How not to fail at Service Design

Delivering successful change in a large organisation can be a tricky beast. It’s often difficult even in a small company, so the addition of more stakeholders, regulations, and technical constraints can make things downright frustrating. We encountered this on a recent service design project which aims to help people make smart choices about their retirement income. We worked closely with our client’s Innovation division over several months, operating in sprints based around a specific design hypotheses.

This fin-tech experience, along with others in related sectors, has enabled us to develop a set of best practice principles for service design in large organisations. These have grown organically as our process is refined but getting them down on paper has helped us to develop and critique our own working practices. We’re always striving to improve our processes as we believe the way we work and our team dynamic is crucial to the success of any product and service.

We’ve pulled together 5 tips to help you deliver successful change in your organisation.

1. Onboard the business from top to bottom

Large organisations often come with a huge serving of politics. There are lots of views on the causes and solutions to organisational politics and we understand its natural due to the range of viewpoints and the sheer volume of people. The more people, the more you will need to balance their views.

Coming across large numbers of opposing viewpoints can become overwhelming but try to turn your experience into a positive one and get excited about the prospect of breaking down inherent politics. A great place to start is to get to know people and understand what makes them tick. It is easier to influence if people like you, so be friendly and listen to their concerns, questions and pain points. There is no better icebreaker than inviting a colleague for a cup of tea as you endeavour to understand their worries, get them onboard and discuss what you might need from them in the future. Who knows, you may even find some shared interests!

2. Understand compliance and regulatory constraints

Innovation in large organisations often needs to occur within the confines of a regulatory system. It is important to understand the constraints and compliance rules around the system or product you are designing. However, we believe that letting compliance rule over your creativity and problem solving is the wrong way to approach things. Instead try to understand as much about the rules as possible in the timeframe you have, but crucially by talking to the right people, get an understanding of why they were originally put in place and when they came into force. It could be that a particular rule was imposed on part of the system because of an old problem that may not exist in the future with the new process you design.

So try to get to a position where you can speak about the rules to the decision makers with confidence and have an opinion on how they could be modified or removed altogether. Talk to Legal, Compliance, Tech and Operations, using your new befriending skills from the point above to get them to expedite your requests or simply share their own experiences of similar past challenges.

3. Never give up. If you fail, experiment again

Whenever possible we run our projects using design hypotheses and experiments. In order to gain enough confidence in the experiments we plan an approximate test duration and user volume in advance, using existing data. We recently ran an experiment and then halfway through we had to remove it due to the business changing its priorities. This meant we were only able to run the experiment with a small sample size, well below the sample we had hoped for in order to gain significant results.

We believe that once an experiment is live, it is always more beneficial to keep it running rather than stop it prematurely, even if priorities change. This is especially true if you have spent considerable time and effort getting it live, as you will always learn something from an experiment. What you learn could surprise you! It might be that you learn something about optimising the process of experimenting itself, or something about your team, or a brand new idea could emerge from the data. It might even be that the insight is useful for something else entirely, so document your findings and learn from them for future potential opportunities.

4. Speak to customers and tell their stories to others

This probably sounds obvious to most, but we’re always surprised how often we see products and services being developed (or even worse, released) that have not had their proposition or concept tested early on with users. With so many ways to test and get early feedback, there is no excuse! From a simple survey to some guerilla user testing, identify your target market and then seek as many of them out as possible. Don’t worry if you’ve little or no budget, testing using low cost methods is fun and can often be the best way to secure budget for more structured research as stakeholders begin to see the value of the insights gathered.

In a large organisation with several interested parties it is imperative you gather insights in a way that allows you to quickly retell the story to stakeholders at a drop of a hat. Don’t worry about not being ready or prepared, just tell the narrative you have discovered to this point. It will create interest and show just how enthusiastic you are for your research. We usually have the skeleton of a presentation in a constant state of flux that way we can add our findings as we discover them and present them whenever we’re called on to do so.

5. Evidence is the antidote

Communicating ideas or processes to or within large organisations can sometimes be tricky to do in a way that everyone understands. We find that an evidence based way of thinking helps to overcome some of these communication barriers.

Using a framework like Hypotheses Driven Design (HDD) has meant research and evidence is embedded throughout our projects. In one simple sentence, HDD helps us to link user needs and their expected actions with a specific metric or ROI. Speaking in terms of hypotheses and evidence means we can start speaking in a language our clients can instinctively grasp and understand.


Remember feedback can come in many different forms, so talk to people, take feedback on board and use it to improve your practice.

Debbie Millman said “If you can make a compelling argument, and win enough minds, and if you can transform various parts of our world sufficiently, then the moment belongs to you”.

If you are in a similar organisation to ours or you find yourself in a large organisation and are tasked with delivering a service change or an improvement to your customer’s journey, then we believe you will face many similar challenges to us, so feel free to drop us a line for a chat — we would love to be able to help!


This little insight was brought to you by Steve Johnson, Managing Partner at Furthermore and Go Jauntly.

Furthermore are a multi-platform digital product and service design studio based in London. We have one mission: to create innovative digital products that stand out in the landscape, are beautiful, purposeful and a delight for the user. Hot on user experience and user research, we believe good ideas can come at any point in a project, so we utilise agile methodologies. Hypotheses are always tested using prototypes and real users, with improvements being constantly fed back into our user experience and visual designs.