We have an extensive library of tools and practices that marry to the three activities in IBM Design Thinking: ‘Observe’, ‘Reflect’ and ‘Make’. Service design at IBM is part of a larger ‘Playbook’ of IBM Design Thinking.
Our service designers work in teams to examine problems holistically rather than reductively to understand relationships in complex eco-systems.
This means our designers, technologists and business experts can work together to frame challenges, work with users and SMEs to define the outcomes that create value. We use design insights based on user research to define opportunities and then we ideate in teams to then move quickly to prototyping so we can test with end users the systems and processes that support new offerings in a service-product continuum. We not only design interactions and experiences, but also define with the client new organisational structures with new roles that in turn create new industries and new markets. It’s very exciting.
When I think of IBM, ‘Watson’ springs to mind, and I know it is sold as an enterprise solution to many different industries. Google have also just emphasised how much they're investing and focusing on AI as the future of computing. Have you had a chance to play a role in projects where AI is being applied? And if so, what role do you think service design plays in our AI-powered future?
There is no part of our society and business activities that will not be touched, affected and changed by cognitive computing. IBM is at the vanguard of this change and is the world’s leading provider of the most advanced cognitive systems. Humans are on the cusp of augmenting their lives in extraordinary ways with AI. Watson has evolved from an IBM Research project to become the world’s first and most-advanced AI platform.
My recent work in the financial services sector has meant I have worked with colleagues to apply Watson to deal with the vast amounts of data that is created and needs to be analysed to predict how markets might behave, or to give ‘robo’ advice to a banking client. I can’t think of any team around the globe that is not looking at how Watson and cognitive computing will help our clients deliver better and more relevant services.
I also understand that you're pushing the concept of ‘design ops’ alongside ‘dev ops’ (which is what you'd more traditionally associate with IBM). Can you better describe what you mean with ‘design ops’, and what it entails for your client work?
As a service designer specialising in digital-first transformation, I have developed several frustrations with traditional customer-centric design methods that use a phased approached or process that attempt to work at speed using agile methodologies.
Service and experience design methods offer strategic and tactical approaches based on contextual and participatory work with customers who are part of an established constituency and drawn from new constituencies. But it is slow. Co-design with users should be undertaken in a continually-iterative, fast-paced process of discovery, definition, design, development, testing and adaption but importantly it must be informed with data-derived insight.
A traditional double-diamond phased design model is not always fast enough or efficient in an agile world, especially given the momentum of development and delivery that add complexity.
For companies to compete with agile innovation, they will increasingly have to adopt a lean and agile design model that works with constituencies using operationalised design that dovetails with agile and DevOps.
Design Operations (DesOps) takes the best and most effective features of a phased insight approach, based on a double diamond model, and dovetails to an agile model, based on work-streams and sprints. It enables us to map design work with the work cadence and goals of developer operations (DevOps). Doing always trumps thinking. So DesOps enables us to work quickly using an operational and systemised approach. Teams systemise their approach and define ‘components’: stories, insights or processes that can be re-used by mandated teams.
DevOps was a response to two connected and conflated influences, the emergence of digital services and the entanglement of those services that created complexity. At the heart of DevOps is systems thinking, adaptation, agility and resilience. In DevOps and DesOps, design, development and implementation shift from being separate and sequential phases to being an iterative continuum of conjoined services. So design and operations have become woven together as conjoined twins in a continuous, iterative loop. We still need centralised design practices, and importantly we need standardised disciplines such as UI design. But this approach enables designers to work with agility with dev teams.
Lastly, you took time out of your practitioner career to help set up what's still the only degree-granting educational programme in service design in the US, at the Savannah College of Art and Design. As this issue of Touchpoint is focused on education, can you reflect a bit on what you see as the most important issues the community faces in creating the service designers of tomorrow?
This is a great question. I really enjoyed my time in education and felt passionately about developing programmes that were platforms for launching students into a career where they could be impactful! The SCAD Service Design programme was about me spotting a need and a trend. I had been talking to Chris Downs, whom I taught at Glasgow School of Art, when he came to talk to my students at Middlesex University on the MDes in Product Design, Management and Innovation course that I had set-up in the UK. It must have been about 2005 and we discussed the need for a dedicated course in service design. I was talking to SCAD and they were keen for me to join them. So I went there and worked with Tom Gattis because he and I saw the potential of a programme that would dovetail with their design courses in product design, interaction design, experience design and design management. It was a great time to be at SCAD, working with some great faculty. I set up the course and got it going and then was asked to become the Director of Collaborative Learning, so I recruited Diane Miller to come aboard. She did an amazing job of bedding-in the course. It’s since gone from strength to strength.
Higher education needs to prepare students to become lifelong learners, and I have always advocated, since my time as a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art in the early 1990s, the need to use problem-based learning in a collaborative environment which brings design, business and technology together. I favour a ‘polytechnic’ system and I think the move to dismantle polytechnics in the UK in the 1990s was a mistake. I see the changes in the UK’s design education and I am concerned that we are producing graduates that lack skills and context. Increasingly, they are forced to work in environments that are too small and lack the space to collaborate and work across disciplines.