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Service Design Proliferation -Dilemma at IT Organizations

  • TCS Research


Organizations are transitioning from a product mindset to services as their primary customer offering. Service organizations today have complex processes spread across physical and digital spaces involving several stakeholders. IT organizations help these organizations by building products and services and providing advisory to achieve their strategic objectives. IT organizations are hence well-positioned to introduce this shift towards a service mindset and encourage the adoption of service design. IT organizations need to first decide whether they want to proliferate service design. However, there is a predicament about how to approach this-should they start by designing the services for their customers first, or focus on their own organizational internal services? Once they decide it then next dilemma is about whether to follow top-down or bottom-up approach. We have utilized an 'Inside-out' approach for proliferating service design to address these dilemmas. The approach of 'inside-out', in essence, is about gradually proliferating a new process by experiencing its benefits within the organization first and then subsequently applying it to their customers outside the organization. In this paper we advocate the mix of top-down or bottom-up approach for the proliferation of service design.
23rd DMI: Academic Design Management Conference
Design Management as a Strategic Asset
Toronto, Canada, 3-4 August, 2022
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Service Design Proliferation – Dilemma at IT Organizations
Ravi Mahamunia, Sylvan Lobob, Bhaskarjyoti Dasa,
a TCS Research, Tata Consultancy Services, Pune, India; b TCS Research, Tata Consultancy Services, Thane, India
Organizations are transitioning from a product mindset to services as their primary customer offering. Service
organizations today have complex processes spread across physical and digital spaces involving several
stakeholders. IT organizations help these organizations by building products and services and providing advisory
to achieve their strategic objectives. IT organizations are hence well-positioned to introduce this shift towards a
service mindset and encourage the adoption of service design. IT organizations need to first decide whether
they want to proliferate service design. However, there is a predicament about how to approach this - should
they start by designing the services for their customers first, or focus on their own organizational internal
services? Once they decide it then next dilemma is about whether to follow top-down or bottom-up approach.
We have utilized an ‘Inside-out’ approach for proliferating service design to address these dilemmas. The
approach of ‘inside-out’, in essence, is about gradually proliferating a new process by experiencing its benefits
within the organization first and then subsequently applying it to their customers outside the organization. In this
paper we advocate the mix of top-down or bottom-up approach for the proliferation of service design.
Keywords: Service Design, Design Proliferation, IT Organisation, Employee Services, CraftChange
Ravi Mahamuni, Sylvan Lobo, Bhaskarjyoti Das
Design is transitioning from a product-oriented process to solving complex problems entwined in the
socio-cultural, political, and environmental aspects (Manzini, 2016; Buchanan, 1992). The changing global
scenario of depleting resources and increased demand for customer experience has made organisations of
today look beyond growing ‘consumerism’ towards more sustainable and ecosystem-centred business
models (Ghobakhloo, 2019; Frank, Mendes, Ayala, & Ghezzi, 2019). There is a growing recognition among
service organisations that today’s complex problems are difficult to solve in isolation. To create products
and service systems that are meaningful, relevant, and helpful to all users and stakeholders, design must
focus on the needs, capabilities, and values of the service customers (Junginger, 2017) and stakeholders.
Organisations are progressing towards Industry 4.0, the new phase of the industrial revolution that
enables advanced digitalisation to automate and optimise operating and management processes with
decentralised systems of production and innovation and increasing focus on human experience (Lasi,
Fettke, Kemper, Feld, & Hoffmann, 2014). Technological development and increased accessibility also
facilitate organisations to employ a culturally diverse workforce to synchronously work across geographies
and provide experiential products and services to a global pool of customers. This spread and accessibility
to the rapidly developing digital technologies have further accelerated and enabled designers to collaborate
more closely with users and other stakeholders. Thus, also promoting design as a plural and participatory
process to create new cultural meanings and practices, generate experiences (Escobar, 2018; Manzini,
2016; Julier, 2006).
We posit that IT organisations are uniquely placed in bringing in a shift towards a service mindset and
encouraging the adoption of service design. IT organisations and consultancies help their client
organisation’s businesses by building products and services and providing advisory to achieve their strategic
objectives. Unlike other service organisations or consultancies which focus on specific aspects (such as
legal, training, finance, transport, etc.), IT consultancies are often involved in a broader scope of projects
which are customer-facing products or services. Their engagement is for the long term, including the
inception, implementation, maintenance and retiring of the project. They can play a significant role in
shaping up the end-user experience and customer satisfaction, and thus value the adoption or
competencies in Service Design. Service Design competency can provide a competitive advantage to the
business of IT organisations while benefitting the client organisation and customers.
