Ask yourself this:
“Is the service my organisation provides entirely digital? Do I want it to be?”
Now consider this question:
“Do my customers want it to be?”
If you’ve started a digital transformation project and you don’t know the answer to that final question, you need to stop, put down the RFP document, ask procurement to stand down and not spend another penny on a project that’s bound to fail.
Sound dramatic? Well maybe, but I’d rather tell you when you’ve still got the chance to iterate and adapt your strategy away from your business’s next expensive IT failure.
That’s because, for all the buzzword bingo that surrounds digital transformation, there’s one simple truth that sorts the success stories from the rest – those that are built on clear and validated understanding of customer needs work. Those that are not – the ones that are based on a patchwork of fire fighting initiatives or reactions to a competitor’s latest rebrand or the internal views of a steering committee – do not.
Which brings me onto the role of service design in underpinning the most successful digital transformation projects.
What is service design?
Service design, as it sounds, is the process of designing services. Simple, in theory. But, when you consider the myriad of products, markets, employees and processes that modern multi-national corporations have, as well as the endless array of online and offline channels that consumers use, maybe not.
But without over-egging complexity, let’s agree on one thing – that service (and by service, I mean meeting customer needs in a way that they value) is key to differentiating the most successful brands from the ones that are ripe for disruption. Taking that one step further, your service is your brand and the external manifestation of your organisation, which explains why designing it properly is so important.
If you’re not familiar with service design, there are few key principles to keep in mind. My friend Murray Cox touched on these in his blog ‘Why service design?’ last year, but it’s worth recapping them here too:
- Service design starts with a clear understanding of customer need, the discovery of which is best pursued through design thinking.
- Service design goes beyond UX, taking into account all manner of touchpoints, interactions and platforms.
- Service design involves customers and employees co-creating blueprints that form the foundations of transformation and growth.
When you consider these principles, service design’s importance becomes clear. It incorporates all aspects of how an organisation operates. Rather than be put off by the scale of the task though, you simply need to focus on the most important starting point – your customers.
Understanding customer needs through design thinking
Thinking back to the original question, if you do know what your customers want, how did that customer understanding come about? When you dig into it, is it actually based on you and your colleagues’ voyeuristic obsession with a rival’s new app or social campaign? Or is it based on the insights from constant empathy and co-creation with your customers?
Company cultures that adopt the latter approach are built on design thinking, a methodology for solving strategic problems in a creative way that values user needs above all else. While technical feasibility and commercial viability are key considerations, design thinking enables organisations to approach transformation from the perspective of customer desirability.
Thinking practically, that means engaging existing customers and future prospects at the start of the design process with an open mind that is ready to learn through empathy. Rather than holding focus groups with narrow surveys about your product’s features or a new landing page you’ve launched, design thinking takes your ‘organisational ego’ out of the equation.
Instead, through a range of interactive ethnographic methods, it enables organisations to understand and empathise with individual human needs – what is your day-to-day? How do you plan to achieve your goals? Who are your key colleagues and peers? Where do you spend your time, online and offline? Crucially, why do you do what you do?
The fundamental difference with design thinking is that you’re getting to understand what your customers really need and value, not what they think of the products, services (and brand, ultimately) that you have designed for them.
Using service blueprints to co-create solutions
Of course, this can be an unnerving process. Hearing that your customers want, need and value something completely different from what you’ve designed for them might, in extreme cases, mean scrapping all that you’ve done and going back to the drawing board.
But what a rich and fruitful drawing board it will be!
And don’t forget that, if you’ve involved your employees, they too will be armed with an arsenal of customer insights to develop their own personalised service around (did i mention that employee engagement is a major part of design thinking?).
The worst thing that can happen at this stage though is for progress and momentum to be lost, which is why service blueprints are so key. These visualisations of how your customers and employees will interact in a future state is an operational artefact for all areas of an organisation to build their strategies around.
These powerful yet accessible aide memories clearly identify what an organisation should be measuring and why. They also identify the key pain points and opportunities for your organisation, as well as where efficiencies can be made, where innovation will be most worthwhile and where technology investment can bring about the biggest return.
Which brings us nicely back around to digital transformation…
Digital transformation, the effective way
Hopefully I’ve given you a sense of how Pancentric approaches digital transformation projects and the reasons why.
By following this approach, we aim to help companies establish a clear mandate that anyone interested in business growth cannot argue with. In addition, we outline a prioritised list of activity for an agile transformation road-map, which is underpinned by a vision of valuable progression rather than unvalidated investment.
I plan to elaborate on our ‘agile transformation’ process in a future post but, in a nutshell, it is based on what we’ve learnt from designing, building and growing a wide range of online services, products, website, apps and systems over a number of years.
We’ve found that digital transformation means different things for different companies, and also differs across sectors and geographies. These projects can be grand cultural changes or smaller brand oriented redesigns. Whatever the scope though, our starting point is always customers.