Voices from Accenture Public Service


Digital transformation offers significant potential to deliver the convenient, intuitive and seamless experience citizens increasingly expect from government. But achieving lasting, transformational change depends on designing services around user needs, rather than a traditional technology-driven path. Simply reproducing an existing paper form in digital format or automating inefficient processes can yield interactions that are clumsy and unintuitive for citizens. Understanding citizens’ needs and how they want to interact with government is critical to designing stress-free services that the public will embrace. That’s why we recommend government agencies embrace service design.

Service design is an approach that:

  • Examines the entire service from end to end with the goal of improving the quality of interactions with customers.
  • Combines ethnographic research techniques with human-centered design principles to optimize the end-to-end customer journey.
  • Focuses on improving the customer experience while achieving desired business outcomes.
  • Engages users and stakeholders through co-creation to gain buy-in and accelerate adoption.
  • Helps craft new services or completely reimagine current ones.

In the United Kingdom, the Government Digital Service (GDS) has been tasked with applying service design principles across the government to make public services simpler and better for citizens. Their goal is to make government services accessible across all channels, online and offline, and to retire services that no longer meet citizen needs or serve a purpose for the government. The US Digital Service (USDS) has a similar mission, using design and digital technologies to deliver better services to the American public.

Working in partnership with government, we’re also looking for ways to make sure citizens’ interactions are “just right.” Accenture’s David Regan references the Goldilocks Zone. He talks about the importance of delivering the right information at the right time, and the benefits to citizens of personalized and differentiated service experiences—something I think is absolutely key for governments wanting to improve their services.

In my experience, service design offers far superior results for citizens than the outdated requirements-based, technology-led design model. But it’s not an easy option. It requires communication and collaboration across business lines and designing backend processes and citizen interactions from the ground up, across what are often long-standing silos. Teams know they’ve done a good job when their reimagined or new services appear elegantly simple and easy to use, and are heartily embraced by users and stakeholders.

A service design approach aligns closely with the practices followed by Code for America in their efforts to improve how government serves the American public. And it’s why we’re thrilled to be a Platinum sponsor of this year’s Code for America Summit in Oakland, California.

In my next post, we’ll look at two case studies where service design has been used with great results. Until then, you can also read more about how design thinking fits within a broader digital transformation.

If you’d like to discuss using service design principles to improve the citizen experience, feel free to reach out to me directly. Or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter to keep up to date with our latest thinking.

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