While many large organisations have embraced design, design thinking, and service design, effort is
needed to make it mainstream (Covino & Bianco, 2018). There are tensions in perceiving the tangible
business benefits of design (Sheppard, Sarrazin, Kouyoumjian, & Dore, 2018). There are challenges which
act as roadblocks to the adoption of service design. For example, in a large multi-cultural IT organisation,
service design activity is often susceptible to organisational structures, politics, culture, informal opinions,
and knowledge accessibility restrictions (Blomkvist, 2015). The existing organisational settings often create
work silos, further hampering sustained collaboration between actors (Atvur et al., 2015).
Given these challenges, the move to adopting service design is a big cultural and mindset shift for IT
organizations. This can be a dilemma to the organization given their existing successful operation model,
and the effort that may be required in reskilling and making it part of their offering. Once IT organisations
decide whether to adopt the service design approach, the next dilemma is about how to approach it. Every
IT organization has internal employee services. They need to deliberate and decide whether they want to
start helping their customers first and then reimagine the internal employee services i.e., the outside-in
approach. The other approach is to first apply the service design approach to the internal employee services,
experience its value first and then start proliferating to their customers i.e., “inside-out” approach. Both these
approaches have their own pros and cons. Here is where we bring in the idea of an ‘inside-out’ approach to
proliferate service design through a two-step approach first introducing service design internally within
large organisations such as IT organisations and eventually outwards in their client organisations. This
approach may be suitable for other service organisations and consultancies as well. However, we have
limited ourselves to the context of an IT consultancy being part of one.
The next dilemma is about how to implement it through a bottom-up or top-down approach. We propose
introducing service design within an organisation through a bottom-up and top-down approach while
manoeuvring this change using the CraftChange Behavioural progression framework (Mahamuni, 2020).
The CraftChange Framework is an integrated framework for designing services for behaviour change.
With the ‘inside-out’ approach of proliferating service design knowledge, we believe employees would
beget higher confidence in the impact of service design and would become more effective and efficient to
take up complex service design challenges for customer services. We argue that the successful proliferation
of service design in the organisation for internal services will facilitate employees to adapt service design
methodology for complex scenarios and further learn its implications through real-world projects. This paper
Services Design Proliferation dilemma at IT organizations
discusses the usefulness of an ‘inside-out’ service design approach driven by behavioural science for
internalizing service design approaches and sustaining its practice in a large IT organisation. We further
discuss our recommendations on various service design activities that can facilitate its proliferation.
Introducing Service Design at IT organizations
In IT service organisations, we encounter several dilemmas for service design proliferation, given the
organisational and cultural diversity. IT organizations are large in terms of the number of employees, are
distributed globally, and its workforce have been fluent in their traditional processes of innovation. In this
section, we highlight the different dilemmas we observed in the service design proliferation journey of our
IT organization.
Dilemma about the need of service design for organizations
Service organisations today have complex processes spread across physical and digital spaces
involving several stakeholders with entwined interaction channels and enabling user access to both human
and digital touchpoints. Service Design is an approach to design for services with a human-centric holistic
focus, choreographing various elements processes, technology, interactions towards co-creating value
for all stakeholders, including service users, staff, and the business.
Service design and design thinking are already gaining recognition in organisations, especially for
employee experience (Bertolotti et al., 2018) and business transformation (Auricchio et al., 2018). Service
design is an apt approach for developing experience-centric services (Zomerdijk & Voss, 2010). It seems
necessary that IT organisations start adopting service design for improving the customer experience of their
clientele’s services. Employee experience facilitates customer experience (Morgan, 2018) by appreciating
productivity and improvement in overall interaction quality, promoting organisational and financial success
(Naseem et al., 2011). Organisational services need to facilitate a work environment that encourages
employees to give quality outcomes and enables them to design better customer experience. Catering to
employees’ needs and concerns through organisational services acts as a facilitator to higher employee
engagement (Saks, 2006), productivity (Globoforce & IBM, 2016), commitment, and improvements in
retention and turnover.
