More pragmatic services by designing for service.

Over almost 20 years I’ve worn many hats within fields related to research and design. With each role, I’ve tried to explore design opportunities that connect further ‘upstream’. I have always strived to the understand the source of the real challenge.

At Pragmateam we are already known for our experience in organisational transformation, Agile delivery and technical excellence. With me joining the team in May, our aim is to embed the practices of Service Design into our client's culture to ensure they're building the right things (not just building them right). 

Our ultimate goal is not just to design for desirability, but also to ensure we’re designing viable solutions that go beyond an organisation’s current needs. We need to help them evolve. Delivering redesigned services often outlines requirements for the organisation to change, and this is much more complex and time consuming than the design of the optimal service.

How can Service Design help organisations to evolve

Essentially, if your business interacts with people, then you’re trying to serve their need - you’re acting in service. So by this definition, everyone is a service provider.

A Service Design and Delivery Framework

A Service Design and Delivery Framework


It's a common misconception that Service Design is just another name for UX Design, Product Design, or CX Design . Whilst many of the User Research and Design Thinking techniques can overlap, the scope of design considerations and changes required to realise the benefits does vary dramatically.

  • UX Design tends to focus on the facilitating experiences via digital assets like websites and mobile apps. It can also include kiosks, software, or IVR systems.
  • Product Design in addition to crafting a user experience, it can also include functional ergonomics, technical design, marketing, and even Product Management.
  • CX Design improves the entire customer journey across all touchpoints, including online, telephone, in-store, etc.
  • Service Design, like CX, considers the entire customer journey, however the discipline also looks for system and process improvements that can enable those experiences.

Principles for helping improve services

If you're interested in how Service Design can help your organisation, consider the following four principles.

1. Focus on facilitating experiences, not delivering more "stuff".

Maybe you think you need a website or an app? But what if you’re wrong? What if you don’t need to make anything at all? Perhaps your success is more reliant on switching things off, making less stuff, or just removing barriers.

Users' feelings are what matter in delivering good services, not building more websites. And a Service Design approach, grounded in discovery research that uncovers real user needs, is the way to connect with your users.

2. Seek to make useful products, not just deliver on-time projects.

Projects get delivered. They stop. And they tend to ignore most operational aspects.

Conversely, product teams own their work, and don’t get to walk away once a project is ‘live’. To improve productivity against any innovation agenda, organisations need to shift the backlog of work to product teams, rather than shifting people onto new projects (or worse still, outsourcing projects to vendors without even considering who will truly own and operate the solution once it’s delivered).

3. Services need to be designed to leverage products.

Even the best designed hammer is useless until a user puts it into use. That person could be a DIYer, or a professional tradesperson, or any of the esoteric providers that exist in our modern workforce.

Typically the service experience extends well beyond the user’s interaction with the product. And there are often many more interactions involved in delivering the service than just the user and the product. Ultimately users don't aim to be good at hammering, nor at finding suitable tradespeople. What they really want is a new bookshelf, outside deck, or kitchen cabinets. The hammer is the product, the service is putting the product to use by installing the shelves, and the service experience encompasses all the aspects involved in converting the identified need into an useful outcome.

Service Design give us a model to consider and optimise service delivery, including experiences involving all existing and planned products, as well as improving the way the organisation itself operates.

4. Consider a more holistic model for facilitating desired experiences and delivering viable outcomes.

Whilst discovery research with real users will reveal pain points and opportunities to improve, we must also look beyond the user’s experience and consider the entire system.

Service Design - Stage Theory

In the theoretical context for understanding services, there are four key facets to appreciate:

A. Frontstage

Somewhat obviously, this represents the channels, interfaces, staff, and products that are visible to the end-user.

For example: A customer wishing to purchase a coffee might look up a cafe’s website then visit their store. At the store they notice the crafty wood finish to the benches and furniture. They might be greeted by someone taking orders and payments, see a barista making coffees, and a kitchen at the back.

B. Backstage

The processes, policies, staff, and systems that are never seen by the end-user, but always felt.

For example: The coffee shop is managed by the owner. He only hires people he’d hang out with, so the culture at work is relaxed and staff are encouraged to be friendly with customers. He buys the coffee beans from a large commercial supplier, who also supply and maintain the espresso machine. The chef is a co-owner and her sous-chef is her best friend. She only uses organic ingredients and tries to source everything within 50 kilometres of the cafe. 

C. Backstage, behind the scenes

Ultimately defined by what an organisation can and can’t do. Generally there are people who maintain, mandate, construct, and arrange things behind the scenes, but mostly it’s not designed with the Front and Back stages in mind. Sometimes temporal change might not even be possible. Regardless, it must be considered if we are going to plan for delivering better services.

For example: This context relates to aspects like the coffee bean supplier, their sourcing of the coffee beans from South America and Africa, their roasting house, the espresso machines, as well as their maintenance workers. It’s also the farmers and food producers that supply food to the chef.

D. Frontstage, behind the scenes

Conceptually we know this exists, but generally it remains opaque to most organisations delivering services. The context is outlined to represent the end-users’ lives, other products or services they access (and which ones they don’t), and what happens day-to-day in order to achieve their goals. 

The point of describing the user’s behind the scenes context is to recognise that it is largely out of our control. However, by studying their frontstage interactions, we can examine who they are, and how they approach us. And this in turn enables us to adapt how we design our backstage, which facilitates their frontstage experiences.

For example: Obviously customers visit because they like drinking coffee, but through talking more with them, the manager can empathise that customers first visited due to its proximity to their workplaces, but they tend to stay loyal because the staff are friendly without being intrusive, their baristas are good, and the snacks are tasty whilst remaining relatively healthy. They’ve also discovered that many customers visit a second time, but often don’t want more coffee. As such, they’re exploring offering other drinks, snacks, and loyalty services like semi-private meeting corners to encourage more people back again.

A pragmatic design practice, now at your service. 

Pragmateam has always provided Agile transformation coaching and delivery services to its clients. We’re a service provider, and our clients provide services for their users. And with the emergence of our Service Design practice, we’re super excited about extending our transformation capabilities to include designing for service. This will not only achieve better outcomes for our clients and our partnerships but, most importantly, better services for users! 

If you're interested to learn more about how Service Design can help your organisation, drop me a line.