now evolved even beyond the legacy ICT ‘cut through’ that it was first introduced as. With the evolution and refinement of what comprises digital it has now moved to process and strategy. Digital is increasingly less important as a separate technology option and more as a service strategy – a business strategy.

The importance of this evolution, within a context of existing (probably for some time to come) legacy ICT and large infrastructure, is as much about the ‘business’ understanding that it is the master of digital, and the ICT section just happens to be its technology home.

Business isn’t the ‘user’ of digital. Business IS digital.

This realisation that digital is now the business reality, due to maturity and embedded digital practices within the business, is also as critical as the emerging realisation that business is still about service (a staff and client experience).

In the evolved digital model, digital isn’t simply the automation of a historical process on a device; it is the reconsideration and reinvention of the relationship with the customer before that interface is even designed.

 

Services enable a customer to achieve their goal

For a public service, that goal is hardly ever the resolution of the immediate service itself. The service exists to allow the customer to:

  • Access something
  • Do something
  • Confirm something
  • Meet an obligation that’s an input to something bigger such as how they live their life or within their family’s life.

The decades-old introduction of service design and organisational co-design intent has meant we’re able to better describe the customer and user needs in the context of how the organisation is set-up to deliver on that articulation. Balancing what’s desirable (human factors), viable (business factors), and feasible (technical factors).

Our professional experiences at DMA have been working at a time where online, on-the-phone, at-the-counter channel strategies were critical for an organisation to make sense of services and service delivery.

But the mantra of “IT can do anything you want – just describe it” sat uncomfortably with the reality of “we can’t change the wording in that letter because it’s hardcoded in the system, so we’ll need to develop a workaround”. Until digital became a watchword for improvement, this view hadn’t changed that much.

As digital has matured, we see it less as an opportunity for ICT improvement and more as an evolution of the very definition of the service.

 

Digital changes the transactional nature of services to ‘interactional’

For a service delivered by an organisation to take advantage of digital being embedded the definition of service needs to move:

  • From a transactional service – “We offer the following services, which then means we have a service delivery commitment and our clients respond to the service”
  • To an interactional service – “Because digital automates and can prepopulate data, we enable our customers to manage the service to achieve their outcome from whichever direction they choose to approach it”.

In this definition, resolution of the customer need – via the service – is supported by data, history, automation, accuracy, feedback, access etc.

In ‘interactional services’, the evolution of digital is integrated across business and service strategy, (not as an ICT add-on):

  • Customer decision-making is supported (choose this, buy this, consider this, compare this, complete this, confirm this).
  • Steps and actions of the decision-making are automated in real time (we’ve done this, you do this, now this, now you’re here, you’re done).
  • Support is within the customer’s own context (their device, their patterns of interaction/transaction/enquiry).
  • The customer for their part, affords the service deliverer permission to change, evolve, improve, even get rid of the service.

And importantly, staff have the technology, business processes and permission to support this service approach (through changed management models and performance measurement).

This is critical, because as important as the early digital promise has been, organisations aren’t in business to be digital.

They are in business, or exist, to deliver services, and in a complex service system that means digital can inform how customers interact, how the organisation interacts and is supported, and how a business-eye is always kept on “what’s next”.

Only once digital is acknowledged as ‘the’ business delivering interactional services, can the organisation evolve beyond the business/ICT construct and the transactional service delivery model with clients.

 

 

If digital moves beyond technology, what does it move to?
For us, from a public sector service design perspective, digital is the realisation and representation that public services (regardless of channel of delivery) ARE user-, data- and then technology-driven.

A mature digital business is one where there is no demarcation between the business and ICT, because digital has blurred the lines between business process and technology, and this is actually being driven by what people need from a service in order to comply, not what internal organisational units think is required or policy positions set out.

Good digital businesses already use technology to enable outcomes and enable people to appreciate their services (think SmartGate at airports) – future digital businesses are using a digital mindset to ensure the people seeking outcomes are, and can, inform and drive the service focus, design and outcomes. And in doing so, this mindset is no longer ‘digital’, it’s just ‘good business’.

When digital has been done right organisations have focused on responding to user needs. Digital is not a channel. It’s how organisations organise run and deliver their business. It’s how organisations interact with their customers. It’s how staff and stakeholders interact within and into their organisations.

