Judy Mellett from TELUS and Chris Ferguson from Bridgeable spoke about how internal teams and external consultants are transforming partnership and practice. Judy is the director of service design innovation and strategy at TELUS. Chris is the second designer from Bridgeable to present at the conference this year (after Linn from yesterday).

Judy and Chris shared a case study from TELUS about improving the worst-ranked service experience at the telecom: renewing a cellphone contract. Bridgeable collaborated with the internal design team at TELUS. Their service design effort improved their net promotor score and realized cost savings of $70 per customer.

One interesting point was the distinction between multi-channel services and omni-channel services where customers move seamlessly between channels.

Another common theme that I saw reflected in other presentations concerned the second order benefits of the service design process for the organization; beyond the solving of a discrete service design problem.

I also liked their formulation of service design as a political act. TELUS employs over 30,000 people and for this project they brought together stakeholders from 15 different parts of the organization. Many of these people had never met and few had ever heard of service design. The process facilitated opportunities for collaboration among these people; just by being in the same room.

Early on they focused on quick wins. They built operational alignment and shared metrics so that projects worked toward common goals rather than negatively impacting other departments. Key outcomes involved connecting stakeholders, improved collaboration and better engagement.

Judy and Chris acknowledged some of the same problems with agencies that others have recognized during the conference. External teams make it hard to maintain momentum once a project is handed off. Building an internal capacity helps to ensure that the design intent is respected during implementation. The internal team can shepherd the cause and aggregate value over time.

The ultimate goal for any service design integration is to deliver excellent impact for both customers and the business.

Paul Mutsaers and Anna-Louisa Peeters shared seven learnings from their efforts to make Rabobank a more customer centric organization.

They kicked off their presentation with a metaphor that many people in the audience recognized; a tugboat towing a huge tanker. Their task was to get Rabobank moving in the right direction. To do that they focused on building their own internal service design capacity rather than simply acquiring one as in the case of Capital One. They ultimately built a team of roughly two dozen designers.

A common theme across many presenters today has been to deny that their experience is universal to the wider audience or that they have the exclusive word on how best to do service design. Paul and Anna-Louisa stressed that they don’t have a magic recipe; there’s no manual for how to make service design work in house. It’s just a lot of challenging hard work.

Their seven key points:

  1. Pair a service design with a customer journey manager. Many people within the organization think they already know what customers need. Countering those objections is a major obstacle and depends on having some organizational credibility on the team. Service design processes need explaining and stakeholder management is key to success.
  2. Make sure service design is at the core of your business. They moved from being aligned with IT in more of a tactical role to creating their own customer experience group focused on influence at the strategic level. That gave them bargaining power by putting them in touch with key stakeholders at the requirements gathering phase rather than simply executing on pre-existing plans.
  3. Connect with existing ways of working. In the past agencies had done service design for them. They needed to do it on their own to maintain consistency and build ownership of the results. This helped with acceptance of ideas and alignment with others. They developed an extensive internal guidebook PDF. Essentially a step-by-step guide for service design at Rabobank. Tips, tricks and tools to run a successful service design projects within the organization
  4. Set up a balanced team. Who you include on the team is important. Different perspectives; the right energy; future buy-in. Different perspectives make it more fun and more effective. Including stakeholders who can build a sense of ownership over the process helps to build support going forward.
  5. Show your work. Being visible within the organization is important. Many of the artifacts are tools for evangelization. Demonstrate worth; visualizing what we do. Get a stronger position within the organization. It helps to brand their contribution.
  6. Be the customer’s advocate. Set up a qualitative research lab in Utrecht. Validate assumptions; discover new opportunities; stay on the right track. Demand budget for research at the beginning of the project. Stress the risks of skipping it.
  7. Stay inspired. It can be challenging to stay current with design trends. Stay inspired by going to conferences, reading books and blogs.

For each point they emphasized both a “why” and a “how,” something I appreciated since many presenters focused heavily on either the tactical or strategic elements of their approach but rarely both.


Josefin Eklund from SEB and Daniel Ewerman from Transformator shared insights from their collaboration to make SEB a more customer-centric organization. They presented a case study into the redesign of the pension planning process.

SEB is a 160 years old banking in Sweden; three years ago they started from scratch to build a service design capability in partnership with Transformator. Like many presenters they stressed that what worked for them might not work for everyone. Service design isn’t a plug-in process; it’s an approach.

The initial collaboration with Transformator was focused on a particular project; something that had good visibility within the organization. But designing the service alone would have a limited effect; they recognized that they needed to change the organization itself. The service design project was the raw material needed to begin that transformation and engage people within the organization.

The team focused on basic proofs of concept that could be scaled up. They constantly needed to show results and demonstrate value. Internal stakeholders stressed KPI metrics.

