At Hippo Digital we have been experimenting with a lean service design approach to building products and services. The process is user-centred and draws heavily on approaches like ‘Lean UX’ and Agile delivery. Put simply, it is a set of ideas about service design and delivery that helps us focus not just what we build, but on the value delivered to the business.
What is digital service design?
Digital service design is an emerging and distinct practice that has been recognised as having particular potential to help public sector organisations to develop services with a strong digital element that are valuable, usable, and feasible.
By engaging both service-users and service-providers in developing and testing new solutions, it is at once user-centered and client-focussed. Digital service design goes beyond the traditional boundaries of user-centred design to ensure the wider service wrap is considered in the design, testing and delivery of digital services.
So, how does it work?
At the heart of Digital Service Design is ‘hypothesis-driven development’, which is just another way of saying that until you get a product in front of the intended user, you’re guessing. Research can inform the process and indeed is an important aspect of it, but beyond a point, more research just means slightly better informed guessing.
Basically, the quicker we can form a hypothesis and test it, the sooner we can deliver value to the business. To do this, we design and build small and contained chunks of functionality with the main objective of learning whether or not the functionality is delivering the intended benefit to the user.
Why use a lean approach?
Service delivery suffers if what is delivered is superfluous, overloaded and unnecessary. It becomes an expensive exercise in confusion and frustration, both for those delivering the service, but most critically for those using the service.
From the viewpoint of the people delivering a service, it tends to be very easy to think in terms of the products or features that need to be delivered, but the users are just interested in what they can accomplish using the service. Similarly, those bankrolling the delivery don’t always care about features either, they care about their organisation’s goals and how the service helps them achieve those.
Agile development makes sure we deliver features efficiently and DevOps means the services made up of our efficiently delivered products and features remain optimal. Digital Service Design ensures that what was delivered was worth the effort in the first place.