The CraftChange - Empathy Square construct also acknowledges the importance and role of the human
touchpoints, i.e., the service staff while delivering the services to the end-users (Mahamuni, Anna Meroni,
& Punekar, 2019). Most service staff are employees of the service provider organisation. For effective and
sustainable service design interventions, concerns of service staff need to be addressed along with the
concerns of the service users.
Hence, it was clear that we need to focus on the employees and stakeholders within the organisations
first. They should get first-hand experience of the value of service design by improving the employee
experience to bring out customer-centricity. We felt that the most compelling way to introduce service design
acceptability would be to address internal employee services using service design while adapting the tools
and techniques for the organisational context. On the other hand, the inside-out approach delays applying
the service design for their customer organisations, leading to loss of revenue or missed business
opportunities. It is also true that directly applying service design approach for external clients without first
experiencing it internally may have service quality issues. Hence, IT organisations need to deliberate and
decide which approach to use.
However, there are challenges in the proliferation and wide-scale adoption of service design approaches
in an organisationboth for internal employee services and introducing it for its clients. For instance, a
dedicated function for service design is often missing. Designers may only be invited at specific moments
rather than from the start (Auricchio et al., 2018). Service design is sometimes seen as merely an approach
to address complaints rather than proactively and holistically designing for the customer (Blomkvist, 2015).
Organisational roadblocks can also affect the implementation of service design solutions. There are risks
involved in legal, business, brand, and operational cost. Organisational context can often lead to
communication breakdowns, disengagement, stress, and slow progress. Further, misaligned values and
priorities between designers and stakeholders, less power and control of resources with the involved
stakeholders, ineffective communication strategies, and lack of buy-in from key stakeholders affect service
design and implementing solutions (Salibian & Pratt, 2018).
Imbibing service design - an organizational change
Organisational change is a continuous and cross-organizational process of experimentation and
adaptation at multiple levels in the organisation (Burnes, 2004). The transformation of organisational culture
Ravi Mahamuni, Sylvan Lobo, Bhaskarjyoti Das
drives organisational transformation, and employees need to be supported by the knowledge, skills, and
motivation to adapt to new changes. Organisational culture has a critical influence on the overall well-being
of employees. Organisational culture is interpreted in the literature as patterns of shared values and
assumptions that employees showcase as adopted values and collective behaviours (Williams, Kern, &
Water, 2016). A positive culture promotes social participation, teamwork, and relationship satisfaction,
whereas a negative culture can promote internal competition and sometimes avoidance and
disengagement. Hence, it is essential that organisation culture nourishes rich interactions and drives a
positive employee experience. Behavioural science provides a useful platform for bringing organisational
change (Foster, 2017) by promoting new habits among its employees. However, we do not find a
behavioural science approach in literature to facilitate a service design transformation journey in an
Current approaches for service design proliferation
Amidst internal and external opportunities and threats, organisations leverage change in processes,
people, and organisational culture to become more effective in achieving their goals. Covino and Bianco
(2018) suggest that service design must be adapted to make it available to non-design practitioners. It can
be achieved by making the language and design methods more accessible, embedding service design into
traditional activities, and co-creation workshops. They suggest that the service design practice needs to be
developed both inside and outside the organisation, by fostering a global community of designers and
practitioners, and through cross-regional training.
Katz (2015) proposes seven stages for diffusing a design and innovation culture in organisations: 1)
Scepticism, 2) Tokenism, 3) Curiosity, 4) Experimentation, 5) Commitment, 6) Pushing boundaries, and 7)
New normal. They suggest various ways to progress across the stages of maturity with approaches like
investing in building awareness, inviting experts, running live demonstration projects and hackathons, and
developing network advocates for service design. Capgemini Trust (2018) propose a four-pillar framework,
focusing on highlighting the vision and principles; sharing practical approaches, tools, and methods; sharing
knowledge through communication and training, and managing the program to keep it on track.
