FromHereOn + BT: Da Vinci - Service Portfolio Design at Enterprise Scale

Codenamed Da Vinci, this global programme is transforming BT's 13,000-person IT department to become ‘an IT service provider of choice’. The project is shining a light across the wider enterprise on how to run service design-led transformation at scale. In June 2017, this FTSE100 Telecoms organisation was experiencing some commercial and cultural turbulence. A merger, an accounting scandal, negative press coverage and Brexit was impacting staff sentiment and share prices. Our project takes places inside the IT organisation which had just undergone significant organisational restructuring.

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FromHereOn + BT: Da Vinci - Service Portfolio Design at Enterprise Scale


This project submission is likely to be unique because it doesn't focus on a single service. This project involves the establishment of an internal Service Design agency inside BT's Technology Services and Operations (TSO) department where there was no service design experience and no service designers. In 12 months we have achieved the following outcomes:

  • established a Service Design Centre of Excellence (CoE) governing a service design process
  • trained eight client staff on how to facilitate Service Design training as well as trained 100+ staff
  • coached 14 Design Squads to re-design their Services, two of which are now live.

In June 2017, BT was experiencing some real commercial and cultural turbulence due to a combination of: their merger with another power-house brand with entirely different ways of working; an accounting scandal which sent the share price plummeting; and subsequent internal cost transformation initiatives, which fuelled an atmosphere of job uncertainty and a culture of protectionism.

Our project takes place inside BT's IT Organisation which had just undergone significant  estructuring to reduce siloed working practices, promoting more re-use and simplification The IT department was historically organised in 6 vertically integrated technology functions aligned to Customer Facing Units (CFUs) who manage product, marketing, sales and customer support. The CFUs felt the IT organisation was complex to deal with, unresponsive to change, expensive and slow to deliver. The new Managing Director of IT wanted to address these issues holistically. The first step was to engage consumers to co-create a unifying IT vision that united a newly elected leadership team and inspire the rest of the IT organisation. She wanted to get clear on the services her team offered, review customer engagement models and, streamline back-stage operations to reduce inconsistent working practices and remove waste.

We crafted this project with four key workstreams in response to BT's brief as well as the size of the organisation, its distributed nature and, low service design maturity:

1. Centre of Excellence (internal service design agency)

  • Establish a Service Design and Transition Centre of Excellence (CoE)
  • Design a service development process that integrates with existing systems and governance processes
  • Prioritise a backlog of IT Services that will deliver £7 million in-year OpEx savings

2. Design Squad Support

  • Work alongside the BT to train, coach & guide the design, build & transition of two services by May 2018
  • Launch a digital channel for consumers to discover and procure IT services

3. Training and facilitation

  • Develop a five-day Service Design applied training programme (called Bootcamp) with an assessment framework to measure mindset, knowledge-set, skill-set and tool-set against learning objectives
  • Train up the client’s team to be able to deliver the training
  • Deliver 6 Bootcamps over 12 months to give service design training to 100 employees

4. Communication and Change

  • Research audience communication needs & develop transformation & service-launch communication strategies
  • Cascade communications throughout the organisation focusing on outcomes from adopting a Service Design
  • Build a community of change advocates to propagate key project information and start shifting mindset


We took a phased approach over a 12-month timeframe. Phase 1) Think, 2) Do & Test 3) Embed & Scale.

Phase 1 – Think
In the first three months of the project, we worked with the leadership team, a cross-section of senior managers and CFU representatives from the business units to create an IT mission, vision and promise that incorporated the 2020 strategic intent, defining the goals for this project. Usually, these types of documents are produced by a small team and pushed out, we took a participatory design approach to co-create the content with staff and customers. The material went through six rounds of iteration including three co-creation sessions with different customer segments. The resulting content resonated with customers and employees and resolved cultural misinterpretations. We also researched what current IT Services were being offered and discovered there was no clear service catalogue or even knowledge of what IT services were in existence. Working with the BT leadership and customers, we developed a first iteration potential IT service portfolio, that imagined what IT services should be offered to meet user needs. We determined there were two primary customer segments:

  1.  CFU Facing - Offered to the Customer Facing Units; broadly characterised around IT Strategy, Software Development and Software
  2. Internal Employee Services - Run by IT for IT employees and 3rd Party developers that help teams to be more productive. These services can be broadly characterised as Agile/Lean coaching and Developer Tools as a Service.