 

Service-Led
The evolution of the new business reality in terms of the digital promise leads naturally to the question – so what does lead the organisation if digital is now just ‘how we work’?

We believe that it is not about an organisation being design-led, or becoming a digital organisation, or innovative for innovation’s sake.

It’s about public sector organisations being truly service-led.

As service designers we can see – and our experience in complex ICT helps us understand uniquely – that the intention for customer-led, co-designed, joined-up service experiences and the need for ICT to enable that utilising digital has a gap that digital strategy and Chief Digital Officers haven’t been able to fill to this point.

Whilst digital has been seen as an ‘add-on’ or a new thing, it has been exactly that – an add on. But the digital strategies of the future are actually business strategies – that assume the digital promise has been met and that the power of the digital promise is inherent in the services offered.

To explore this our next post will look at what interactional services and the new business reality means for the public sector organisation.

 

 

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Rare is the opportunity to come face to face with a reflection on theory-in-practice in a business setting.

A design, by its very nature is a strongly evidence-based and explicitly documented theory on “what you could and probably should do”. But no matter how strong the evidence base or compelling the insight and documentation, the client and environmental circumstance often makes the choice about what actually happens.

Over the past four years, we have worked with a large ICT Group who has been through much change, all of it intended to connect them as an internal enabling group to the customer and service-oriented world they operate in. Importantly, all of the change has been driven by a service design approach.

The hard work of moving from design (why and what do we need to do) through build (what we need to make) and implementation (making it operational) may be endorsed by top layers of management – which is absolutely critical – but the reality of the day-to-day is often led by those at Team Leader and EL2/Director* level. Those who have to do their jobs, lead their teams through the change, as well as cope with the change.

With service design, this is why we insist on those people being part of the design team itself. As we’ve said before, we believe, if you’re pragmatic designers the value of the design to the client is that it can be made, and that they, themselves, can make it. But as Yogi Berra said:

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice there is.

As part of a recent workshop to engage the final area of the Group with the design they had been involved in shaping and work through next steps, we invited leaders from the middle-management (EL2) level to share their experiences after nine months of living and operationalising the design in practice.

Importantly, we asked them not to talk about what was in the design (value propositions, work flows, roles and responsibilities, etc), we asked them to share their experiences of ‘the design’ with their peers in the room about to go through the same thing.

Some of the highlights of what they shared included:

  • Some things you design don’t happen, but as a “not yet”, not “not at all”.”
  • Try things out before you embed – you will find adjustments to work, to the plan, to the vision.”
  • “See it working to make it work, that way you can evolve and fine tune.”
  • People will want to see an org chart, but do things in bite-size chunks so people can also see how you’re moving towards being service-oriented.”
  • We needed to make it work, but the design allowed us to translate the Executive vision into reality.”
  • “A final reflection for where I know you guys are, be patient – this stuff really does evolve.”

From our own reflections, we were able to conclude

  • The design met, and continues to meet a service intent.
  • The business and customer goals are being met – even as they evolve over time.
  • The elements of the design we knew to be most important – value proposition, design principles, conceptual framework – stayed true. While they were possibly the most visionary elements at the beginning and hard to connect with for some of the Team Leaders, the vision provided the common reference point for the leaders and practitioners to stay on track, adjust and evolve.
  • The process of engagement and true collaboration is critical so that the output isn’t the only thing remembered once build starts.
  • Never be afraid to invite the voices of past design work in.
  • When you do invite the voice in, let them talk as peers, not through you.

To be honest, when we asked our design collaborator in, we were a bit nervous. Our speaker had come from one of the most complex and impacted parts of the ‘new’ business. But we needn’t have been nervous – her words spoke of experience, and good or bad that’s at the heart of the design and the heart of the reflections we needed (and all designers should hear). Moreover, in light of some recent ongoing commentary about mediocrity in IT leadership in the public service, we needn’t have been worried because we are fortunate enough to work with these kinds of capable and brave public servants all the time.

*EL2 means and Executive Level employee in the Australian Public Service.

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POC

With an election campaign underway in Australia there has been a lot of talk that seeks to distinguish between the private and public sector.

On one hand, the incumbent Government has started a public dialogue about the delivery of Government services by the private sector; the other side of politics is focused on highlighting the outsourcing of key Government services to the private sector as a risk – even making part of its platform a focus on looking closely at “consultant and contractor fees” paid by the private sector.