Arico et al. (2017) suggest a framework for facilitating service design based on their experience in a
telecommunications corporation. They highlight the resistance which arises as the service design approach
is very different from the traditional business process, which has clear goals and steps and is profit,
technology, and efficiency centred. On the other hand, Service Design is an exploratory and iterative
approach, focusing on human-centeredness, holism, empathy, and co-creation. The differing priorities lead
to challenges in execution, questioning legitimacy (not perceived as serious exercise), commitment (room
for flexibility and uncertainty), and resources (deliverables and outcomes unfold along the design process,
and are not upfront). Considering these challenges, the researchers arrived at a three-part framework to
diffuse service design into the organisation to address each of the challenges - i.e., evidencing customer
insights, validating business concepts, and engaging organisational actors - through research, visualisation,
and prototyping. It lacks the lens of behaviour change and we believe that the service design proliferation
needs to be looked from organizational behaviour change perspective.
Our approach for organizational change
While we align with the many approaches to introducing service design to the organisation discussed
above, we believe it is necessary to develop employees’ motivation and competency toward service design
actively and calls for a cultural change within the organisation.
Services Design Proliferation dilemma at IT organizations
Figure 1: The proposed ‘inside-out’ approach
For proliferating service design in organisations, we utilize an ‘inside-out’ strategy (Mahamuni, Lobo, &
Das, 2020) (Figure 1)—where ‘inside’ refers to internal employee services and ‘out’ refers to the products
or services meant for external customers. By gradually building competency, tools, and exposure to service
design internally, the organisation and its employees can be empowered to apply it at scale to its business
clients, passing on the value to their business. As shown in Figure 1, initial commitment from top
management for service experience design is very critical to start the proliferation in the organisation. Their
focus on creating a conducive environment by allocating the required resources and opening avenues to
experiment is key to success. This is followed by systematically changing the employee behaviour by
increasing their awareness of service design and helping them experience its benefit which helps to
internalise it. In the end, in concurrence with the top management, it can be taken out of the organisation to
help their customers.
We consider that adopting the service design methodology is a behaviour change from an organisation
employee’s perspective. As per the MAT model (Fogg, 2009), to make this behaviour change happen, we
need to motivate the employee, build employee’s and organisational abilities, and provide the triggers at the
right time. The proliferation of Service Design in the organisation is an organisational transformational
journey which influences the organisational culture (macro-level behaviour) along with the behavioural
change of its employees (micro-level behaviour). It is a progressive journey for an organisation as well as
for its employees. As per Buddhism (Buddhism 500BC) to internalise anything it goes through the three
kinds of wisdom: (the learning process) suta-maya panna-wisdom gained by listening to others; then ‘cinta-
maya panna-intellectual, analytical understanding and then bhavana-maya panna-wisdom based on direct
personal experience. This inspired us to look at the proliferation problem as a behaviour change
progression, starting from making people aware until they experience it and then internalise it. We explored
CraftChange Service Design Framework for sustained behaviour change (Mahamuni, Khambete, &
Punekar, 2019; Mahamuni, 2020) for the required rigour and guidance to go through this transformational
Internalizing and sustaining service design practice
Effective information gathering, communication, and learning are vital organisational activities that
facilitate organisational change in dynamic and uncertain environments (Burnes, 1996, p. 14). Revans
(1998) further argues that learning occurs best when it is directly related to work and action that an employee
is engaged. Hence, the proposed inside-out approach aims at first focusing on internal employee services.
Burnes’ (2004) change management framework argues that a successful culture change in the organisation
Ravi Mahamuni, Sylvan Lobo, Bhaskarjyoti Das
emerges from a change in the organisational environment rather than a deliberate top-down approach. The
framework also highlights the importance of guidance from senior leaders of the organisation to facilitate
the emerging transformation. It is imperative to state that a top-to-bottom approach to influence
organisational culture requires detailed planning and demands employee allegiance to the same. However,
a bottom-to-top approach enables employees to iteratively create an organisational culture that they feel
co-ownership of, e.g., Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen Bank’, a scalable village banking model in
Bangladesh which grew as collective creative innovation of the villagers. ‘Grameen Bank’ also exemplifies
itself as a successful business model which operates and innovates with a strategic community-based intent
(Simanis & Hart, 2011). Therefore, our proposed ‘inside-out’ service design proliferation approach tries to
incorporate the benefits of both top-down and bottom-up approach.
Driving Behavioural Change through Bottom-up approach
Employees within the organisation should experience the value of service design first, by encountering
enhanced internal employee services developed through service design in-house. This approach would
help demonstrate the impact and value of service design. The involved stakeholders should actively aim to
impress and motivate employees through successful cases of service design internally and triggering them
to adopt service design proactively. Success in-house would lead to confidence and competency
development, allowing service design to flow to customers of the organisation. The learnings, experience,
and tools developed could enable a firmer footing for designing services and experiences for customers.
