Koos Service Design: User centric governance

26 national laws concerning physical planning, flood protection, and environmental planning have been rewritten into one new law: the Environmental Planning Act. Our client, responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands, aims at offering all information through one digital portal (Digitaal Stelsel Omgevingswet) and by doing so,simplifying the process of requesting (environmental) permits for activities such as building a shed opening an establishment.

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Context and goal

The past years, a set of 26 Dutch laws concerning physical planning, flood protection, and environmental planning have been rewritten into one new law: the Environmental Planning Act. Our client aims at offering all information through one digital portal and by doing so, simplifying the process of applying for (environmental) permits at local governments, for activities from simple home expansions to building complex factories.

Main Goal: Working from a complex application process towards a simplified online journey which enables civilians, entrepreneurs, professionals, local and national government officials to participate in creating their living environment, together.
Secondary Goal: Align local implementation and provide a shared starting point for the development of services, using ‘design thinking’ training and roadshows, personas and journey formats.


Project-based on intensive co-creation sessions and training with internal users As the new Environmental Planning Act needs to be adopted by local government, we involved a wide range of local stakeholders through more than 25 multidisciplinary sessions throughout
the total project. In these sessions, we teamed up with internal users from each governmental level (national, provincial, municipal and local water institutes) to adopt and validate the research findings and customer journeys. Together, we created solutions for all users based on the journeys, personas, expert profiles and developed experience principles.

During the 6 month project we took the following steps:

  1. In-depth design research
    In order to understand the different needs, drivers and behavior around permits applications, we sensitized the most important user groups using diary studies and executed a range of 39 in-depth contextual interviews at the location, ranging from citizens and civil agencies to licensing authorities.
  2. Persona development
    Using a specifically constructed psychological tension model for each user group, we managed to capture all different drivers and behavior through sets of opposite needs-based personas. 
  3. Current journey mapping
    For every persona (10x) we mapped the current journey during sessions based on the interviews. 
  4. Developing Experience drivers
    Based on the vision of the new Environmental Planning Act and the needs-based personas we developed 7 experience drivers, that give direction to the development of the desired experience and service innovations.
  5. Trend research
    We collected existing trends from internal reports and during several trend sessions with key stakeholders we determined the most important social and technical trends.
  6. Designing desired journeys 2024
    During many sessions and roadshows with national and local government officials, we ideated on 2024 scenarios, fueled with the experience drivers, trends, personas and journeys. The results were plenty new out-of-the-box service ideas, all combined in. 
  7. Roadmap & innovation strategy
    Ideas were clustered and prioritised by the main team into a set of service innovations for 2018 using the Ease & Effect matrix. The team selected ideas based on effect, while IT-architects provided input on how easy it would be to build.
  8. Define desired journeys 2018
    Based on the roadmap we define the desired journey 2018 by downgrading the service innovations 2024 back to 2018.
  9. Develop service blueprint
    During multiple sessions, based on the journey 2018, we developed a service blueprint to translate the journeys into high-level internal service processes for both national and local government. This lead to the development of ideal employee profiles, or expert profiles.
  10. UX/UI design
    We supported the UX department with the design of several pages. 


Tensions, drama, and behaviour are captured in 10 customer personas. We’ve captured some bizarre insights around what people are willing to do to get their permits; from death threats, obstruction, killing endangered species to intense neighbor diplomacy or simply outsourcing the whole process. Using a specifically constructed psychological tension model for each customer group, we managed to capture all different drivers and behaviour through sets of opposite needs-based personas.

These needs-based personas were a big eye-opener to all stakeholders involved. While they apply for the same permits, they have completely different needs, motivations and thus a desired interaction and experience. These personas are used by many stakeholders within the government; from the team that is developing the platform to local and national government officials involved on the widespread
implementation within each municipality in the Netherlands.

Shared and clear vision on desired service delivery
To create a shared and clear vision for the development of the platform and the implementation of the service formulas at the municipalities, a set of 7 experience principles were created, based on customer needs and the vision of the new legislation. These principles act as strategic guidelines for idea selection and the development of service innovations. Secondary they provide important direction for the UX design of the platform. 

Immensely complex system of journeys connecting relations, experience and activities of all different users
The DSO is multiple sided platform. It comprehends a vast amount of complex processes for many different customers and stakeholders; civilians and entrepreneurs applying for a permit (and there are many many different permits), civilians and entrepreneurs objecting to a permit, professionals helping them, local officials granting or denying permits, municipalities and citizens co-designing the vision of their neighbourhood, urban planners, city counsels, etcetera, etcetera ...

We set out to combine one overall blueprint capturing all activities and interaction between users. In total we’ve mapped a set of 10 current customer journeys (one for each persona), including the needs, pains, gains and experience curve. Based on this blueprints we’ve designed one unified service experience (detailed in ten ideal journeys) for the platform and local communities combined.

Overwhelming amount of innovative and incremental Service innovations

We started with the design of ten ideal future journeys, 5 years in the future. This way we made the desired vision of the new legislation tangible for everyone involved. Ambitions became clear and IT-architects understood what major blocks needed to be included to make their systems future and vision proof.

From here we’ve worked backwards towards a realistic short roadmap, just two years into the future. Slicing and clustering through hundreds of ideas, we’ve ended up with twentyseven service innovations, all mapped throughout the new ideal journeys, describing impact on the digital service delivery, the local service delivery and organisational capabilities.

Ideal skills and mindset captured in five employee profiles. By constructing the service blueprint new or changed roles of internal stakeholders within the process were identified. For example; traditionally highly skilled but introverted urban planners now have to interact with citizens using co-creation sessions to co-design a shared vision on the neighbourhood. New characteristics of the ideal internal experts are captured in the five employee profiles.
Both profiles and personas help to create a lot of empathy within the organisation.

Customer centric mindset 
Originally the Dutch government is working very process minded. It is not since long that there is a top down focus on involving designers and working more customer centric. During the process we’ve seen many sceptics being turned. Going home after the workshop they proclaimed to wanting to use this approach more often. Through their managers we heard back their enthusiastic stories.


Size of the legislation is huge and impacts all inhabitants of the Netherlands

  • The central bureau for statistics made an estimation that municipalities will collect around 449 million in building leges.
  • In 2017 already 80% of the 148,333 requests came through the new OLO program
  • The guidelines, as-is and to-be journeys being used as a framework for local policy making and implementation of the new Environmental Planning Act.

Customer centric government

  • The biggest results of the project are that the user is now the central point in the design and define fase and that new processes are tested bij citizens. Some innovations are already being implemented on the current process.
  • This service design project is introduced in all municipalities, provinces, environmental services and water management bodies.
  • Customer journeys and service design thinking is introduced in 390 Dutch municipalities during roadshows and sessions. 2000 municipality-workers are working with the results of the project.
  • Creation of new employee functions within municipalities. The first functions have been fulfilled and training programmes have been developed to increase the necessary capabilities.

A better and stronger permit application experience

  • Reduced duration of a permit application from 26 to 8 weeks.
  • The expected impact is a faster onboarding process that helps with better informed citizens.
  • The internal decision making process is also becoming more efficient. This causes a smoother process with enables a more hassle free service for the user.
  • We narrowed down the eleven customer journeys to four service formulas for the municipalities with each a desired experience and correlating innovations. These are developed with the customer journeys in mind, while government officials added their own new innovations. The design of the journeys helped a lot in this process.

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