Service design helped SEB to connect at the strategic, tactical and operative level. Touchpoints are primarily tactical but the governing insights and guiding principles helped them to have influence at the strategic level.

Focusing on the customer experience wouldn’t have been enough in itself. The team needed to create new behaviors for the staff. Most people thought they already knew what customers wanted; after all, they had been working with customers for decades. The service design approach helped to challenge some of those assumptions.

The design team wrote a book for service design evangelization within the organization. They joked that “there’s no religion without a book” and SEB needed to make the methods their own.

Ultimately the project didn’t just change ways of working; it changed ways of thinking within the team. Employees started communicating their projects from an end-user perspective and it strengthened the organization’s ability to function in a customer-centric way. This involved knowledge, mindset, tools, experience, processes and change coaching.

SEB has going from 7th to 4th in the pension market over the past three years. Their goal is to be number one by 2020. As Josefin and Daniel mentioned at the beginning of their presentation they stressed that there is no one process that works for everyone. The value comes from tailoring the process to the needs of a particular organization.


Martin Dowson from Lloyds Banking Group in the UK spoke about building an “Internal Design Academy” to train more than 200 people in service design practices within his organization at LBG. He shared his experience across many large organizations, working from both the outside as a consultant and from the inside as in his current role.

The focus for this morning’s group of presentations concerns how to build internal design capabilities. Transforming the customer experience first requires transforming the organization. Martin stressed that senior executives need to really understand the importance of this transformation. Getting that buy-in has been a common theme across several presentations.

Much of the presentation focused on the versatility of the double diamond framework for approaching design problems. Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver. He valued it as a lens for understanding methods and evangelized that design is a problem solving activity that can be applied to almost anything. The principles and approach apply to many types of problems.

He organized his presentation around a key strategic goal and four supporting tactical approaches. Primarily, good business is human centered, design-led and sustainably delivered. Building what he called a guerrilla design movement requires immersion, ongoing support, celebration of internal achievements and challenging groups to evolve and grow.

He framed immersion as distinct from training. To understand the power of these techniques you really need to experience them first-hand. Based on the widespread Service Design Jam structure he set up two-day sessions with 20 people to implement the double diamond and expose them to a design process. This gives team members a safe space to practice these techniques.

He also stressed that ongoing support is critical. You can’t just give people these techniques and send them off into the wild. Build confidence incrementally and make it clear that small wins are okay.

That leads into the importance of recognizing achievement for teams that are new to service design methods and uncertain about the outcomes and since not everyone will get the chance to put this into practice right away, creating opportunities for people to practice their design and research skills.

Ultimately he called for a reframing of the traditional relationship between client and agency. Is it possible to co-design the experience of designing? Can agencies help clients learn along the way? Less of doing the design for clients and more about how teaching clients how to design.

The closing keynote this afternoon by Cees van Dok focused on the observation that as challenging as software design can be, adding hardware makes it even harder. He provided examples from his tenure as Head of Design at TomTom.

Martijn van der Heijden has a nice visualization sketch of the keynote; Hazel White posted another good sketch that captures the talk. Both have been really great today about posting their output from the conference.

Cees spoke about the obstacles to the creation of successful services along with an honest appraisal of the failure of the TomTom Taxi from 2012 in the wake of Uber. He spoke about tangible artifacts and multi-device continuity represented by services such as Netflix and how TomTom re-framed its mandate in the wake of smartphones which began dominating the GPS landscape nearly a decade ago. Their broader goal these days is essentially to make cities smarter.

He spoke about the TomTom VIO for scooters which resonated with my chosen mode of transportation in San Francisco. It’s an example of how tangible artifacts act as the avatar of a service and help to create better experiences.

His keynote wrapped up a great first day for the Service Design Global Conference in Amsterdam.


Erin Muntzert from Google spoke about how they utilize both qualitative and quantitative data to drive design research fieldwork. She articulated five principles to build support for design research in an engineering-driven organization.

She framed data analysis as a designer’s homework; it helps to formulate hypotheses than can be investigated during field research. I’ve seen it work the other way too; where qualitative hypotheses can be investigated via quantitative metrics.

Five principles for Design Research:

  1. Data-driven Decisions
  2. Influencer Participation
  3. Preciousness of Time
  4. Collaborative Recommendations
  5. Meaningful Impact

Her advice about integrating stakeholders into the design research process resonated with my experience. Field research can be as much about building empathy as gaining insights. This has both short and long-term impacts on those involved in the process.


Oliver King from Engine in the UK has been a perennial feature of the service design conference landscape for nearly a decade. His keynote focused on getting the right services to market through design-led change. Not about doing things as quickly as possible, but doing the right things as quickly as possible.