Without taking sides in this political debate (we’ll leave politicians to the argy bargy and focus instead on how to design services better for users of government services), we have been reflecting on just what the ‘private sector’ means to some people. Because it isn’t one single, definable, generic thing.

When it comes to the intersection between government services and private service deliverers, there are many active groups:

  • The large commodity providers.
  • The small and medium commodity providers.
  • Generic business consultancies.
  • Specialist service agencies.
  • Outsourced service providers.

All quite different, each with a role, each offering something and at the same time requiring strong public sector management to deliver quality outcomes. But none especially ‘evil’, or ‘untrustworthy’ just because they are private.

As private practitioners ourselves, we’re always looking for inspiration and sources – be it public sector design, industrial design, graphic design. From our perspective, if you wanted your government services designed and built, why shouldn’t you expect they be as beautiful and useful no matter where they came from. For example, imagine the outcome if one of our favourite sports designers, POC designs approached a complex public program with us and a Government collaborator.

Surely the best of both sectors should deliver for people – it’s what we do every day.

 

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digital

The digital steam train (or is that light rail) continues to career ahead. Every day Ministers, Department Heads, policy officers articulate the need for services to go digital.

A significant part of our work is looking at digital services strategically and developing digital services for clients. As we are currently in the headspace because of a digitisation project across the broadest of customer groups who regularly interact with non-government digital products and services, we wanted to capture the lessons we’ve learnt about what digital even means in a public sector service setting.

 

What is a service, What is a digital service?

A service is the seeking and receipt of a specific outcome of a customer/user across a range of interactions and touchpoints over time. The value of the service is as much about the quality of the experience for all the people involved (customer, service provider) as it is about the resolution.

To us, a digital service is simply where any aspect of that service, as defined above, utilises any aspect of ICT to enable and/or deliver the desired outcome to the customer. The value of the service is enhanced by the use of digital technology, not marked out by it.

 

What we think it means when government says it wants a digital service

While there are many areas of government that are digital converts for the right reasons, the drivers that send government to digital aren’t always about the service part of digital service.

The desire for digital services is generally wrapped in the customer-friendly language of ‘access and ease of use’, but invariably the motivation for ‘having a digital service’ seems to still be a range of factors that are very much from the government (at any level) point of view:

  • “We need to reduce costs and digital will be cheaper because the service is online and I’ll need less people.”
  • “The digital service will be entirely automated which will enable (or force) customers and clients to ‘self-manage’ which puts them in charge of their service experience.”
  • “We’re expected to reduce red tape and move things to digital to suit a whole-of-government directive.”

We think that when government uses the words ‘digital service’ it is often referring to transaction, not the broader definition of service. But part of the drive to digital from government must be that it is done for the right reason – a better service experience or outcome.

 

Four* lessons we’ve learned

A digital channel is critical. Crucial. Not optional for any organisation. But we’re service designers, not UXers, nor interaction designers or even technologists. What we see, and have been lucky enough to do when creating digital services from scratch are captured in these four un-ordered lessons:

  1. Digital service not only extends beyond the interaction or channel, it extends beyond what the public sector might even define as the service. This means that when a client asks for a transaction or data collection activity (i.e. form filing) to be digitsed where they actually need to start is by understanding the services system in order to change and improve what the service actually is from the customer perspective.
  2. Conversely, it’s not good enough for the public sector service deliverer to only think of digitising a transaction, they need to think about the designed service within which the transaction is available. This comes from our experience, and from the frustrations of clients who come to us having to build on platforms and decisions that don’t understand how they actually operate or their capabilities. It means the expectation that existing core digital platforms can even cope with the introduction of a range of digital services should be explored early – if the experience is to be a so-called seamless one.
  3. There is a an educated expectation on the part of customers that moving a service online means customers expect to see a corresponding, if not direct, drop in charges. This means service deliverers are dealing with government- and digital service-savvy customers who believe that digital is cheaper for the public sector to run and deliver.
  4. Probably don’t make it an app. This means make it device-agnostic, and consider the volume of transactions and regularity of the use of the service to determine whether the customer is willing to engage with it on the valuable digital real estate that carry around with them daily. Post-script to this lesson is make sure your organisation has a policy of responsive development for multi-device delivery.