The ‘inside-out’ approach proposes to attempt this shift using the CraftChange Behavioural Progression
framework (Figure 2) to gradually guide the transition, primarily encouraging employees in a bottom-up
manner, while also incorporating a top-down approach to facilitate the transition.
Figure 2. CraftChange Behaviour Change Progression Model. Adapted from (Mahamuni, Khambete, & Punekar,
2019, p. 45)
The CraftChange Framework (Mahamuni, 2020) is an integrative framework for Service Design for
sustained behaviour change. At the heart of this framework is the CraftChange - Empathy Square and the
CraftChange - Behaviour Change Progression Model, which provides the required theoretical foundation.
The other components of this framework are various canvases and cards, and the process of using these
components in the Service Design life cycle. CraftChange - Behaviour Change Progression model (Figure
2) depicts the journey of a user from an unaware stage until it becomes the advocate of the intended
behaviour change. The Empathy Square enables designers to think from the perspective of relevant
stakeholders to address their concerns. It also enables the Service Designer to be mindful about
environmental concerns along with the concerns of human touchpoints or service staff. The Behaviour
Change Progression model aids the service designer to conceptualise user services and other interventions
for their intended behaviour change progression.
As per the CraftChange Behaviour Change Progression model (Figure 2), we wanted employees to go
through the journey of becoming aware, getting engaged, and getting familiar with the benefits of service
design by experiencing it. CraftChange framework advises to first consider the current context by studying
existing interventions based on CraftChange Current Intervention Cards. We have outlined this mapping of
the current context supporting employees to be innovative, design-centred, and customer-centric, if not
wholly service design-oriented in Table 1.
Services Design Proliferation dilemma at IT organizations
Table 1. The current context at the company
Current Intervention cards
Current interventions supporting innovation, design-centricity, customer-
centricity, service design
Persuasive interventions
A Business 4.0 and Industry 4.0 transformation narrative; Innovation competitions
with special categories for design and service design allowing teams who have
designed services and processes to participate even if they have not followed the
service design process as understood by the design community.
Incentivization interventions
Learning platform with learning metrics mapped to redeemable points - on the
learning portal encouraging to learn deeply in their domain and across other areas
to have well-rounded awareness. There are design courses available, with micro-
learning platforms.
Coercive interventions
Mandated target learning metrics to achieve
Training interventions
Design thinking workshops for employees and support functions like Human
Resources (HR); Agile methodologies
Restrictive interventions
Physical aspects of the
Agile workspaces supporting improved collaboration
Role model interventions
External mentors and advisors
Educational interventions
Invited talks from experts; video screenings; encouraging and supporting
employees for higher education
Leveraging networking
Building a research partnership with premier design institutes and encouraging
employees to join design forums and conferences
After understanding the current context, we embarked on a journey of developing internal employee
services. To have the best impact internally and build awareness and experience of service design, we
chose services across the entire employee journey in organisationsright from job search to recruitment,
and onboarding, and further long-term assimilation and retention. We initiated various service design
projects over four years in the Human Resources (HR) and talent management space. These projects were
chosen based on the number of service users involved, availability of stakeholders for collaboration,
resource allocation for experimentation, and its projected impact on organisational business. The projects
and the participating teams are indicated in Figure 3. The design research team, along with the HR, were
the primary anchors of the projects. They were responsible for managing the participation of service-specific
stakeholders, organisational function groups, and knowledge transfer across groups and projects. The exact
number of participants varied across projects and time, with approximately 3-5 designers, 3-6 HR, and
representation from at least one HR leadership, 1-2 admin, and 3-15 employees who occasionally
participated via interviews or validation exercises.
Figure 3. Internal service design projects initiated for employee services. Adapted from (Lobo, Das, & Mahamuni,
2020, p. 764).