He articulated seven aspects of design-led change:

1. A compelling vision overcomes uncertainty. Design helps with aligning stakeholders, choosing directions and looking at the bigger picture. This inspires people to embrace the change.

2. Beautiful design connects emotionally. This point echoed Don Norman’s observation in Emotional Design that attractive things really do work better.

3. Design can provide clarity to stakeholders and reassure them about adopting a particular solution. Broad support means faster adoption with fewer changes.

4. Making ideas tangible and well-crafted helps them get to market faster. This echos the observation by Bill Buxton in Sketching User Experiences that “once something seems real, making it real is a lot easier.”

5. Following on that point, design-led change helps to structure the best conditions for getting to market quickly. It helps people remain engaged and motivated and creates the conditions for success.

6. He made the observation that projects with a clear design process help to motivate employees. As important as it is for customers to be engaged, the needs of the service providers also need to be considered. Engaged employes are more productive and more likely to solve problems.

7. Finally, well realized outputs build confidence in the value of design. I like the formulation that “quality invites ambition.” The things created in the process matter not only because of their immediate utility but because the act of making them reinforces the value of the process.

Jess McMullin from Situ Strategy in Alberta spoke about service transformation. He defined it as the required organizational and systemic change in order to design and deliver new services which become integrated with the business in sustained, ongoing strategy, structure and operations at scale.

He argued that we need new tools and perspectives for organizational change; that service blueprints aren’t enough.

There were lots of useful tidbits from this presentation but one that stood out to me was the matrix of problems from Dave Snowden at Cognitive Edge. He classifies problems as complex, complicated, chaotic or simple and observed that each category has its own set of methods and tools for resolution.

Jess introduced a framework for dealing with organizational complexity by making that complexity visible. It’s still in the early stages but his Service Architecture Canvas is a tool to see within and across our organizations.

The SAC consists of three layers, each with three components: 1.) Delivery: Experience, interactions, operations;  2.) Foundations: Infrastructure, Decision DNA, Structure and Incentives and 3.) Bedrock: Mandate, Culture and Context. He framed it as a guide to strategic conversations within organizations.

I noticed some parallels to Dick Buchanan’s Emergence keynote from 2007 on the value of seeing the whole system. You can contact Jess at for a PDF of the architecture.

Update: one of the most interesting aspects of this talk actually occurred during the question and answer period. Jess articulated the Pine and Gilmore perspective about how services are the raw materials for transformations; essentially the Trojan Horse for organizational change.

Francis Rowland from Sigma Consulting and Michele Ide-Smith from the European Bioinformatics Institute used the recently declassified 1940 OSS manual on organizational sabotage to draw insights for service designers in the form of anti-patterns.

If you’re not familiar with the OSS manual, it included procedures for spies to disrupt an organization through inefficiency; for example: “Insist on doing everything through the proper channels. Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.” It struck a chord across the internet because people recognized dysfunctional elements of their own workplaces in many of the guidelines.

Francis and Michele realized that they could invent examples for service design that were similarly counterproductive. For example: “Prevent people from using the service as much as possible. Disorient people with confusing and contradictory signage.” This is obviously the opposite of what we strive for as service designers.

But Francis and Michelle argue that anti-patterns can be a useful tool for idea generation, drawing off examples such as Donna Spencer’s “Reverse It” or the anti-problem methodology from the 2010 Gamestorming book.

Their argument is that as service designers we often co-design with people who are unfamiliar with the design process. This is foreign to them and without structure non-designers can have a difficult time getting started. Framing problems in reverse can be easier. Imagine the worst possible solution and then simply consider the opposite approach. This is essentially the George Costanza approach to service design.

Linn Vizard from Bridgeable opened with a quote from Herbert Simon, “Design is moving from existing situations to preferred situations.” I’ve always liked that quote but then she raised the bar by moving on to Buchanan’s orders of design and Stratification of Design Thinking by Stefanie di Russo. I knew right away that this was going to be an interesting talk.

Her presentation was built around a simple observation. Service designers use empathy maps, journey maps, stakeholder maps; all kinds of maps. Why are we making so many things called “maps”? There’s a proliferation of maps in the designer toolkit. But why? Maps are tools to wrangle complexity; they’re representations.

Designers are map-makers. They make the invisible visible and the implicit explicit. They reveal the gaps as knowledge is made tangible.

I especially liked the formulation that “all models are wrong but some are useful” from George E. P. Box. The map is not the territory but some people confuse the model with the reality. How do we equip our clients to understand our intent? There’s an important distinction between mapping to understand (synthesize) and mapping to communicate.

She pointed us toward an article entitled “Don’t Make a Journey Map” by Shahrzad Samadzadeh. What do we intend to design for? What are we hoping to achieve?

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