This project by the US based company Doblin Deloitte is a finalist for the Service Design Award 2017 in the category of Professional, Non-profit / Public Sector work.

In 2015 in the midst of increased public scrutiny, a loss in Veteran confidence and a lack of employee engagement, VA took enterprise level action to address barriers in serving Veterans and their families. Together as a team,Doblin Deloitte, the Veterans Experience Office and VA collaborators engaged Veterans, employees, and stakeholders in a three step approach to help improve Veterans’ experiences with service delivery at VA.

This case study is part of The Service Design Award Annual 2017. The Award Annual book is available to purchase in print format. Not a member yet? SDN members enjoy a special 10% discount. Become a SDN member, or upgrade your community membership to have access to all exclusive benefits!



Overall Process

Discover & Synthesize: Hundreds of ethnographic Veteran interviews across the United States resulted in deep qualitative data ultimately synthesized into a set of service design tools used to guide strategic decision making around improvement opportunities 

Communicate & Engage: Facilitated workshops with stakeholders from departments across VA were used to map specific service journeys (e.g. outpatient healthcare), enabling various departments to generate new processes and tactics, and prioritize improvement opportunities

Build-Test-Learn: A design sprint methodology enabled our team to make bold ideas concrete realities, testing low-fidelity prototypes with Veterans and VA stakeholders to refine concepts and generate services to meet and exceed Veterans’ expectations


  • Human-centered design tools for STAKEHOLDERS to build empathy and guide decision making 9  Service Line Journey Maps
  • Hiring process interventions for EMPLOYEES to remove barriers and enable productive interactions 220 Engaged in Hiring Improvements
  • On-boarding experience improvements for VETERANS to help them understand what VA offers 12 million  Potential Veterans to receive a Welcome Kit


The VA Design Tools were built around Veterans’ experiences with action in mind. By building empathy and guiding strategic decision making throughout the organization, these tools have quickly been diffused and adopted across departments.


Ethnographic Research Our team traveled across the country to conduct qualitative research—interviews, stimuli activities, and environmental observations—generating a comprehensive perspective of the life and needs of Veterans.


Journeys of Veterans Map & Personas By synthesizing our qualitative research, we developed a model for the common phases and stages of Veterans’ life journeys and where VA can and should play a role across their lives. This model is reflected in the Journeys of Veterans Map and VA Personas, two service design tools to support VA in acting on the lived experiences of Veterans.

Journey Mapping as a Tool Journey maps were quickly adopted as a strategic resource across VA to drive strategic planning and decision making across the enterprise, foster empathy with Veterans, and build a shared language between Veterans and VA. Stakeholders have used the maps to identify and prioritize service improvement opportunities and align patient experience with employee experience.


“The Journeys of Veterans Map has changed the tenor and outcomes of the strategic planning process at VA.” –Sarah Brooks, US Government’s first Chief Design Officer


VA sought to find qualified candidates and expedite the hiring process in addition to improving interactions within HR and between HR and other VA business units.


Our team conducted interviews with HR stakeholders to design and pilot a new process for hiring qualified employees faster. A facilitated workshop with over 40 HR leaders resulted in an HR journey map, identification of orthodoxies, and a Strategic Communications Toolkit.


Hiring Process Redesign: It took 80 to 175 days to recruit, hire, and start employees within VA medical centers. By interviewing stakeholders from HR, medical professionals, and Veterans, we worked to prototype a new protocol to expedite the hiring process. Our work resulted in a pool of candidates that could fill a position within 30 days of a vacancy, improving the experience of onboarding candidates and preventing serious interruptions in VA operations. Process implementation tools were distributed across five pilot sites, each of which are successfully implementing the new program.

HR Strategic Communication Tools: VA sought to transform HR practices by understanding the organizational orthodoxies preventing progress. Our team embedded within a combined HR and business unit team experiencing an interaction in real time and discovered a set of practices inhibiting HR’s efficacy within VA, specifically communication barriers. We developed a Strategic Communications Toolkit to facilitate productive conversations between HR and business units. Our efforts resulted in HR operating as a strategic thought partner, promoting effective collaboration and success.

“This initiative is the best work I’ve been involved with at VA.” –Meghan Flanz, Assistant Secretary, Human Resources and Administration


During initial research, Veterans repeatedly noted separation as one of the most challenging periods of their lives. To acclimate transitioning servicemembers, our team redesigned the VA onboarding experience.


Co-designing & Prototype Testing Our team used an iterative approach to prototyping design improvements. We began our process by interviewing, co-designing, and testing the value proposition of potential prototypes with currently separating servicemembers, recently separated Veterans, long-time Veterans, and Veterans reengaging with VA. Throughout the research process we iterated on materials, and sought feedback from stakeholders as well.

A Future Onboarding Experience

Many Veterans are eager to get started using these tools to help them navigate VA’s complex landscape of benefits and services. While these tools will help bridge the gap between service and life as a Veteran, they will also be used as a resource across time, helping Veterans understand the full scope of VA services and when they fit into their lives. These tools will be both digital and analog to provide easy access for all Veterans.


Set of Communication Materials Veterans needed a simpler way to understand VA’s full scope of offerings. Our communication materials organized VA benefits and services across the phases of the Journeys of Veterans map, enabling Veterans to see the full scope of offerings according to when they might use them during their life. This supported Veterans in making informed decisions about which services to access at the most appropriate time in their lives.


Many Veterans are eager to get started using these tools to help them navigate VA’s complex landscape of benefits and services. While these tools will help bridge the gap between service and life as a Veteran, they will also be used as a resource across time, helping Veterans understand the full scope of VA services and when they fit into their lives. These tools will be both digital and analog to provide easy access for all Veterans.

“A Welcome Kit lasts a couple of months. We’re talking about something that lasts a lifetime.” –Tom Allin, Former Chief Experience Officer of VA


By collaborating with stakeholders across VA, our team helped make significant improvements to Veterans’ experiences, driving a shift within the organization from a cost and efficiency mindset to a value and experience mindset.

Think Big By synthesizing deep qualitative research into easily digestible and powerful visualizations, our team facilitated productive conversations to align VA on Veterans’ most urgent needs, assess the efficacy of current offerings, and identify and prioritize opportunities for high-impact design interventions. 

Start Small By starting small and initially focusing on easily implementable solutions, our team demonstrated immediate impact of both the method and design tools. We gained stakeholder buy-in evidenced by the adoption of the method across business units, built momentum resulting in scheduled implementation of the onboarding materials, and inspired the organization toward continued action.

Act Fast Through our build-test-learn approach, our team tested and designed prototypes quickly and collaboratively, rapidly iterating on the designs which resulted in products precisely tailored to Veterans’ needs. Our rapid approach encouraged VA stakeholders to adopt similar methods within their own business units, scaling innovation and promoting incremental change immediately across VA.


From 158 stand-alone products and services to a holistic offering across 10 life stages

From 175 days to 30 days to fill vacancies

From 208 pages to 20 pages of welcome information potentially distributed to 12M Veterans.

VA continues to harness human-centered design as a means to enhance strategic decision making, facilitate productive collaboration across business units, enable front-line employees to deliver great service, and design streamlined experiences for Veterans engaging with VA.


Project Credits


Important Information and Credits:

  • Project Name: Delivering Easy Effective and Emotionally Satisfying Experiences for Veterans
  • Category: Professional, Non-profit / Public Sector
  • Service Design Award 2017, nominated project for Professional Award
  • Organisation: Doblin Deloitte
  • Clients: United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Website: Doblin Deloitte

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