There are great benefits to be found in re-configuring your corporate services. Or perhaps, in setting up a shared services operation. Your goals are likely such things as reducing costs and improving the way resources are managed within your organization. You may want to improve service quality and increase job satisfaction for your team in the process.
Rather than moving towards these challenges with a traditionally structured approach, it can be hugely rewarding to weigh the benefits of taking a user-centric service design approach. With your end user, or valued customer, held front and centre of the design process, you can tap into a powerful resource. Imagine intuitively uniting your design team behind a common goal. All the while, creating the opportunity to adjust strategy, and fine-tune at every step of the process.
The Power of Cross-Functional Design
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on digital business design in London led by Dr Jeanne Ross, of MIT Sloan School of Management. She shared with us why designing cross-functionally is so key to delivering digital services with success. Her words offered hard-hitting insight into why traditional approaches so often fail. They revealed the flawed nature of starting a service-oriented organization by first setting up functional divisions, and hierarchical management structures. This very approach can in fact undermine the potential for user-centric service delivery, and top-level results.
The insights Ross shared are not only relevant to designing new customer services in the digital realm. These insights are also hugely valuable to creating the highest potential for genuine, far-reaching improvement to large scale corporate service delivery.
The traditional way of setting of corporate services is to setup functional areas and attempt process improvements within each unit in each area. With this approach, you can see how individual managers can become isolated in their roles:
- Set your strategic goals, such as to reduce costs by implementing shared or corporate services.
- Identify the key functional areas that are relevant to the goals in question. For example, HR, finance and IT.
- Define a Management structure for each functional area.
- Define functional objectives and performance goals for each manager.
- Delegate responsibility down the management structure for figuring out unit operations.
The Limitations of Traditional Thinking
While at first glance this approach may seem logical, the branching effect of this type of approach invariably results in duplicated efforts. It creates risk that what is known as a “silo effect” will take hold. This would mean that the sharing of key information, resources and solutions crosswise likely will not occur. A high dependency on the competencies of individual managers is inevitable, which at best leads to varied achievement of strategic goals within the limited scope of each area.
In contrast, a user-centric service design approach mean building from the ground up. It means incorporating intrinsic interconnectedness between all functional areas. The striking difference is that is places the central focus on the customer, or user’s point of view. This, alongside the collaborative, outcome-focused nature of the design effort. The user experience becomes the factor upon which the spotlight shines. We can re-imagine function and management structures as contributing forces in orbit.
The Flow of A Service Design Approach
In this model, the status quo is flipped on it’s head, resulting in the sharing of valuable insights across all areas of the organization in question, and a focus that always draws back to results. Start with “why” not only the organization “why” but also the stakeholder “why” :
- Set your strategic goals, such as to reduce operational costs by implementing shared or corporate services.
- Identify services, and define desired service outcomes, specifically from the user’s point of view.
- Define accountability for the service outcomes desired, now seen as goals.
- Define the actions for each service required to achieve the outcomes envisioned. For example, acquiring necessary resources, delivering training, setting up work locations are all actions in the employee onboarding service and traditionally performed in different functional areas.
- Establish a core cross-functional team to design the service process flow, and to structure the inter-unit interactions. Set operational objectives for each process and interaction, based on these user-centric team efforts.
Identifying Hidden Opportunities
With an overview of such a design strategy, it is easy to see the higher level of efficiency, and greater effectiveness, that can be achieved. This exploratory and synergistic approach leads to a boost in both results and morale. It is structured to improve the experience of the end service customer, and to improve the experience of employees facilitating and delivering that service as well.
An engaged cross-functional team, employing such a user-centric approach, also holds the means to identify otherwise hidden opportunities. The potential to re-purpose great ideas across different areas can be harnessed, while best practices can be carried organization-wide. This consolidation starts to become an organic process, leading to an inevitable reduction in costs and/or improvements in service experience and quality.
Greater Achievement For Your Organization
The user-centric service design approach perfectly marries the development of superior best practise methods with the various strengths, competencies and creativity of each team member. It enables the discovery of cross-functional time and effort savers. People operating within the isolating frame of a silo-inclined organization structure can seldom identify such tools. Choosing a user-centric service design approach over a structural approach will offer your organization a clear path to consistent achievement of service efficiency, effectiveness and excellence.