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The Advent of Lean Service Design in the Age of COVID-19

Pivoting from larger engagements to smaller ones focused on business outcomes.

Published by Priscilla Ho on 10.14.2020

COVID-19 forced many organizations to expedite their digital transformation. Restrictions and stay-at-home orders compressed roadmaps from years into weeks; And with less available capital and resources, businesses face increased pressure to do more with less. Service design firms that typically conduct larger engagements and leave behind high production value artifacts may no longer be relevant, or even accessible by remote team members, in the COVID-19 world. Instead, lean product studios who understand how to surface insights that drive business outcomes in shorter periods have an opportunity to make a real impact.

How has the landscape changed?

Before the pandemic struck, service design projects typically ran anywhere from three months to two years—depending on the product or service and customers. These longer and larger engagements relied on face-to-face interactions to gather insights, find alignment, and build the right solutions. At various stages of the project, artifacts such as storyboards, customer journey maps, customer experience maps, and service blueprints are produced. Together, these outputs represent the culmination of cross-functional collaboration resulting in a unified digital and or non-digital experience.

Presently, four significant shifts have occurred:

  • The need for speed: If there is anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has identified, it’s the need to rapidly change and test new ways of delivering customer experiences with little or no precedents to refer to.
  • Increased reliance on technology: In-person gatherings continue to face restrictions, making online interactions and virtual workshops the primary communication and collaboration methods.
  • Less available budget: Due to economic instability, many organizations are not looking for long term commitments. Instead, teams are leaning towards short-term or phased approaches to create digital experiences.
  • Hyper focus on business outcomes: To achieve success in the shortest path possible, the focus is shifting from business processes to business outcomes. Artifacts are necessary to capture insights, but only as far as it facilitates road mapping towards measurable business objectives.

Lean Service Design

Lean Service Design delivered by agile product studios offers a solution to the seismic shifts caused by COVID-19.

1. Faster way of identifying and testing new models Understanding key pain points for a project and how they relate to the target audience and organizational goals, leveraging different frameworks, and creating hybrids of UX mapping techniques help identify gaps and friction points quicker. Co-Design workshops with internal and external audiences are efficient ways to create opportunities for alignment and synergy. They result in co-created and testable prototypes that get real-time feedback by the end of an eight-hour, two-day, or two-week session. In a time-pressured environment, these Lean Service Design methodologies are client-validated as high-value activities.

2. Increased reliance on technology “Lean” in a traditional sense, means smaller. It encourages shedding unnecessary layers of communication to focus on more efficient ways of working. While many people are still managing their Zoom fatigue, technology can streamline interactions to increase productivity. For example, collaborating on value proposition canvases in real-time workshops can reduce the number of back and forth emails altogether.

3. Less available budget With heightened economic uncertainty, companies are becoming increasingly mindful of their financial commitments. Lean Service Design takes a product-oriented approach to create experiences that are interactive, incremental, and empirical. Breaking down a roadmap into smaller phases enables teams to prioritize the most important tasks and achieve faster ROI using less budget.

4. Bridging the gap between research insights and business outcomes Design often deals with the qualitative elements of experiences but must communicate its impacts quantitatively. To realize results quicker and iterate faster, teams need to see the relationship between the work and the impact felt by customers. From the outset, Lean Service Design creates clear and measurable objectives that drive business results. This approach increases speed to market and surfaces areas of opportunity for subsequent phases by focusing on outcomes rather than producing design artifacts.

Change is good

Digital technology is at the centre of today’s economy and will continue to increase in importance as we pave the way to a new normal. As companies prioritize digital transformation, Lean Service Design can help teams get their experiences to market faster or update existing offerings with smaller budgets and quicker turnaround times. COVID-19 has disrupted the service design industry. With the right product studio, businesses might see an ROI more impactful than ever before.

Want to learn more about Lean Service Design and how you could use it for an upcoming project? Let’s talk!