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Project teams, and the leaders who are building them and the surrounding talent pools, must reaffirm whether they’re asking the right questions for service design and design thinking.
It’s not good enough to give the end users a token mention in a meeting room as part of a standardized design framework. This guidance applies to all verticals, but few more so than the public sector, as organizations and authorities aim for their version of digital transformation. The public sector is outspoken in taking a renewed view of service design and design thinking, emphasizing their focus on the end users. This view was also a constant theme at a recent event on digital transformation in local government. In the public sector, change means barriers, including budget scrutiny, change-averse cultures, low-risk appetites, and the clashes between politics and bureaucracy.
These challenges should serve as a stark reminder to look beyond technology and data and at the impact of projects and decisions on your employees’ and customers’ lives.
It’s outcomes, not technology, that end users care about—both politicians and enterprise leaders must get out of this trap
Local politicians are some of the worst offenders in asking for technology for technology’s sake rather than for achieving outcomes. They often view technology as a siloed policy, rather than something integral for improving people’s lives. The same view holds in enterprises, where many frustrated service providers lament business leaders’ demands for AI or blockchain, having no concept of an end goal or business problem. Instead, consider what people really need, which might differ from what they seemingly want: leaders must get over the “faddism” of technology being solving all their problems.
The problem will often boil down to a lack of decision-making clarity. In local government, for example, is it the elected councilors or the council officers making the decisions? In an enterprise, does the decision maker or project lead have an open channel to all the end users? Do they have a diverse project team capable of recognizing and reaching the end users, or are they a disconnected overseer?
There are almost always multiple end users: consider whose priorities are being given more weight
There’s a real fear factor surrounding the public sector adopting a digital-first approach; it often gives the impression of exclusivity to the “tech savvy,” even if, in reality, the digital option is user-friendly, well thought out, and doesn’t eliminate the traditional option. Both public and private sector employees feel this pressure.
Take the analogous enterprise example of automation causing a fear of job losses: a better consideration for all the end users of this technology can help to dispel unwarranted negativity. One of automation’s core benefits is freeing employees’ time, which they can then spend on mission-critical tasks, a point that vendors must relay better. It’s not just a case of considering the end customer, who might see quicker transactions or responses to queries.
Consider whether you are listening to all of the multiple end users’ priorities. For example, in providing care for the elderly, it might be care-workers’ skepticism hampering digital adoption more so than that of their elderly care patients, who simply want and need better care.
Data-heavy public sector projects show the value of a high-level view for the end users
High-level, industry-specific expertise is crucial to the design process. There must be someone who knows the end users, asks the right questions, makes strategic sense of data, and applies emerging technologies to a given scenario.
Successful public sector projects typically involve many partnerships that can bring data together in one central pot where relevant experts can interpret it from an end-user perspective. Here are two examples:
The Bottom Line: Yes, we all know to consider the end user—just be sure to cover every end user: it’s critical whether you’re in local government or a CMO.
Beats headphones’ Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Apple VP Omar Johnson has undoubtedly had success in designing campaigns with end users’ experience in mind; Beats’ 2012 Olympics campaign jumps out. His recent keynote typifies the call to action we see in the public sector’s digital challenges: