Make the service standard work for you

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The way service assessments work is changing.

As a service designer, I was initially wary of service assessments.

I feared they might be burdensome and bureaucratic when we needed to move fast.

In reality, the opposite was true.

https://twitter.com/operanomad/status/1361749670377226253?s=20
Continue reading “Make the service standard work for you”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Fidelity increases as uncertainty decreases

Graph showing how the fidelity of your product increases as uncertainty decreases, but asymmetrically

Reading Time: 3 minutes

No, this is not a couples counselling site.

I and others on my team have had a lot of discussion recently about what we are doing, why we're doing it, what we can test and why we are testing it.

In an agile team, this is healthy. As long as the discussion remains respectful, talking is great, because we need to reach a consensus, agree a course of action, and commit to it. As a team.

We may not all be 100% convinced that what we're doing is the right thing to do. But we all agree to do our best to achieve it, even if (sometimes) our motivation is to demonstrate that it was the wrong thing.

But you can only demonstrate that by doing the wrong thing right (if you see what I mean).

I saw this on Twitter this evening.

Then I did this recalulation.

Continue reading “Fidelity increases as uncertainty decreases”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Service Design – How we work

Reading Time: 2 minutesEverybody has a methodology for how teams should work. Some of them are great but most of them are complicated. Here is how Service Design works at Scottish Enterprise.

I am showing three diagrams but the middle one is the one I love best.

Let’s begin:

1. Super simple

We are not a software house. What we do is design and deliver services. We try to be a bit lean & agile and that involves iterating constantly. This means that a traditional discovery, alpha, beta, Live flow is a bit too waterfally for us (I may have just invented a word there).

What we really do in  Service Design is:

  • Find value
  • Develop value
  • Deliver value

Continue reading “Service Design – How we work”

What digital transformation really means

Taking a digital photograph

Reading Time: 3 minutes

First, the bad news: it doesn't mean everyone gets an iPad.

Digital transformation isn't about technology, it's about the change the technology enables.

Think about the railways in the 19th century. You didn't have to be Robert Louis Stevenson to understand that being able to get from Edinburgh to London in day, rather than a week, was a game changer. 

You don't have to be able to design the train, or even ride it, to benefit from it.

Let me give you a picture.

Continue reading “What digital transformation really means”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Team on tour at Explore Export 2015

Our customers' priorities.

Reading Time: 5 minutesOn Friday 6 November the Digital First Service Design team packed up post-its, whiteboards, sharpie pens and blue tac from our Paisley offices and set up shop at the UKTI Explore Export event in Edinburgh.

Why?

We’ve been busy over the last few months, developing and launching the new Export Health Check.

In September we launched our first version of the tool on the SE website. Based on results of customer testing on Version 1, we made changes to the design and how the content is displayed on both desktop and mobile versions.

So, it was time to give Version 2 a thorough road test and get real-time feedback from exactly the customers that we built the tool for. The Explore Export event gave us the opportunity to get in front of more than 200 of those customers in one hit.

Getting to know and understand our customers is fundamental to my role as Export Product Owner. It’s my job to represent their voice in all the digital export services we develop.

Continue reading “Team on tour at Explore Export 2015”

About Siobhan McDermit

Siobhan is Export Product Owner for our Trade Services.

Getting to know and understand our customers is fundamental to her role as Export Product Owner. It’s her job to represent their voice in all the digital export services we develop.

Trust the Force, Luke

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A young Luke Skywalker was told to

Trust the Force.

It was difficult for him until he eventually started to see results. This blog is about a similar leap of faith.

Think about these two statements…

  • If you are truly committed to building customer value, then you will be building what the customer wants (needs) and the customer will be delighted. Because of this they will buy the product or even buy more of the product, while increasing the likelihood of remaining loyal to you.
  • If you are truly committed to empowering your employees, then you will provide a work environment where they feel ownership of their work and can make their own decisions, and they will be more motivated to activate their brainpower, improving morale and increasing the likelihood that they will go the extra mile to create a quality product. *

These are mutually inclusive (and recursive) sentiments, and the answer to how they are done can be summarised as:

  1. Teams need to step up
  2. Managers needs to step back

Easily summarised, but not always easily done.

Continue reading “Trust the Force, Luke”

Designing for mobile first

Reading Time: 3 minutesWe recently released a Beta version of our export health check diagnostic.

It’s a simple thing that asks you 7 questions with yes or no answers. You can run through it in 2 minutes.

We know this, because we tested it through a rapid series of iterations. We made a prototype, put it out for testing and changed it the next day based on what we had learned the night before.

In the space of a week we had something we knew worked well, that people could use comfortably and delivered something of real value.

