5by5: Five Perspectives on In-house Service Design

Interviews with Ann Hintzman, Innovation Director at Salesforce Ignite; Chris Finlay, Senior Director of Product Design at Optum; JoEllen Kames, Portfolio Lead | Vice President at Northern Trust; Pam Nyberg, Director of Experience Design at Humana; and Linda Pulik, Senior Design Director at Fjord

Article by Thomas Brandenburg

 

“We’ve found that mindsets can be a more useful framing than specific methods because it helps people focus more on the why, less on any specific what.” —Ann Hintzman

“We’re experimenting with how we might engage teams in short term work collaborations (e.g design sprints) to help them achieve something tangible quickly in a human centered way.” —JoEllen Kames

 

What are the key ways you go about training or educating the organization in service design?

Ann Hintzman: We are big on learning-by-doing. That happens in a couple ways. First, our projects are made up of both people from Ignite and people from the account team (i.e., account executives, solution engineers, architects, business value). They participate in every aspect of the work and leverage it to take their own work further. We also do explicit training about how to Work Differently. These are generally workshop based and explore the mindsets necessary to do this work. We’ve found that mindsets can be a more useful framing than specific methods because it helps people focus more on the why, less on any specific what.

Chris Finlay: We have several levels of design and innovation training. These courses are in person and online. They focus primarily on the principles of human centered design, but account for many of the best practices of service design and design thinking.

JoEllen Kames: There are a few things that have been working well for us. We host monthly lunch and learns focused on sharing relevant research and design skills where participants learn and get a little experience practicing them. These are small (20-24 people) and are open to all in the organization. We also do deep dive workshops over an extended time period with selected teams to build up their aptitude with human centered design. We’re experimenting with how we might engage teams in short term work collaborations (e.g design sprints) to help them achieve something tangible quickly in a human centered way.

Pam Nyberg: In addition to educating project teams while working with them, we’ve developed immersive environments to simulate experiences, assembled case studies of past successes, and led exercises during key leadership meetings to continually familiarize leaders with the benefits Design enables. Additionally, we’ve developed a series of short courses on key topics, most of which are a combination of short videos, checklists, tools, and small assignments, to reinforce practices taught in the courses.

Linda Pulik: Within Fjord we have a dedicated global team called Fjord Evolution that teaches Fjord/Accenture employees and our clients about service design thinking and methods. They do this through talks, workshops, a digital repository of knowledge and tools that is accessible to any one of Accenture’s 400,000 employees. At the studio level, I find that the best way to educate our clients and Accenture colleagues about service design is to work very collaboratively with them. We often have them working alongside us in the studio—something I rued in past jobs. But the effort is usually worth it, as we build partnerships based on mutual respect for our diverse areas of expertise that way.

 

‍“Communicating values and vision, simply and repeatedly, and tying them to KPIs, is key to ensuring an organization takes action at every level.” —Chris Finlay

 

What are important factors needed to successfully set up and integrate an in-house service design practice?

Ann Hintzman: Senior leadership support. I feel lucky that I joined Ignite 5 years into its development because I have the luxury of already being perceived as an amazing, valuable service we can provide our customers. Many of our engagements come directly from our CEO talking to our customer’s CEO and deciding we want to do something transformative together.Space. How we work is different and needs the space to support collaboration, tangibility and project cycles. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even cool, but it does need to foster sharing and critique of ideas. It’s the second one, critique that I feel is often overlooked and the work can suffer for that. Oh, and these needs hold for physical and virtual spaces.

Chris Finlay: A culture that values putting people first. Market demand for improved experiences as a differentiator, executives who have a deep held belief in design, and a willingness to invest. Communicating those values and vision, simply and repeatedly, and tying them to KPIs is key to ensuring an organization takes action at every level.

JoEllen Kames: After writing the list, I’m not sure how different it is than what makes for good consulting engagements, but here goes: the right high-level champions, understanding how the work contributes to the company’s goals, delivering high quality research and design outcomes, and designers and researchers that are interested in understanding what others do and building connections.

Pam Nyberg: 

  • Leadership support that extends from one’s direct leader to the top of the organization…and ideally the distance from the group to top executives is short
  • Direct connection to the business so the group’s able to demonstrate meaningful success by helping teams execute, in addition to helping them identify issues and define solutions
  • A gap in the organization where Design can provide a distinct advantage compared to other groups
  • Significant angst.  When people are desperate for change, they’re willing to try new things.

Linda Pulik: The first thing you need is the top tier of leadership to recognize that there is value in an autonomous design entity. The amount of recognition that design gets as a bona fide profession is often diluted the further away you get from the champion who brought it into the company. If a group of people with a lot of authority are the champions, the in-house SD practice is more likely to succeed.

A second success factor is autonomy—which can sometimes be perceived as preciousness. But without this precious autonomy, I think in-house design studios are probably doomed.

 

“We’ve positioned ourselves well at this point by developing a strong reputation for success in taking on the toughest, most complex problems and playing well with others along the way.‍” —Pam Nyberg

 

As we know, at the heart of service design is collaboration and co-creation—how do you go about finding allies in-house?

Ann Hintzman: It’s about helping people see how this work enhances their own work. Ignite explicitly “doesn’t talk product”. (We focus on the user experience and customer business need.) We work with people who make their living by talking product. When I ask them what they see as valuable, it’s often about the conversations we open up that helps them understand our customer’s needs and communicate more effectively with them.

Chris Finlay: Allies are earned. As designers we have to take the added responsibility of helping people who haven’t yet experienced the power of design to feel it and believe in it at a gut level. That requires taking the time to bring colleagues into the field, including them co-creation sessions, and truly embracing real collaboration, which almost always means putting your ego aside and starting with other people’s frameworks to find the right one together.

JoEllen Kames: One of the best ways we’ve found is connecting with complementary groups, such as teams focused on technology innovation. Relentlessly being client centered naturally creates allies at Northern Trust because of our long legacy of delivering exceptional client service. As a relatively new team one of the reasons we’ve gained traction quickly is that connection to Northern’s client centric culture.

Pam Nyberg: We’ve positioned ourselves well at this point by developing a strong reputation for success in taking on the toughest, most complex problems and playing well with others along the way. Given this, people approach us for help, and we work closely with them to ensure their success. Many of our most frequent collaborators have either worked with us previously or been trained by us so our network of collaborators expands with every project and training session.

Linda Pulik: Fjord Evolution’s efforts make finding allies a lot easier. To date they have introduced tens of thousands of Accenture employees to service design. I find that open-minded non-designers and young employees (particularly those right out of school) naturally gravitate to Fjord and SD once they know it is there.

 

“Both the nature of our team and the nature of our work mean that we need to be pushing our practice. After every project we have a formalized process to understand what worked and didn’t. Indirect mechanisms like case-studies also help us know which projects people feel proud and excited to share.” —Ann Hintzman

 

Tell us about the metrics that your team works toward. 

Ann Hintzman: We have an ongoing relationship with customers, so from a technology standpoint we know if they are making the changes necessary for transformation. If all we made was a great vision, demo and business case but nothing is done, then we probably missed the mark somewhere. Did our teams learn/develop? Both the nature of our team and the nature of our work mean that we need to be pushing our practice. After every project we have a formalized process to understood what worked and didn’t. Indirect mechanisms like case studies also help us know which projects people feel proud and excited to share.

Chris Finlay: We work towards the key metrics of the business, which account for the performance of consumer engagement, adherence, and overall health outcomes to name a few. How we work to achieve those measures to create sustainable solutions that people love is a dynamic and exciting challenge.

JoEllen Kames: We select projects that will deliver differentiated client or employee experiences, and we work towards delivering those experiences, but we’re still in the process of determining meaningful metrics. Similarly for our outreach/education efforts, we are in the process of defining meaningful metrics – just measuring the number of people exposed or how many classes or workshops you’ve delivered doesn’t really get at the understanding or skills that you’ve fostered.

Pam Nyberg: Since our design group partners with teams in lines of business and across the enterprise, we adopt the metrics that are important to those particular groups and incorporate any additional operational or experiential metrics that may be missing. In addition, we prioritize work based on Humana’s strategic goals / metrics.

Linda Pulik: We talk a lot about the impact of our work and I think that for the moment, most of that impact is measured in financial terms. I co-lead the social impact community of practice for Fjord and the way that we talk about impact for our public sector and non-profit clients is quite different.

 

“A huge myth is that the work for in-house design teams isn’t as exciting as consulting work. While that might have been the case in the 80’s and 90’s, I believe that we are in a new era for in-house design teams.” —JoEllen Kames

‍”I’ve also been surprised at how entrepreneurial we’re able to be—we still have to balance what makes our hearts sing with what pays the bills, but we get a lot of leeway to explore the blue sky outside of project work.” —Linda Pulik

 

What myth about (in-house) service design would you like to dispel?

Ann Hintzman: Hmmm…I don’t think of Ignite as in-house service design. We work with our account teams to serve our customers so it feels more like consulting with a broader set of stakeholders/teammates. With that caveat, I’d say that I used to think that working at a big company meant going slower. That is certainly not the case. When a project kicks off, it’s moving at the same pace as life did when I was consulting just with more people to coordinate.

Chris Finlay: That they can’t do inspired work quickly. Well staffed and integrated enterprise grade design capabilities can be incredibly creative, sprint as hard and as fast as any group, and often has more impact because we are an integrated business partner. Design at scale, particularly in healthcare, is an exciting frontier with incredibly inspiring challenges and opportunities.

JoEllen Kames: A huge myth is that the work for in-house design teams isn’t as exciting as consulting work. While that might have been the case in the 80’s and 90’s, I believe that we are in a new era for in-house design teams. The complicated nature of actually delivering a consistent, coherent product or service requires deep collaborations across teams responsible for the different touch points. Developing a breadth of these relationships across an organization is difficult to do as a consultant but much easier when you’re an employee. When it comes to important breakthrough innovations, I’ve noticed a trend towards leaders engaging teams of people that have made a commitment to the organization (employees) rather than sending that strategically important work out to consultancies.

Pam Nyberg: 

MYTH: Helping teams identify issues and generate solutions to problems will position you for success.

REALITY: We’ve heard stories about similar groups in other organizations who are frustrated by their limited success in having concepts implemented. The primary reason this may be happening is because they transition out of projects before the work has been sustainably scaled and operationalized. Service design work is new to many, and we’ve found that, without design’s active involvement through the pilot stage, decisions can accidentally be made by others that adversely affect implementation of the desired experience.

Linda Pulik: That we have been gobbled up by the corporation. The Fjord brand is really strong and five years in, we are still able to exist within Accenture as an entity with a distinct identity. I’ve also been surprised at how entrepreneurial we’re able to be—we still have to balance what makes our hearts sing with what pays the bills, but we get a lot of leeway to explore the blue sky outside of project work.

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