March 21, 2018
Want to Reduce Fear of AI? Start with Service Design
By: Dominic Delmolino

For federal agencies, artificial intelligence (AI) holds incredible promise in terms of improving efficiency and accelerating mission outcomes. AI can help agencies clear massive backlogs of applications and other requests for service—ultimately freeing employees to focus on high-value, mission-oriented activities.

But it would be disingenuous to pretend that uncertainty and skepticism don’t co-exist with that promise. The truth is, many people have concerns when they hear that AI is coming to their agency. While those concerns are understandable, they’re also addressable. One of the best ways is through service design.

Service design uses dynamic and adaptive techniques to create engaging and effective end-user processes. Service design puts people first—and provides a formal approach to help federal agencies nurture creativity and innovation. It requires engaging people, identifying their stated and unstated needs and preferences, and then using those insights to shape the processes they will use and benefit from.

Watch Accenture Federal Services CTO Dominic Delmolino discuss human-centered AI, service design and the concept of ‘co-creation’ with Donald Thomas of Bloomberg News.


While service design can help improve virtually any business process or service, I think it’s particularly valuable when designing AI-enabled workflows. That’s because it encourages agencies to think through some important questions: What might worry our workers or citizens about a particular AI? How can we address their legitimate concerns and questions? What do we want workers and citizens to experience as they use an AI-enabled process? Although specific answers to those questions will surely vary, every agency should strive to create and sustain an AI “experience” that feels human, natural, and trustworthy.

Service design principles and techniques help in creating both end-user experiences and behind-the-scenes processes that workers interact with. Indeed, that’s where the true power of service design lies: in connecting the dots between the “front stage” experience of a service and how the “back stage” can best enable it through AI, advanced analytics, or other technologies. As federal agencies begin to explore how and where to apply AI, service design experts can help in thinking through everything from the high-level design to the look and feel of an on-screen avatar or the speaking cadence of a language interface.

Why is this so important? It’s important because people are an integral part of an agency’s success with AI. Engaging the workforce helps assuage concerns and uncertainty by showing employees that their experiences and needs will inform and improve future processes. It helps them realize that while things may be different, they can also be better. In addition, well-designed AI experiences help ensure that citizens and other customers don’t reject AI-enabled processes.

Embracing service design will pay other long-term dividends, as well. This discipline can help an agency enhance organizational agility and citizen centricity—two critical capabilities in today’s fast-changing landscape. It’s this combination of human and machine intelligence that will allow us to reach our full potential in providing government services and benefits to the broadest array of citizens and civil servants alike.

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