Phase 2 – Do and Test
This phase built the CoE and started to re-design IT Services with Design Squads. What we think sets this work apart is the process we’ve put in place to scale a business transformation using service design at enterprise scale. For that reason, we’ve focused this section on the two enabling processes rather than the details of a specific service that has employed the method. These processes are 1) Service Design Training (Bootcamp), 2) Service Development Lifecycle.

Service Design Training - Bootcamp

The Bootcamp training is based on a proprietary Design Thinking public training course. The course has been heavily adapted to handle working through a real-life service design problem. In this regard, the training course fulfils two outcomes for BT: it is both a blueprint for how to run a lean service design sprint that ends with a user validated concept, as well as a training opportunity. Those that graduate join Design Squads to design a service. The Bootcamp covers all the techniques required to conduct a basic Service Design process.

The process begins four weeks before the training event with the CoE hosting a number of consultation sessions with the Service Owner. The aim is to obtain a clear problem or opportunity statement, gather as many assumptions and pain points as possible, confirm the strategic context and define strategic operating principles and constraints. The Service owner is asked to gather as much information as they can about customers and current state operations such as management information reports and process documents.

The participant’s journey begins two weeks before Bootcamp with a digital workshop introducing them to key service design concepts. The Bootcamp itself is a jam-packed five days. The Bootcamps have proven to be a highly effective method of inspiring trainees. Although we teach over 18 different techniques and tools, the emphasis of the five days is design sensibilities and shifting mindset. The construct ensures that participants experiment, empathise, collaborate with colleagues (selected purposely from diverse background and roles). Creating the conditions that ‘get them out of the building’ and listening to what real users have to say is the most powerful part of the experience. The penny drops on day four when the teams are showcasing their concepts back to the users they’ve done research with. It becomes clear that “no one individual can own the requirements” and that a technology focus doesn’t lead to effective outcomes.

Service Design Framework

The Design Process we’ve designed and tested with BT is influenced by a number of existing Service Design frameworks and models. The design framework is documented in a digital and physical resource called the Service Design Field guide. The guide provides a standardset of activities to be completed by each Design Squad. It’s a framework rather than a process as we’re encouraging each design squad to take the most appropriate design path based on their circumstances. Services vary widely in terms of maturity, complexity, size and coverage. Some services already exist but have low visibility or are poorly described. For these services, we start with a clear description of what we believe the value of the service to be and write an intended purpose hypothesis. This is then tested by a user. If the service is deemed to meet both business and user needs, then it can progress through the design lifecycle with a streamlined design and build focus. Other services are completely new and require more in-depth discovery phase to establish the real business problems to design for.

The design lifecycle incorporates proprietary Enterprise Architecture frameworks and service design blueprints. Using familiar language and standards resonated with an engineering culture, driving strong process adoption rates, accelerating viability and feasibility assessments, integrating well with Architecture and Finance needs. The Service Blueprints are modeled using standard IT Business capabilities ensuring consistency across services, highlighting common capabilities to reduce duplication. Design squads reference organisational maturity, supporting application services and people information during research.
The design process has a governance wrap around it which breaks the design process into five gated phases. These phases complement
existing internal governance processes (Finance, HR and Enterprise Architecture). Each phase develops the service’s desirability, feasibility, and viability. This is assessed at a service showcase, presented to the CoE at the end of each phase to ensure they’re on track.

At the start of each phase, we consult with the Service Owner and design or build squad about the types of tests they want to run and agree on time constraints and level of fidelity of outputs. There are a few keystone artefacts that we insist are produced by the process: user profiles, service blueprints and business cases.

