Before we start a discussion about Service Design, we have to define the meaning of the main terms. What are Services? What is a Service Design?
What are services?
There are dozens of different definitions of Services. The most universal and clear is – “Service – work done by one person or group that benefits another” (WordNet dictionary). There are several important points here:
- Benefits are the key element of a service. We have to be always focused not on the service itself but the value that it brings to the consumer.
- Two roles of service Provider and Consumer are implicitly defined. Individual or group of people can represent both roles.
- Nobody limits how specific work has to be done. Ways of interaction during the service delivery are not defined. So it can be either direct communication between humans or indirect via human-machine or even machine-machine touchpoints.
- Services are any kind of work, both physical and mental those brings a value. It can be regular administration tasks, one time troubleshooting or external consulting.
Problem solving, support, solution planning and implementation are good examples of services delivered by IT professionals.
For every specific service, boundaries of the current consideration as well as detailing and granularity level have to be clearly defined. If a boundary is wider than the context of the consideration, we can’t interpret task or problem as a service. For example, the task of data volume configuration is not a service for business users. They just use the business application and have no any clue what a storage volume is. In this case, boundary has to be narrowed to a level of direct consumers of the service. In our example, it is the level of a system administrator who ordered the data volume and considers storage configuration as a direct service. The service boundaries for business users should be to the level business functions provided by the application.
Too narrow boundaries limit service efficiency. For example, if the task of data protection is considered only on the level of storage admins, we lose other possibilities like host replication or Oracle standby. These alternatives in some cases can be more valuable with fewer prices to implement and support.
The level of detailing and granularity depend on the specific problem we need to resolve. Sometimes a general view is enough to find the solution. In other cases, a thorough understanding of the whole chain of small sub-services, those are part of bigger service, is needed. Value flow chain, considered in the article below, is the right tool to design services on a high granularity level.
Other important properties of services are: “Services are more intangible than goods; services are often produced and consumed at the same time; quality control is more difficult because many services involve employees and customers as part of the product; services cannot be inventoried.” (Bettencourt, 2010) They “cannot be produced beforehand and stored for later consumption.” (Grönroos, 2007)
So methods to create, support and innovate services have to be very different from practices used for tangible goods.
What is Service Design?
Service Design (SD) is a People-oriented “multi-disciplinary platform of expertise” (Mortiz, 2005) that helps to discover new opportunities, produce ideas, solve problems and create effective service solutions. The Copenhagen Institute of Design (CIID) defines SD as a “practice [that] generally results in the design of systems and processes aimed at providing a holistic service to the user… [It] combines numerous skills in design, management and process engineering”. Of course it is applicable in many areas including IT on which I’m focused in.
Service Design “aims to ensure that service interfaces are useful, usable, and desirable from the client’s point of view and effective, efficient, and distinctive from the supplier’s point of view.” (Erlhoff, 2007)
Part of a service that is visible and accessible to the consumer for action is referred to as a front stage. Back stage is a provider side where service delivery takes place. It is not visible to the consumer but most of the work occurs there.
Contact points of service interface between front and back stages are touchpoints. Service catalog and email address of 1st level support team are the typical touchpoints.
Both Provider and Consumer are deeply involved in a service process. So they are very focused on details of specific tasks they deliver and resources they supply and use. Usually, Provider and Consumer concentrated on the process of the problems resolution but can’t impartially see the source of these challenges. The whole picture can also be unclear. They just can’t see the forest for the trees.
So we need a mediator role outside of the system. This role is the Service Designer. He has to have the right mindset. Service Designer should be distanced from the both Provider and Consumer. He needs to see the whole picture and have courage and right to have his own opinion. Problems should to be discovered from different perspectives because solution can be found at an unusual angle of view.
Of course, Service Designer is just the role. So external experts or individuals inside the organization can play it.
Service Designer can be the main force to optimize existing and create new services as well as solve specific problems. These are services of higher level those named Meta-services.