Service design brings together all the different parts that are required to design, build and deliver the service: It involves understanding the user needs of all the users, including the public and the staff operating the service. It also requires an understanding of the backend servers, data flows and infrastructures that make up the visible part of the service possible, and then the supporting processes, like all the policies, training of staff, budgets and business cases.
The problem is that a single person cannot design a service on their own and hiring a service designer to design the service will likely fail if the organisation itself is not well set up to design services.
Hiring a service designer, or even a whole service design team, without understanding what delivering an end-to-end service will entail, is a risk. Money and time are wasted, and the service designer will either leave or burn out as they don’t feel like they can add real value.
Service design thinking is something that the whole organisation must adopt. It’s not that everyone is a service designer, but to deliver the service outcome, everyone must acknowledge and accept they are part of the solution to solve the problem.
Therefore, organisations should focus on educating all the people within the organisation, regardless of their role, about service design thinking; what does it mean to their role? How can they contribute to the organisational goal of designing and delivering services?
At NHS Digital we are making changes to the way we work to address these challenges. As the health and care system is so vast and fragmented, this is not always easy.
For example, for most public facing services we don’t own whole services, but only parts of them. Therefore, we are taking steps to work better with our commissioners, policy makers and stakeholders to bridge the ownership gap and work together to solve whole problems and be part of delivering whole services. This will give our teams better understanding of the context they operate in, which service outcomes they are working towards and thus which metrics should they measure.
We are also educating our people about user-centred service design thinking, and how to advocate for it. A couple of years ago we launched our own internal training course. This year, we have reviewed the needs of our teams and developed the course further. The more people who understand the role they play in user-centred service design, the better. It is everyone’s responsibility, whether it’s in your job title, or not.