We have been highly pragmatic in both the training and Design Squad delivery. We deliver an introductory curriculum that covers the basics of an end to end service design process. From a research and methodology perspective, we have made the design squads aware of the primacy effect and confirmation bias. By sharing ideas on how to counteract these biases, the research they do can hold up to scrutiny. Our view is that it's not about how beautiful a journey map is or how perfect user profiles are – we emphasise speed, iteration and usability over pixel perfect design. By focusing on principles over method, positioning tools as the means, not the end. We believe it is more important that designers can describe services from the user's perspective, identify root causes using systems models and, describe the impact on the organisation from a people, process, information and technology perspective. Ultimately, design outputs are communications assets. They provide clarity for the team and stakeholders, they are the stepping stones on the path to service innovation. In our coaching, we have continually emphasised principles and outcomes over outputs and highlighted the multiplier effect that a design mind-set can have. We have promoted a ‘done not perfect’, ‘minimum valuable’ mantra.

We’ve included a collection of outputs in the visual portfolio from one of the design squads showing the keystone artefacts produced while designing their service. Considering the individuals that created this had no knowledge of Service Design before they’ve begun, this is incredible work and more importantly, it’s happening at scale.

Phase 3 – Embed and Scale
Now that the CoE is a formal business unit with permanent team members we’re scaling out the speed at which we transform. Our cohorts of Bootcampers are in Service Design Squads and we’re actively supporting 12 live squads to design IT Services. To ensure we don’t duplicate research we’re cross-pollinating research insights and observations between squads.


The outputs of this project have been quoted by the client sponsor as being “the most professional outputs I’ve ever seen”. Each output supports the business objectives/outcomes that we were aiming for: to leave BT with a self-sustaining capability to run service design training, govern service design and support design squads. We also brought such a high degree of differentiation through the visual language and style that it created a perception that the programme is here to stay.

Customers of the Services created by the Design Squads are benefitting from true IT services for the first time – the services are easy to discover, easy to engage with the service provider (removing a key pain point that things only get done depending on who you know, not where you go), and easy to use. BT has benefitted from accelerating the maturity of their CoE from a standing start to what can be considered a viable business function operating seamlessly with the rest of the organisation (e.g. Finance, Architecture). The client set a new standard across the organisation for how transformation and change should be delivered. There is widespread recognition that this approach is delivering better outcomes, projects are queuing up to be supported by the CoE and use the Service Design method as it delivers outcomes that resonate with users and ensures that the IT teams don’t just focus on ‘technology’, instead contemplating the needs of users and the necessary support wrap that needs to go around services.

Employees have benefitted by learning new skills, being able to get involved in research activities and shape their future ways of working. Our Service Designers primarily focused on coaching and training, however, we did roll our sleeves up at times. We operated in partnership, so it’s difficult to isolate the client’s work from our own fully. There formal deliverables which are described below.

Change Communications

The communication outputs re-enforce the work by amplifying the success stories from the CoE and Design Squads building a positive atmosphere around the programme. Key outputs were:

  • Change communications strategy - Engagement and communications plan for each stakeholder group
  • Comms cascade - Building content to enable Change Community to give energising briefings to their colleagues
  • Service Comms research - A research report recommending how consumers want to discover and learn about IT Services.

Service Design & Transition CoE

The CoE was developed using the service design process. We ran weekly design sessions with users (service owners), virtual and fulltime team members to co-create our working practices, services and operating processes. We streamlined the design approach, focusing on principles and operating concepts so that we could spend more time testing processes and refining them based on feedback. The ran a design workshop using Lego to build out seven high-level operating processes in one day. The final deliverables of the CoE were:

  • Operational readiness report – describing the maturity of the client team’s ability to run the CoE on an ongoing basis with recommendations on how to fill any gaps.
  • Operational manual (field guide) – a runbook that describes how the Centre of Excellence operates, including: Principles, Capabilities, Governance processes, Roles and Responsibilities and operating templates.
  • Setup Service CoE Mission Control - Establishment of a Design Authority where decision are made and tests tracked.
  • Service Portfolio roadmap & project alignment – Service Roadmap based on analysis of viability, desirability and feasibility.
  • Capability Assessment - analysis of the current IT Business Capabilities to inform strategic decision making and provide Design Squads as a resource to accelerate current state blueprinting and feasibility assessments.

