Service design helps to save resources

Service design helps to save resources
  • 27. August 2021
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- Jana Kukk. Private collection -

There is less and less talk about Estonia’s own Nokia. But this does not mean that development in Estonia has been left behind or that doing entrepreneurship is beginning to fade away. On the contrary, we hear more and more about innovative companies, where a lot has been invested in development. Increasingly, inspiration comes from research institutions and the best solutions in the world are being used.

Entrepreneurs are ready to invest in learning and to find a working “toolbox” for implementing everything new. It is nice to note that the public sector has followed the same path. And in June 2018, the Innovation Team was formed at the State Chancellery. The task of the team is to make public services more user-friendly and people-oriented. Using innovation programs based on design thinking and service design thinking together with trainings.

The practice of implementing service design is still relatively fresh in Estonia. But despite of that the Estonian public sector is sometimes even a more systematic implementer of design than the private sector.

Research institutions come to the rescue

From the point of view of service design, however, universities are very strong partners for all institutions. Despite the fact that there are many service designers among business consultants. Not all of them offer the same quality of service.

“One of the critical components of successful service design is the choice of the right methods to solve the problem. And their methodologically correct use,” says service designer and TalTech lecturer Jana Kukk.

Adding that by working together with the university, you can be sure of the competence of the cooperation partner and the quality of the work.

TalTech offers several open trainings on the topic of service design. These include training for the public sector. Similar to the Innovation Team, as well as more in-depth methodological training and strategic design workshop for managers.

“We cooperate with companies in a format where the company turns to us to solve a specific business challenge. Depending on its complexity, students solve it under the guidance of a lecturer. Or, in the case of more complex topics, it will be solved by the team of an academic research group,” Kukk specifies.

A person who has completed TalTech’s training course, knows the structure of the service design process. And is able to use the service design tools covered in the training. Therefore, no company manager or public sector specialist should be afraid to cooperate with universities. More innovative students are sure to find a way to integrate design methodologies into everyday work processes.

Competitive price is not always the key to success

Service design focuses on the maximum value of solutions for both users and businesses. “At the heart of this is understanding people’s real needs. Sometimes it means developing a new technology or business model. But sometimes the solution is extremely simple and makes you wonder why no one has used it before,” Kukk explains. Specifying that the popularity of implementing service design or design thinking is due to the fact that in virtually all areas, the market has reached a point of saturation where competitive price no longer provides an advantage.

A quick solution is often one that does not solve the real need. Let’s look at websites where, not until recently the design for user-friendliness or user needs were not considered. Practice clearly shows that the greater the belief that what is needed is known, the greater is the balance with the real need of the beneficiary.

Developments always benefit from others practice

“Bringing something to the market that people do not really want is the main reason why companies go bankrupt. And the customer’s desire is something that changes over time. Service design is a way to do things that are useful, usable from the customer’s point of view, and profitable for the company.”

Developments always benefit from others practice. Digitization has made available the products and services of competitors from the other side of the world. “In order to survive in such competitive conditions, it no longer suffices to start a business on a whim.

The design methodology helps to approach the creation of your product, service and business model in a systematic way. And also to reduce the risk of failure.  Service design does not look for a single solution to a problem, but goes through many different options and selects the most effective one, and one does not have to be a designer in the literal sense of the word. Taking time for the service design phase in practice saves a lot of resources, both at the expense of redesigning and by solving user concerns.

Not everyone reaches the end result and sometimes the methodology causes disappointment.

“The main factor that hinders the success stories of service design is that we start very enthusiastically with the “exciting” part of the design. However, when customers have done research, generated ideas and done initial prototyping, enthusiasm wears off and innovation is not achieved.

There are always reasons for the, “it did not work out this time”, but that does not change the fact. For them, the method just did not work. I have met a lot of companies with the attitude “we have tried it – it does not work”. And it is very difficult to get this attitude out of the head.” The biggest danger, according to Kukk is when, after the first few meetings, a break for thinking is needed. “From then on, it is known that we will go back to the old patterns. And there is no point in dreaming of implementing innovation,” she states.

Implementation of service design

However, Jana Kukk is positive, because despite everything, you can name several organizations that have reached a fairly high level of maturity in the implementation of their design. “This means that service design is no longer a one-off event in these organizations. But has already been implemented at a strategic level. In the private sector, especially in large organizations, there is often only a declarative customer focus at the strategic level,” Kukk states.

However, when talking about the history of service design, TalTech’s lecturer admits that many of the methods used by designers are very obsolete. For example, ethnography (more simply, observation). This is something that was used in colonial Africa and South America to understand the customs of the natives. “In the business context, the comprehensive design process began to be used systematically in the second half of the 20th century. But it became more popular about 15 years ago.

Tim Brown’s book “Change by Design” gave it a great push and provided convincing examples of the effectiveness of the methodology. However, today’s higher pilotage in service design is when applying the principles of service design is a natural part of everyday operations. And we are beginning to realize that service design is what happens every day.”

Jana Kukk will also talk about service design at the Pärnu Management Conference on August 24 in the workshop “Designing the service as a collaboration”.

Kaja Liivak

Co-author of Adapter


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