 

Digital isn’t the end game, it’s just another in a long line of service game-changers – albeit a huge one. So making sure the service is designed – with customers, users and organisational sustainability in mind – should always be the starting point.

*as always, we have four lessons now, but we reserve the right to learn more!

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DMASnookIt seems like just a last week, but was in fact about 18 months ago, when we found out that one of our favourite designers, Sarah Drummond from Snook was visiting Oz.

After a catch up in Melbourne where we talked all things service design, it became clear that though our approaches and backgrounds might be different, our experiences of designing for the public sector had a lot of common themes – despite practicing in different hemispheres.

We decided immediately to define what these themes were, and started working on a collaborative Think Piece,

Service Design Principles for Working with the Public Sector

Which we are proudly releasing here in Australia today!

The Think Piece explores design approaches, models for design project and capability delivery, case studies on design work, our thoughts about the future of public sector design, and importantly, our joint Four Principles For Embedding Design in the Public Sector.

For both Snook and DMA it became clear that context is everything in public sector design, so things like hierarchy, procurement and the complexity of the public sector organisation itself directly affect the way you can embed design in the sector.

Accordingly, the principles are pretty simple to describe, but a challenge to implement:

  1. Apply design consciously.
  2. Recognise that the public sector is in the service business.
  3. Ensure the public sector has the capacity for design.
  4. Don’t let solutions overtake politics and policy.

The Think Piece is both an attempt to draw a line in the sand on what we know now and a call to arms, from private sector designers to and with our public sector collaborators.

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CommSector

“Co-design is the new buzzword – can you help our members work out what it means?”

And so began our happily evolving journey with a number of community sector organisations such as Youth Coalition of the ACT and ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS), to name just two.

By coincidence, while recently reviewing our website content for a refresh we realised that our desire to be practitioners first was increasingly backed-up by our active role in empowering clients, and potential clients, to understand their role in a co-design process through preserving their own expertise, and drawing on practitioners and the process to facilitate desired outcomes and real change.

 

Our position on “Co-Design”

Co-design is the process of deliberately engaging users of the system, deliverers of services and other experts, being led by experts such as designers, to actively understand, explore and ultimately change a system together.

Our motivation for engaging with groups like ACTCOSS and YouthCoACT and their member organisations is to provide an environment which prepares them with a view of what co-design means from a very practical point of view. In our case that means how co-design as an approach links with our more defined view of service design – but regardless of your design discipline, we are keen to make the point with the sector that design is, just that, a discipline.

Late last year when we saw that the respected ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) newsletter had decided to publish an edition with the title: “Co-Design: Improving Policy and Service Development and Implementation Seeing consumers as active participants and assets”. As we’d just been asked by the Youth Coalition of the ACT to present at their annual conference on a similar topic, and knew interest in the topic was at an all time high in the sector, we approached the Council to ask if we could submit an article.

The article was published in December and provides a short summary of the messages and content we delivered in full at the ACT Youth Affairs Conference.

Our preference for transferring knowledge has always been a “theory through practice” model. This has meant creating material for the sector that seeks to support their aims, and to engage in a meaningful way in an attempt to improve the capability of the sector. Consequently, our desire to educate the sector in a collaborative way has been proven to be a welcome approach. Our slideshow from the Youth Coalition Conference gained views on slideshare faster than any other presentation we’ve done. The article for ACTCOSS has received positive feedback from the sector. And the conversations we are having with a range of community peak bodies and service organisations now are based on a more mature understanding of what a co-design approach involves.

 

The challenge of the community sector

We find that too often the desire for co-designed solutions in the public and community sector leads to processes that are more about consultation than co-design, and rely on generic “design thinking” and business management tools than design discipline. As the funding bodies for community organisations start demanding “co-design” as an approach, we believe empowering organisations with a point of reference for what that actually means ensures they retain their expertise, whilst understanding and having respect for the discipline itself.

We have no doubt the drive for co-design will continue, particularly as funding bodies move more to outcome rather than output measures, and this excites us. We look forward to continuing our relationship with peak bodies like ACTCOSS and YouthCoACT to continue supporting their growing understanding of what co-design is and what it can bring.

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On 13 March 2013 the Australian Government Chief Information Officer, Glenn Archer released the Big Data Strategy – Issues Paper for public comment.