Export health check
Export health check (desktop version)

Continue reading “Designing for mobile first”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Embrace uncertainty

Rhinoceros

Reading Time: 4 minutes

OK, here's a quiz

I was going to write some whizzy code for this, but then I thought: be agile. What's the quickest, cheapest thing you could do to test this idea?

So I'm going to trust you.

All I'm asking is that you read the question and answer it without thinking too hard about it … your gut instinct is what I'm after.

Take no more than 10 seconds to reach a conclusion.

Otherwise, I may have to write some whizzy code to stop you from cheating …

Question

You have £100 to invest. You decide to invest it in a bank account that pays 1% interest per day.

After 1 year, how much money will you have? Scribble it down. Right now. Doesn't have to be on a post-it.

(And it would be great if you could tell us your estimate in the comments at the end of the article.)
Continue reading “Embrace uncertainty”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Open up

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Those of you with a 4 (or even a 3) ominously close to the start of your age will recognise the title of of a song by Leftfield with John Lydon on vocals.

For us, it's about being open, honest and transparent about what we're doing.

We don't want to hide the successes – and failures – of the things we try. It's just as important that we learn from our mistakes as our triumphs.

So if we try something and it doesn't work … well, here's the data.

Up to now, we've been open(ish) about our results. They're on a wall, visible to everyone who comes to see us, and updated every day.

But they're invisible to people who don't come to visit. And updates are manual. So we thought it would be a good idea to automate them, and to publish them publicly. And update them more frequently.

Every hour? Every minute? every second?

Very short update frequency seemed overkill for our needs. The truth is, though, that we didn't, and still don't, know.

So we thought we'd try to find out what the best thing is to do. And you, dear reader, are part of our experiment.
Continue reading “Open up”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Making it up

Reading Time: 2 minutesI remember childhood games where my friends and I would say:

Make it that you’re a baddie and I’m the goodie.

Then 5 minutes later someone would declare:

Make it that we’re hiding and you cannae see us.

Or:

Make it that we can fly so when you find us we just fly away.

I’ve been on holiday for a few days, and I’ve been thinking about that phrase. “Make it that …”

Children playing
Make it that …

It’s like my 6-year-old self and my playmates really believed we could bend reality to our imaginations. If we decided we should make things this way, they would just be that way.

Of course they would.

Then I grew up and discovered that, unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like that.

But what if – in our work, at least – it did?

Continue reading “Making it up”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Love’s the needle, not the North*

Reading Time: 2 minutesIn a previous post, I said that big design up-front was a recipe for disaster.

And it is. So what’s the alternative?

The answer is not to plan less, but to plan more.

IMG_0392

Just don’t do it all at once. Plan the next week or two, do what you planned, and learn something.

We plan a lot. But we do it in small chunks. Lego-sized. Frequently. And regularly.

Because we recognise that the future is uncertain. We can’t predict it.

It’s pretty simple really. Don’t pretend that you know what will be happening in six months’ time. Accept that you won’t.

And move your planning cycle into a place where you can have some degree of certainty,

It’s like the weather forecast. We know what will happen in the next few hours with pretty-much 100% certainty.

After that, things get fuzzy. The weather next week looks cold, but that could change tomorrow.

And after that … well, the weather forecast two weeks from now is pretty much wishful thinking, even with the best brains and massive computation that the met office can throw at it.

This is what we’re about; what can we get done in the next week or two?

What can we get out there in front of actual people?

What will they do with it? And, in two weeks’ time, what will we do with that?

* If anyone got this far, the headline is a line from an Andrew Greig poem. My interpretation of it is that the thing pointing the direction we’re travelling in is not so important; where we’re heading for is.

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Stop starting. Start finishing

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can you run this report and get it to me by Thursday morning?

How do we stop starting and start finishing?
How do we stop starting and start finishing?

Eh … OK. But it’s now 4pm on Tuesday. And I’ve got to do …

… I need it by 10am on Thursday for a management meeting. Can you do that?

Yes … but …

… Is that OK?

Sure, yes. 10 o’clock on Thursday …

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has ever had a conversation like this. In fact, I’m pretty certain most of us have.

After all, the only way to escape these conversations is to be the big boss – the high heidjin, as we say in Scotland – and, necessarily, very few of us are that.

So what’s the solution?

 

Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that. But I do know this: if managers keep trying to stuff ever-fatter elephants down the pipe, it won’t end well.

Continue reading “Stop starting. Start finishing”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

It’s unexpected. But it’s also unexpectable

Reading Time: 3 minutesIMG_0356I can claim no no credit for the headline of this post – it’s a direct quote from an article on the Guardian about the remarkable resurgence in the sales of vinyl.