Ravi Mahamuni, Sylvan Lobo, Bhaskarjyoti Das
Using the CraftChange Behaviour Change Progression model (Figure 2), we designed interventions for
service design knowledge acquisition and proliferation during each phase of the employee journey (Figure
3). The design intent was to change the behaviour of organisational employees from being unaware of
service design to becoming advocates of the service design process. In the advocate stage, employees of
IT organisations start advocating the service design approach to their customers who are the organisations
in various other domains like banking and finance, healthcare, etc. Before starting the proliferation process,
we had engaged in initial kick-off and domain sensitization sessions with stakeholders to assess the current
state of service design knowledge and determine their current behavioural stages (for example: being
unaware) in the behaviour change progression model (Figure 2). This further helps to identify the
subsequent behavioural stages for which interventions are needed to help employees progress towards
being advocates of the intent, i.e., proliferation of service design in the organization.
For example, in the employee recruitment and onboarding study (Figure 3) we used various strategies
at different stages in the progression framework. We used mechanisms to generate interest and
"Awareness" with the HR by demonstrating the successes of case studies including the Employee Referral
project (Figure 3) (Mahamuni R. , Khambete, Mantry, Das, & Varghese, 2016) including demonstrating
engaging prototypes. We involved them in design workshops to give a first-hand experience to "Consider"
and "Decide" to proceed with the service design approach. These initial engagements included kick-off and
problem discovery workshops with varied stakeholders and use of tools like personas and customer journey
maps. Through many more such workshops and ideation sessions, the participants were then "Familiarised"
with the approach. All engagements were consciously designed to engage and help the participants
appreciate the process.
Impact of inside-out approach for service design proliferation
During the ‘inside-outapproach, we engaged with several employees across various service design
projects. These internal service design projects provided the select employees with the opportunity to define
the problems for their context, conduct user research, ideate, and prototype service concepts. We surveyed
few employees from these projects to understand the impact of the service design approach in their day-to-
day project work. The survey objective was to understand the change in the overall perspectives and
approach that service design knowledge had generated among the participants during and after our project
engagement. The survey included questions for quantitative and qualitative data and was piloted before
sending it to various project owners and participants through the internal communications channel of the
organisation. The respondents were selected through purposive sampling where 25 participants were
recruited based on their engagement in internal service design projects. We received 17 responses which
were considered for the following analysis.
Figure 4. The internalisation of Service Design approach
The internalisation of Service Design approach
As summarised in Figure 4, in the first part of the survey, 76% of participants (13 of 17) felt that the
service design knowledge gained through the exercise helped them change their overall perspectives
towards new initiatives within their work setting. The rest of the participants had a neutral outlook. Around
58% of participants acknowledged that they had started using some service design terminologies such as
We use Service Design terminology (like persona,
touchpoints, encounters, customer journey maps,
service blueprints, etc.) in our regular project
Service Design knowledge gained during the
engagement has helped create new or change
existing processes, programs, interventions,
products, or services.
Number of Respondents
Survey Statements
Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Services Design Proliferation dilemma at IT organizations
personas, customer journeys, and touchpoints in their day-to-day interactions at work. In comparison, 18%
indicated that they did not. The results indicate that the participants are in the early phases of internalising
the service design process and would require further facilitation to do the same. Further responses, shown
in the next section, highlights the need to focus on specific constraints and concerns that stakeholders face
in their progress from awareness to engagement.
Figure 5. Feedback on how the Service Design approach has helped project participants
Benefits from service design engagement
We also sought feedback on what the participants perceived as the value of the service design process
(summarised in Figure 5). All participants highlighted that the process was influential in bringing new
perspectives in solving the problem at hand and that it helped in arriving at novel ideas. However, the
participants were found struggling with internalising cross-disciplinary collaboration and transitioning from
existing structures of domain-based work silos. While there is still an opportunity to improve cross-silo
engagement, it is encouraging that near half the participants felt the process encouraged them to engage.
Participants were also found gradually being more empathetic to the various stakeholders involved in a
service design. This highlights a challenge as well as opportunities to design useful tools and processes to
capture stakeholder empathy in an organisational setting and internalise it through the design approach.
We requested for qualitative responses about the value they gained the following quotations
summarise their sentiments of how the service design process helped them think differently and holistically
about the problem:
“I was handling this function for 5+years but got to know the new perspectives which provoked my
thought process. It was a game-changer model for the ____ process of our organisation.
Understanding the problem statement by the generation of more ideas resulted in new perspectives
that have benefited the management and the associates. Empathy was the underlining factor in this
whole initiative.”
“The service design process breaks each level separately and gives a view on the impact on the
value chain of the entire process.”
