Service design approach

This is the first iteration of the Service design guidance.  More content will be added and updated over time.

About this service design approach

This is an approach for designing customer-centred services. It is for identifying service problems and opportunities and working out the best service solution for customers and agencies.

This approach is broken down into four phases of work:

  1. Prepare phase: finding out and understanding customer and business needs.
  2. Understand phase: identifying the service problem or opportunity.
  3. Create phase: collaborating to come up with potential solution ideas.
  4. Develop phase: prototyping and testing to develop ideas into workable solutions.

The four phases of the service design approach: prepare, understand, create and develop.

Full-sized version of the service design approach diagram (JPG, 930KB)

Text description of the service design approach diagram

Prepare phase

At the start of this phase a problem is suggested.

During this phase you will get started, gather information and learn about the customer experience.

By the end of this phase, stakeholders know the value of the proposed design work and how it will meet their objectives.

Understand phase

During this phase you will find out the service problem or opportunity and identify customer needs.

By the end of this phase, stakeholders understand the service problem or opportunity that a solution will be developed for.

By the end of this phase the problem will be defined.

Create phase

During this phase you will come up with potential solution ideas and work on focused idea creation.

During this phase stakeholders actively contribute to creating ideas and shaping concepts.

Develop phase

During this phase you will find the solution that works best for customers and agencies. You will prototype, test, learn and test again.

During this phase stakeholders participate in ideas being developed into workable solutions.

By the end of this phase there will be a read to implement, low-risk agreed solution.

Service design work phases

This guide has information on each of the work phases for this service design approach, including:

  • what you want to achieve for the phase
  • work for the phase
  • useful tools for completing work related to the phase.

What this approach delivers

Using this approach delivers a customer-centred service solution that is:

  • low-risk – because you’ve tested potential solutions and learned which solutions worked and which solutions didn’t work for customers and agencies
  • ready to implement - because you’ve found out what the problem or opportunity is and the best solution for that problem or opportunity
  • supported and agreed upon – because you’ve collaborated and co-designed with customers and stakeholders through-out all four phases of work.

Approach principles

This approach is based on the following principles:

Customer-centred design

Customer at centre: design with empathy and understanding of customer experiences, needs and desired outcomes.

Think holistically: think of services as journeys for customers across agency and sector boundaries. Put services into the context of the customer’s life and what is creating the need or requirement for them to interact with government.

Co-design: collaborate and co-design with customers and stakeholders.

Design to deliver value

Design for value: balance desirability (do customers want this?) with viability (should an agency do this?) and feasibility (can an agency do this?); find where these three areas intersect to deliver valuable design solutions.

Design as a team: designing a service is a team sport. For example, requiring service design, business analysis and enterprise IT design to work together to deliver a successful service solution.

Open and iterative design

Be open: make the design process open to support collaboration and co-design; share what we’re doing, learning and delivering.

Iterate to learn: learn quickly by prototyping, testing, adapting and testing again using a disciplined, yet flexible design approach.

This approach uses design thinking  - a human-centred approach to problem solving. Many of the service design tools in this guide are based on traditional design skills and methods.

When to use this approach

Deciding when to use a service design approach

The prepare phase in this guide recommends you start by talking to your stakeholders to find out what needs to achieved (from the piece of work and initiative). Then use this information to work out if a service design approach will be suitable.

Below are some questions to help you decide if a service design approach is suitable for the work you've been asked to do.

Is the service problem or opportunity already clear?

  • If yes – consider whether the work required is designing and/or implementing a solution (in which case use the create and develop phases of this approach).
  • If no – use this approach to define the service problem or opportunity before designing a solution.

Has a service solution already been identified?

  • If yes – consider whether the work required is implementing the solution (in which case use the create and develop phases of this approach).
  • If no – use this approach to identify a service solution. Also check if the service problem or opportunity (that you’re designing a solution for) is clear.

Do stakeholders (commissioning the work) support the customer-centred principles of this approach?

  • If yes – use this approach to help you identify customer needs and design solutions to meet those customer needs.
  • If no – talk to your stakeholders to identify if there are relevant or affected customers (including staff). If there are relevant or affected customers, work with your stakeholders to identify the benefits of taking a customer-centered approach to the work. If there are no relevant or affected customers, advise your stakeholders that a service design approach is likely not required for this work.

Service feasibility work

This approach is useful for any project pre-initiation, discovery or feasibility work. For example, putting forward a business case for a new (or changes to an existing) service, determining feasibility of a service idea or initiating a service build or implementation-focused project.

For service feasibility, discovery and pre-initiation type work, we recommend you work through all four phases of the service design approach in this guide.

Service implementation work

This approach is also useful for any service build or implementation work.

For service build and implementation work, use the later phases of the service design approach (create and develop) in combination with the IT and business build project work.