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November 08, 2017
Is Your Back-Office Experience by Design—or by Default?
By: Mark Howard

Have you seen Fjord’s Tale of Two Coffee Shops video yet? It does a great job illustrating what service design is and why it matters. Service design is the discipline that blends art and science, data and creativity to optimize the user journey across multiple touchpoints and over time. It’s a topic we explored earlier this year at the Public Sector for the Future Summit at Harvard.

During the Summit, I joined government leaders in an immersive service design workshop where we tried our hand at a variety of techniques, including desktop walkthroughs, Round Robins and concept posters. We heard from nearly everyone who participated that they walked away invigorated about how service design can help government reshape the way citizens experience public services.

While I’m confident that service design can help government meet rising citizen expectations in this digital world, I’m equally certain service design has an important role in the back office. Let me explain.

For months now, I’ve been writing about how and why the government back office can, and must, become a center of innovation. When we find new and better ways of processing transactions and monitoring compliance, we free government back-office functions to deliver on their true missions: Enabling government HR to focus on finding, nurturing and retaining top-tier talent. Empowering government finance teams to create performance-focused organizations that are financially sustainable. And setting procurement free to seek out, develop and manage relationships to continuously improve service delivery.

To be sure, emerging technologies—from advanced analytics to AI and ERP as a platform—will be crucial in transforming the back office. But technology alone won’t deliver optimal results. That’s where service design comes in. I see two fundamental opportunities: using service design to reshape the way the back office serves its “clients” (other government agencies) and to craft a compelling employee experience.

Service design can help challenge back-office leaders to move beyond assumptions about how best to serve agencies. These tools and techniques excel at identifying spoken and unspoken needs. They also reveal ideas—often outside the proverbial box—for improving HR, finance and procurement support. And they can help uncover new opportunities to focus on the true back-office mission. Of course, better support for “clients” empowers those agencies to deliver better services to citizens and other constituents.

At the same time, service design offers invaluable tools for crafting a modern employee experience—one that shows back-office employees the many ways that emerging technologies amplify their impact to make their jobs more fulfilling. A carefully designed employee experience also gives the back office a leg up in identifying, recruiting and retaining talent in a highly competitive market.

Better “client” service and better employee experience can make a real impact when transforming the back office into a center of innovation.

What’s your experience with service design? And, what do you think about applying it to the government back office? I encourage you to share your thoughts, questions and suggestions. For more information about bringing the back office to the forefront of government innovation, visit us here, and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

See this post on LinkedIn: Is Your Back-Office Experience by Design—or by Default?

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