These findings suggest that the participants could perceive and gain considerable value from the service
design approach and were willing to utilise it in future initiatives. The participants also highlighted that it was
a learning experience and appreciated the ideation process and use of tools for ideation such as personas
and service design patterns:
“We learnt more about persona and how it should be used for generating ideas for a given problem.”
“Concept of service design patterns helps in lateral thinking and also in discovering any blind spots
or aspects of the service that may have been overlooked.”
Further proliferation of Service Design approach
We also assessed how ready the participants were to advocate the process to others. The Net Promoter
Score (Reichheld, 2003) values are shown in Table 2, and it is higher than 50 for promoting the process for
internal as well as external initiatives of the company. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) calculates the
Bring new perspectives towards understanding problems
Generate more effective ideas and service concepts
Become more empathetic to users and other stakeholders
Break work silos and collaborate with stakeholders across
disciplines and domains
Number of Respondents
Survey Statements
Ravi Mahamuni, Sylvan Lobo, Bhaskarjyoti Das
difference between the percentage of promoters (who rates 9 or 10 in the scale of 0 to 10) and percentage
of detractors (who rates between 0 and 6 in the scale of 0 to 10) to generate an index of net promoters.
Although the score is widely used in organisations, there is a growing debate on the effectiveness of the net
promoter score as a definite measurement of customer satisfaction (Zaki, Kandeil, Neely, & McColl-
Kennedy, 2016; Kristensen & Eskildsen, 2014). Nevertheless, we found it as a suitable approach as our
exercise was to primarily inquire if our ‘inside-out’ approach was useful and effective enough for
stakeholders to understand and recommend the service design process to other organisation customers.
Table 2. Feedback on Service Design proliferation to other teams and customers
Survey Question
Net Promoter
Would you like to recommend and proliferate
service design knowledge to TCS internal teams
from other domains and business units?
Do you think the service design process can be
recommended to external customers of TCS?
The numbers of passives and detractors shown in Table 2 indicate that the ‘inside-out’ approach is
working within the organisation but there is scope for further improvements in building better acceptability
to the process. One participant also suggested tighter integration with the technical implementation to make
the outcomes move to the last-mile, reaching the end customer. We believe that improving and developing
well-rounded tools and processes will immensely bring out the value impact of service design in the
The participants also suggested through open-ended qualitative responses that internally, the process
could be utilised to drive process improvements between various functions in the organisation, mainly HR
functions and areas that score low in the organisation-wide employee satisfaction survey. They
acknowledged that being a mindset, it could be used for any domain, and were curious about its role in
designing sustainable and resilient services. Some participants suggested that the approach should be
made visible in the organisation. They acknowledged that such a competency internally within the
organisation would be beneficial rather than reaching out externally. They were also keen on how the
approach could be made into a business offering for their clients towards business transformation, which is
the broader aim of the ‘inside-out’ approach.
“Service design needs to market their approach much more in __, we are helping by word of mouth,
but it needs to be more visible in social media and also active participation in customer or prospect
“…Could explore the possibility of building a consulting offering around Service Design in
collaboration with ___”
Reflecting on the three dilemmas faced during this proliferation, it was evident that involvement of various
stakeholders was crucial while deliberating on each dilemma. It was observed that if we consider service
design as not just a process, but a natural way of doing things, it helps teams to look at the problem more
In our case study, designing for various internal services paved a path for proliferating service design
within the organisation. This enabled and empowered the employees in the organisation to adapt the service
design approach for developing new services. It also helped in developing the overall perspectives towards
innovation. Demonstrations of the various creative solutions and engaging prototypes that we developed
during the projects created a vibe and interest among other employees, internal departments, and client-
facing business units which included HR products, airport services, and public services. While the value
of service design is still being discovered, sufficient interest was generated, which led to initial engagements
and discussions over using the service design approach in client projects.
The service design approach to derive insights and build creative solutions that considered the concerns
of all stakeholders was appreciated. It was viewed as promising for business, as a service design capability
could bring in a competitive advantage to existing products and support client projects. We found that we
could extract adequate learnings through internal service design studies to support client-facing projects or
Services Design Proliferation dilemma at IT organizations
servitisation of products. In this ‘inside-out’ approach, along with continuous reflection, we can build and
adapt service design methods and tools to build the service design capability of the organisation.