Big Data Strategy - Issues Paper

The call for public consultation

Big data presents an opportunity that service designers such as ourselves welcome. It offers a compelling opportunity as an emerging, but to us, one of many potential quantitative inputs to the policy development and service delivery puzzle.

To be able to have detailed information about the operation of large systems is the kind of base research that underpins much of our work.

We feel though that the desire for big data to answer questions around policy and service delivery should be put in its true place as input, and not as a driver. Public sector policy and service design is much more complex than that.

Data doesn’t make decision-making easier – the challenge of all those involved in improving services to citizens is turning data into usable information and that information into meaningful knowledge for outcomes. Even after you’ve done all of that, you need to design services for people, not numbers.

We look forward to the next developments from AGIMO in this space.

Check out our submission: Big Data Issues Paper DMA Feedback_13-04-05



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Thursday saw the start of something big (we hope) for Canberra – the launch of a local edition of Service Design Think and Drinks Australia, presented by Service Designing Australia.

Service Designing Australia is coordinated by Damian Kernahan and Suze Ingram and is a home for information about service design community events in Australia. The get-together we had was part of a series of informal events the guys run for anyone interested in service design to meet up and share idea, stories and thoughts.

Damien from Proto Partners did a great job of gathering local service designers together (no mean feat from his Sydney base) and also bringing the author of ‘This is Service Design Thinking’ – Marc Stickdorn to town as a guest speaker.

We had an interesting mix of service design consultants (such as ourselves) and public servants from some key agencies at different stages of embedding design in some form.

Marc Stickdorn's book

We were also joined by Dominic Campbell from FutureGov who made it along after appearing earlier in the day at the Web 3.0 conference (and braved a trademark Justin Barrie mini-tour of Canberra in the family wagon).

The event was a pretty free-ranging couple of hours of conversation. Here’s some of Justin’s reflections:

• Service design, and designers in general should embrace other disciplines.

Marcus in particular was very strong (and I agree completely) on the fact that often designers can get defensive of their own discipline and as a result ignore the masses of knowledge that exists in others such as marketing, sociology and research. We should be looking to utilise, link with and collaborate with all of these professions.

• In Canberra we are a little obsessed with influence and hierarchy.

It’s really common for service design discussions in Canberra (due to the large amount of public sector design) to come around to design’s lack of influence over the hierarchy of Departments and Minister’s ‘not getting’ design. Firstly – I don’t buy the Minister line. Unlike Department Secretaries politicians actually have to face up to the public to get their job back and I’ve always found them to have an innate understanding of the importance of customer focused design (and service design).

In terms of the hierarchy issue I simply say, you can spend as long as you want trying to evangelise to senior bureaucrats or you can just make difference at a project level and not worry about it. I know which approach I prefer. And if you get it right people at all levels will listen!

• Designers aren’t resilient enough to force change.

This was a reflection from Dominic on the difference between Change Managers (which he identifies himself as) and Designers. He bravely opined that very few designers have the resilience to force change and revert to an ‘if it’s not perfect it can’t work’ position (my words not his).

This was a interesting take on the discipline, particularly as we had been discussing iteration and collaboration as designer strengths, but in some ways I agree with him. Of course if depends a lot on personality and clearly there are some amazing designers who support and drive change but I think Dom is right that some designers can be guilty of wanting ‘the perfect methodology’, or ‘the perfect design outcome’ and this simply doesn’t reflect the reality of the operating environments of our clients and ourselves.

It also reinforced for me the point about needing to collaborate with a range of disciplines to deliver quality service design outcomes, which is exactly what we set out to do at DMA.

As well as these larger points of reflection, I’d also add these highlights as things I will definitely follow up:

• The use of ‘investigative rehearsal’ as a technique to discuss the heart of a design ‘problem’ sounds fascinating
• The discussion of linking with Universities in Canberra for Service Design networks is very much worth following up
• The discussion once again proved to me, through the examples people gave, that visualisation is a key tool to quickly engage decision makers
• The fact that Marc sees Asia and the Asia Pacific as the real growth market for service design and pointed out Korea as a nation getting it right (time to do some market research)

It was also a highlight seeing a visiting Brit and Austrian seeing their first ever ‘cook your own steak’ indoor bbq ;)

So – some challenging conversation and lots of things to think about. From that point of view, the drinks served their purpose and then some.

Thanks again to the organisers and particularly Marc for leading of the discussion. Looking forward to the next one!



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