Service design integration for government technology projects

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Service design is an approach that fosters creativity among existing employees by enabling more participation in co-creation and co-design processes. It examines the underlying causes of existing processes which are often a symptom of poor communication, data silos, and manual paper-based operations. This post is an overview of the integration of service design for government technology projects. Service design is a widely used method in public sector organisations, which deal with consultancy, data provision, or record-keeping (Stickdorn, 2011). Service design is a good and clear method that applies lots of examples and is therefore easily grasped. In other words, it is structured, innovative thinking with a lot of individuality.

While good service design provides the key to market success and growth, it is not just another management fad. It aims to sort out a real problem of low productivity in the biggest sector of the economy. This “delivery gap” can be filled with the benefit of the customer, the service provider and the economy as a whole, considering the size of the service sector. The benefits of the service design application are based on its primary characteristics which are truly reflecting the users’ perspective by being integrated into the development process. The use of service design instruments as an investigative approach to discovering, defining and resolving current problems in a public organisation is in itself a contribution to knowledge.

A typical approach to integrating design has been to transfer service knowledge through service design in which personnel participate and learn design methods through practice. With the multi-disciplinary competence of designers, researchers, developers and users, smooth-running services can contribute to increased customer satisfaction and improved business productivity. That is why service design is considered to be an accessible way for public organisations to compete on services through the development of offerings that better correspond to citizens’ needs. In a sense that is closely connected to management and organisational learning, one way to understand how design culture works is through dynamic capabilities and learning processes. The culture of an organisation is expressed, reflected and enacted through its structural specificities (Saco, 2008).

Ontario Digital Delivery Approach, Source:

Public sector organisations are vehicles for expressing the values and preferences of citizens. However, high-level government executives have to maintain their agencies in a complex, conflict-based, and unpredictable political environment (Yu, 2018). Thus, there is a wide range of barriers to innovation in government: political objectives prone to important changes outside of the public manager’s control, the lack of regular market competition making it difficult to assess success or failure, as well as inefficient leveraging of data innovations with information systems initiatives. Introducing service design and service innovation concept to the public sector has become a challenge (Yu, 2018). Considering the fact that service design is a tool that helps an organisation to achieve quick-wins while developing a community of like-minded “entrepreneurs.” There are many problems in public organisations that do not necessarily need large scale change but a group of people to come together with the common mission in mind, which is defining the exact problem and trying to solve it (Yu, 2018).

Apart from the positive impact, service design for public sector organisations is not devoid of pitfalls. The change agent in service design is the researcher facilitates a change process using a number of instruments and methods. If the need for change only is based on the researcher’s practical experience and knowledge as opposed to the collective organisation’s experience, then real challenges cannot be avoided. Service design is associated with high costs. Good quality service providers are valued so that their work needs to be well-paid. Still, it is highly recommended not to leave the entire service design process in the hands of an external agency. Many of them work as consultants that apply participatory techniques and hardly “design”; successful service design needs to be done jointly (Holmlid, 2009). The hired service designer will usually have a certain level of content-based knowledge of the project, but will not be familiar with the important details. While a public organisation does have that knowledge, the external service designer does have the knowledge of how the process needs to be handled (Holmlid, 2009).

In conclusion, finding the right balance between external and internal knowledge is the key to an effective service design process. The rate and dumped prices are two major factors the management of the public organisation needs to pay attention to. Also, do demand dedication and creativity from the service designer in terms of process and content. A professional external service designer is more than a specialist in the process as he/she adds value to the results that come from the users and the co-design training (Holmlid, 2009).



Holmlid, S., 2009. Implications for strategic arena design: Integrating digital interaction design and service design.. Design Research Journal, Volume 2, pp. 34-39.

Saco, R. a. G. A., 2008. Service design: An appraisal. Design management review. 19(1), pp. 10-19.

Stickdorn, M. S. J. A. K. a. L. A., 2011. This is service design thinking: Basics, tools, cases. Volume 1.

Yu, E. a. S. D., 2018. Exploring the transformative impacts of service design: The role of designer–client relationships in the service development process. Design Studies, Volume 55, pp. 79-111.

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