The ‘inside-out’ approach to service design proliferation is the congruence of top-down and bottom-up
approaches. Initial efforts were required to get leadership buy-in to approve and experiment with such an
unfamiliar approach. Initial success stories helped to enable it. Since the organisation is advocating the
service design proliferation and investing in designing the internal organisational services, it shows the
organisational top management commitment. It resulted in the allocation of all required resources as seen
in the Employee Referral as well as Employee Recruitment and Onboarding services where non-traditional
approaches and solutions were welcome.
Further top-down approaches such as collaboration with learning and development departments to
develop the techniques helped reach out to others who are interested and ready to try out service design.
The bottom-up drive of employees comes due to their own experience of organisational services and
realisation of its benefits. This was prominently reflected in all our projects where the stakeholders had
eventually developed a fair understanding of design jargon and mindset and were ready to try the techniques
in other initiatives. Making use of internal forums like conventions and competitions to highlight such work
and garner interest was also useful. As a result, the ‘inside-out’ approach was observed to provide a better
understanding of the social and business value impact of service design approaches to the customer as
well as internal projects and facilitate the proactiveness of employees towards cultivating a design-led
culture in the organisation. It automatically helps to change the mind-set at ground level with motivated
employees in line with the organisational goal of service design proliferation. It becomes a win-win situation
for top management and employees.
Since we tried this approach in an IT organisation, most of the participants of the participatory design
team were with a technology background. This exercise was introductory for them. Generally, they get
entangled into developing only technology solutions. However, this exercise helped them look at the
problem from a different perspective, a more holistic one, and allowed them to focus on value co-creation
and value propagation by different means and avoided the fixation on a technology solution.
In the journey of designing internal services for employee experience, the ‘inside-out’ proliferation of
service design approach helped the employees better understand the intent and concerns of their business
customers and the stakeholders involved at all levels. The business customers communicated their
appreciation and welcomed the change in the problem-solving approach that the IT company is not merely
providing discrete IT solutions but are looking at the problems holistically. This impression opened more
opportunities by broadening the scope of the project for the effective implementation of the change in focus.
However, it is essential to note that the ‘inside-out’ approach aspires holistic change and hence is preferable
in a situation when there is the lead time for the organisation to take innovations to the market so that the
organisation can focus on proliferating desirable change to its workforce before approaching external clients.
Several constraints also determine organisation’s readiness in adapting the ‘inside-out’ approach – (a) size
of the organisation, (b) awareness and current state of internalisation of the design mindset and process,
and (c) availability of resources and time. As also discussed in Figure 1, commitment from the top
management of the organisation and allocation of necessary resources to its workforce is critical to begin
adaptation of the ‘inside-out’ approach in the organisation. Further, the organisational culture should foster
an innovation mindset, provide timely support throughout the employee’s journey to help them internalise
and become advocates of service design. The organisation also needs to facilitate internal systems to offer
business opportunities for its employees to proliferate their learnings and experiences outside the
Conclusions and future work
In this paper, we deliberated the three dilemmas and discussed an ‘inside-out’ approach by addressing
employee-centric services first to proliferate service design in the organisation. We explored different ways
of service design collaborations, leveraged tacit knowledge of employees, and approached the service
design proliferation exercise as a behaviour change problem. With ‘inside-out’ approach as a guide, we
have been successful in garnering interest and facilitating the impact of service design within the
organisation through projects like employee referral, onboarding, and integration services. The initial work
has proliferated engagements with clientele projects to design and develop experience-centric-services.
During our journey, we observed a gradual increase in visibility, interest, and engagements for service
design with other business units in our organisation, which is primarily attributed to our ongoing work in the
domain of employee services. This enforces our belief that inside-out’ approach can be powerful in
demonstrating the impact of service design and motivating the organisation to adapt its approaches. In our
Ravi Mahamuni, Sylvan Lobo, Bhaskarjyoti Das
journey, the ‘inside-out’ approach is applied in a large IT organisation, but we do believe that it is applicable
and beneficial to non-IT organisations as well. The approach of ‘inside-out’, in essence, is about gradually
proliferating a new process by experiencing its benefits within the organisation first and then subsequently
applying it to their customers outside the organisation. Hence, we believe that the proposed approach can
be useful to proliferate any new process in the organisation but needs further exploration.
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