It’s an interesting article, though a long read. It illustrates well how and why Big Design fails so often.

Continue reading “It’s unexpected. But it’s also unexpectable”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Go on then. Motivate me

Reading Time: 2 minutesSo, here I am.

I turn up for work, regularly on time, frequently early. Occasionally late.

Trains…

I sometimes leave the office early, but, if I do, I will always check emails later, when I get home.

Well, mostly. (We’re being honest here. And we are talking about email. As motivations go, it’s not up there.)

I do a good job, I think. No-one’s ever told me otherwise, Though, frankly, I don’t think anyone could write my job description any more.

I include myself in that, though a hashtag might cover it: #whateverItTakes

So, how could you motivate me to do a better job?

You could give me more money. Money’s always good. Isn’t it?

Continue reading “Go on then. Motivate me”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Faking it

Reading Time: 3 minutesThis week, I did something I thought I’d never do: I deceived our users. Our visitors.

Our customers.

That’s pretty much a sacking offence, so maybe I should explain.

As part of the digital first team, we’re looking for ways to get user feedback. After all, how will we know if customers think our products and services are valuable unless we ask them?

We can’t always do that face to face. Is there another way?

Continue reading “Faking it”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Why Big Design fails

Reading Time: 3 minutesWhen businesses take on big IT projects (or any kind of big projects, I suppose), they puff their cheeks out and say, metaphorical hands on not-at-all-literal hips:

Gonna cost you guv.

They’re thinking: we’re going to have to plan this. We’ll need a risk register. We’ll have to fix the scope, gather all the deliverables, consult all the stakeholders.

Then we’ll create a PID, and a project plan. And if we get approval, and funding, we’ll start on an 18 month delivery plan that we’ve already been talking about for 6 months.

Then they’ll spend 2 months going round everyone who may have even the smallest stake in the project. They’ll seek their opinions, solicit their preferences.

Everything will be documented, in documents that will never be read by anyone.

Once all the stakeholders have been consulted, they’ll start planning. The risk register will be completed. A project plan will be drawn up. It is submitted for approval, and approval is granted.

Hey, we’ve been working on this thing for 6 months already and have delivered nothing but documentation. But we’ve already spent so much money on it that we can’t stop.

Sound familiar?

The Product Owner explains his priorities

Continue reading “Why Big Design fails”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Complexity. It’s not complicated …

Reading Time: 3 minutesI’m part of the digital first project, the team that’s looking into new ways of working that will help Scottish Enterprise improve its projects’ performance.

One of the things the team is doing is a 12-week training course on Value, Flow, Quality. That probably doesn’t mean much to most people, but basically it’s a methodology we can use to organise ourselves and our work to deliver value to our customers, quickly and flexibly.

One of the things we looked at in our first session was why IT and software projects regularly fail (by some measures, only one project in three is successful).

This alarming statistic tells us something is very wrong with the way businesses approach these projects. But what? Continue reading “Complexity. It’s not complicated …”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Our first live event: the facts and figures

Reading Time: 8 minutesOn 22 and 23 July, we set up a live stream from the Commonwealth Games Business Conference.

As well as the YouTube video stream, we used every channel at our disposal – twitter, LikedIn, Google+, our websites – to stimulate the debate.

Scottish Enterprise CEO Lena Wilson talking at the Commonwealth Games Business Conference
Scottish Enterprise CEO Lena Wilson talking at the Commonwealth Games Business Conference

It was a huge effort for a small team. Three of us – including Erica Goodey, who led on this project -were at the event. I was backup and tech support, though thankfully I was not needed for that. Everything went smoothly. Others back at the office pitched in too, publishing updates live on our sites.

So, roughly half our entire available resource tied up for two days.

And there have been months of planning, preparation and practice leading up to these two days.

In all, we estimate our total effort involved in these two days is 124 hours: equivalent to one person working on nothing else for nearly a month. And we’re not even half-way done yet. Much of our planning is around what we do with the material we’ve gathered now the event itself is past.

You can see how the two days were received on our storify.

This was a first for my team, and for Scottish Enterprise/SDI too. We have been a publisher for years, but this was the first time we have been a live broadcaster.

So, how did it go?

Continue reading “Our first live event: the facts and figures”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.

Digital first is … what?

Reading Time: < 1 minuteThere’s been a lot of talk about ‘digital first’ recently. But precious little about what that actually means.

So here’s my take on it. Very much off the top of my head.

Continue reading “Digital first is … what?”

About David O'Brien

I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been involved in the web for over 20 years, one way or another.