Service Design at a speed and scale

A story about introducing Service Design into our daily practice at IBM Design, to design eco-system of products and services and using lean methodologies.

Intro & Background

In 2012 IBM started a revolution with the aim to become the world’s largest and most sophisticated design company. This transformation became possible by hiring ≥1300 new designers worldwide and, overall, by introducing the newly shaped IBM Design Thinking framework. The combination of this framework with Agile methodologies granted the possibility to design, implement and deliver noteworthy outcomes to our end users.

One of the IBM Design Thinking framework’s main goals is to deliver delightful User Experiences to users, by applying User Centred Design methods & tools to the design of SaaS applications, mobile apps and responsive websites.

So far the main focus has been kept mostly on these digital products, but the market is changing, both companies and users are coming with new requirements and needs.

The service sector is growing in size and importance, especially in terms of economic significance; companies need to innovate themselves to remain competitive and continue to attract new customers, moving from portfolios of single products to eco-systems of products and services. 
These outcomes need to be designed with attention to users, adopting a holistic approach to grow their business by planning and organising the people, infrastructure, communications and other resources that belong to the system, in order to improve the delivery and interactions between the service providers and the end-users.

From Product to Service Design

I started my career at IBM Design in 2015, working as a Designer for the Software group, embracing IBM Design Thinking and becoming a User Advocate. In May 2016, I moved into a new career path, moving to the GTS (Global Technology Services) department. In this new role, I started working as a design consultant for IBM clients, designing eco-systems of digital products and services powered by IBM’s broad portfolio of IT Services.

Since the beginning of my journey at IBM I’ve been talking about Service Design and Service Design tools. I found two great allies and Service Design champions in Peter Fossick and Tim Macarthur, with which I started my journey to bring Service Design into IBM Design practice. Soon we became able to count on the support of Ciaran Deane, Elias Spinn and Victor Martin Tiscar, our colleagues at IBM.

In the first part of my journey as a Design Lead, I worked on the evolution of the IBM Service Design Thinking framework, doing desk research and gathering use cases of similar methodologies already used and implemented by other companies and Design Firms. Based on this research, we worked on the formation of our new framework, on the selection of the tools to adopt, and finally in testing the framework into the field.

Service Design enables [designers] to look at the big picture, to connect the dots, and to transform complex entities into easy-to-manage eco-system of products and services.

One of my main goals as a Designer at IBM Design is to help our clients to build meaningful outcomes for their users by using IBM IT technologies. We reckon that the approach used to design these solutions was very product oriented, and sometimes my team and I have felt that something was missing; we then realised that if we wanted to succeed and go to the next level, we needed to shift our focus: we needed to stop thinking in silos, we needed to move from Product to Service Design, and stop designing single, stand-alone solutions.

One of the challenges that we had to tackle to make this transformation happen, was moving from a product focus mentality, to a Service oriented approach. We needed to find a way to easily explain what is Service Design and why is it so important. We first started brainstorming to reach a shared point of view around the definition of Service Design; we had to think about how to communicate the benefits of this discipline in terms of Return on Investment for the company, also considering the costs that tools and practice implementation might incur for our business. We needed to find an answer to the skeptical question “Do we really need Service Design at IBM?” and also we needed to find out how would we fit in the big IBM picture, and who will benefit from it and how.

A new set of tools

With the advent of IBM Design and the adoption of the IBM Design Thinking framework, IBM started delivering valuable outcomes to end-users by increasing cross-collaboration within multidisciplinary teams. The IBM Design Thinking framework perfectly supports teams who are working on the design of new software and other digital products, but lacks the precise tools that enable designers to design services by focusing on the system and its organisation, not only on the personal journeys of end-users.

To support the design of eco-systems of services and products, we had to introduce a new group of tools like Service Blueprints, Value Proposition Canvas, or Customer Journey Canvas; these tools derive from the Service Design field and enable us to look at the big picture, designing the organisation behind the system that we want to deliver to the end users.

The new toolbox and the framework that we have developed have been reshaped in the form of these touchpoints:

  • a playbook, in the form of a website with an extensive description of the tools and the IBM Service Design framework;
  • a Field Guide, that aims to explain the importance of Service Design and how to apply it into your daily practice;
  • a set of cards, made to help facilitators to organise their workshops and choose the right method to tackle their design challenges.

These touchpoints have been created to support a collaborative approach made not only to enable the large team (project managers, developers, business people, etc.) to work with the stakeholders, but also to actively engage with our clients, and to co-create outcomes with their end-users through co-creative sessions like short or extended workshops.

Our new approach changed shape multiple times: we ran several workshops with our clients to validate and iterate our selected methods, synthesising them into a series of Service Design Sprints. Each sprint consists of three main activities: we start with OBSERVING and learning about the users, the context and the client; REFLECTING on the data collected, processing them and drawing insights; finally on MAKING, delivering and testing quick prototypes of the service and the digital products. 
A basic design sprint is a flexible and modular element that we can repeat as many times as we need, and that we can use to produce and deliver different types of outcomes.

Outcomes

By working directly with IBM clients, I collaborate with other designers, developers, product managers, and stakeholders to define, design, and deliver outcomes that deliver value to the client’s end-users. Due to the confidential nature of the projects and the relationship with clients we are not able to share the outcomes of our work online, but if you’d like to know more, please do get in touch and I will be happy to talk about some of them.


Diego Dalia is a Design Lead at IBM based in Dublin, Ireland. 
The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.