Service Portfolio Design & Delivery

  • Service design field guide (playbook) and videos - A digital and physical playbook/resource that contains tool templates and 20 x 1-3 min mini videos explaining key tools and techniques.
  • Learning Log - Describes observations about Design Squad members progress and mindset and actions to improve support
  • Design Squad support - We worked alongside Service Owners and subject matter experts to guide them through the Service Design process. We trained people on the job, overseeing the quality of outputs.


  • Train the trainer instructional resources, including workbooks and video - Ensured the client was in a position to run boot camps without the need of the agency.
  • Bootcamp runbook and resources – Bootcamp slide packs including scripts, activities and guidance notes. Accompanied by project planning tools and resource checklist.
  • Learning assessment framework and assessment – to assess course efficacy and participants effectiveness to participate in a Design Squad.


The impact has been immense and can be assessed through different lenses; individual, cultural, operational and commercial.

Staff (individual) impact
A Chief Architect and Head of Innovation who attended the train the trainer programme have left their positions to join the Centre of Excellence as full-time Service Designers – a powerful indication validating the approach.

From an individual’s perspective, this project has transformed people’s professional careers. We've engaged:

  • 12 on the train the trainer programme
  • 80 on the Bootcamp training
  • 50 working full time in design squads
  • 20 design advocates
  • 20 Senior Managers attended briefings

Those that have attended the bootcamp and train the trainer programme have had opportunities to lead training for their peers and develop new skills. The Bootcamp assessment data has been analysed and shows the results to be highly efficacious.

Operational impact
BT has been able stand-up a relatively mature Service Design capability within a 6 month timeframe as well as delivering Training and Support services from the CoE. The capability is now fully operational and providing global support, training and governing the Service Design led transformation. This could not have happened without the project approach of running the capability whilst at the same time setting it up.

Commercial impact
The services that are being worked on are realising business benefits – reducing risk, increasing responsiveness and reducing the cost to deliver IT Solutions. The overall business case of £28 million over 3 years is on track to be delivered through the revised IT Services Transformation.

Cultural impact
This programme has been attributed to increasing employee satisfaction scores in the annual employee survey. A key benefit for the organisation has been the inclusion of offshore communities that make up the bulk of the workforce. Actively choosing to run the first official Bootcamp in Bangalore, India, was a clear indicator that this is an inclusive global programme.


This was an ambitious programme of work that never set out to design the perfect service or exemplify best in class methodology or method. We've set out to create a programme of work that excites, upskills and empowers a traditionally introspective organisation to learn basic service design thinking principles, techniques and tools so that they can deliver their own transformation - at scale.

On top of the formally stated objectives, the business context was characterised by change fatigue and lack of faith in external agencies delivering transformation work (“this is yet another change initiative that will ultimately fail”). This needed to be seriously considered in our approach. Our critical brief was that this project would fail unless we energised the client’s organisation to take control of its own destiny; to inspire a fresh way of thinking that challenged the mindset of ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’ by role modelling behaviours of optimism; experimentation, collaboration, integrative thinking and empathy. The spearheading of this IT transformation from a Service
Design perspective enables the IT organisation to re-imagine what it wants to be in an inclusive and holistic way and co-create that with the rest of the organisation. In so doing, they are projecting a new image to the rest of the organisation of how they want to engage and are already starting to realise the brand vision that we defined in Phase 1.

Taking 100 individuals from BT and expecting that we can skill them up enough to re-design their service portfolio is fraught with risk from a practitioner’s perspective: What if they don't research correctly? How will they synthesise correctly? These objections are valid; in fact, the programme is quite confrontational to a professional community as we've actively made ourselves redundant from the doing, adding value by providing the framework, energy and guiding principles. We've been testing out what 'just enough' support is and how best to support provide ‘light-touch’ coaching services to inexperienced designers. We’ve reached a tipping point and there is enough momentum behind the project at a leadership level and grassroots level that this Service Design led transformation will continue to accelerate at pace and scale.

The power of this project is not in the specific service design methods or the rigour of research but in the embodiment of design thinking principles that is transforming peoples’ lives and giving them a new lease of energy to come to work in the morning. This, in turn, is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of improved customer engagement and working relationships.

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