In brief

In brief

  • Futureframe is a human-centered design methodology for implementing transformative change to create more effective, equitable solutions.
  • It builds on two well-established disciplines—service design and systems design—to develop sustainable solutions that can operate at societal scale.
  • To explore Futureframe in real-life, Accenture applied this framework to federal benefits, assistance and insurance programs.
  • Our research found that these programs can become more anticipatory, integrated, trusted, convenient and radically human.

Government agencies cannot pick and choose which customers to serve. By improving their understanding of the diverse people they serve—and crafting a more personalized and convenient experience for those customers—government agency leaders can achieve better mission outcomes.

Accenture’s Futureframe is a model designed to help agencies implement transformative change and sustainable improvements across complex programs that serve diverse audiences. Futureframe infuses a futurist perspective into the process of human-centered design. And it helps agencies define a future vision—and then articulate the building blocks required to bring those experiences to life.

Futureframe is for leaders who want to bring simplicity into complex environments; who want to actively design for resilience and sustainable change; and who are committed to forging a better future.

The Futureframe process guides agencies through the following:

  • What do you do NOW?
  • What could you do NEXT?
  • How should you build capacity and capability for the FUTURE?

Futureframe’s methods and techniques are by their nature inclusive, focused on uncovering customers’ needs and bringing stakeholders together to draw from their wide range of experiences and perspectives to solve the problem at hand. It is a “whole of government”—indeed, “whole of everyone”—approach that leads to more effective, equitable solutions and better outcomes.

Because it is inclusive, it enables human-centered design across agencies and at societal scale.

Why the federal customer experience matters

Coined by Accenture’s design consultancy Fjord, “liquid expectations” is the notion that customers set their expectations based on their best experiences across any number of industries. What someone experiences with Disney or Uber can set their expectations for providers as diverse as mobile carriers, grocers and quick service restaurants. The benchmark for federal agencies is not necessarily a public sector peer, but rather, the most innovative and customer-focused firms in the world.

For commercial enterprises, becoming an experience leader can help drive profitable growth. The opportunity for federal agencies is much larger and more important. By becoming experience leaders, federal agencies can better meet the demands of their missions—from striving to cure cancer to protecting the food supply and working to alleviate child poverty. Better experiences also help rebuild trust in government.

Futureframe: Human-centered design at societal scale

Kathy Conrad and Tim Irvine, co-authors for “Futureframe: Human-centered design at societal scale,” share a summary of the report.

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Deliver better federal customer experience and outcomes

Accenture was midstream in developing and testing Futureframe when the pandemic hit in 2020. COVID-19 underscored why embracing an approach like Futureframe is more urgent than ever:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in record numbers of people and families facing housing and food insecurity, educational disparities, healthcare needs and other significant challenges. More than ever, people are looking to federal agencies to help them weather trying times and anticipate their needs.
  • Across all industry sectors, the pandemic accelerated adoption of new ways of interacting with customers. It forced people and organizations to pivot to virtual channels, driving even greater digital transformation. Given their success in making these shifts, government agencies now have an opportunity to transform short-term solutions into permanent, scalable operating models.

The post-COVID era presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink how government agencies meet their missions. Thinking about the next few years, how might we redesign customer experience to empower people not just to persevere but to prosper and grow? By codifying best practices and techniques, Futureframe provides a structured and meaningful way to address that central question.

Apply human-centered design at societal scale

With its focus on learning and discovery, design thinking has established itself as a powerful problem-solving approach for developing new ideas and fostering innovation. It helps users answer “what if” questions and explore the “art of the possible” in detail. This makes it especially well-suited for solving complex challenges with unknown interdependencies.

With a broad objective or desired outcome in mind, design thinking teams work iteratively to better understand constraints and requirements and then to create, test and improve potential solutions.

Human-centered design applies design thinking principles to solve the real-world challenges of everyday people. Given that individuals often don’t fully recognize the limitations they face or where they need help, it also emphasizes contextual observation to understand specific needs, challenges and potential solutions.

Futureframe is a human-centered design methodology for tackling the multifaceted challenges government agencies face in serving large, diverse populations.

Futureframe applies the creative methodology of the Accenture Federal Studio to facilitate a collaborative effort among an extended group of stakeholders. The methodology is:


Engaging customers and stakeholders throughout the project


Drawing upon the best of Accenture across federal and commercial


Creating experiences, visual artifacts and tangible prototypes to bring the cutting-edge vision to life

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Futureframe builds upon two well-established disciplines—service design and systems design—to develop sustainable solutions that can operate at societal scale:

Service design is a fresh take on traditional business process management that reimagines the end-to-end service experience from the point of view of both recipient and service provider. It aims to create a consistent, empowering user experience across the multiple touchpoints comprising an extended user journey, alleviating pain points, addressing barriers and providing seamless delivery across complex ecosystems. This co-creative process succeeds by ensuring the needs and constraints of all stakeholders—from the customer to those who play a role in creating, enabling or delivering the service—are met.

Systems design examines the components and interactions that come together to create a whole. In the case of federal agencies, a “whole” may be a cross-agency or cross-government function or outcome. This discipline aims to rethink and redesign the "whole" while considering its component elements, examining how these elements interact with each other, and optimizing interactions to produce a streamlined and improved future state. While it is an effective approach for addressing immediate and near-term constraints, it is especially valuable when guiding the longer-term evolution of capabilities and services toward a common goal.

Both service design and systems design are fundamental components of Futureframe.

Data-driven research also plays a critical role in human-centered design and Futureframe. Whether qualitative or quantitative, data-driven research enables a more holistic understanding of current experiences and opportunities to design more effective experiences in the future. It also defines the baseline as well as the aspiration or future state. As such, these insights support the process of testing, proving and refining hypotheses.

Futureframe methods and techniques for better federal customer experience

To better understand user pain points and needs, Futureframe brings together a broad toolkit of discovery and design-based methods and techniques drawn from service design and systems design. These activities help drive the vision, objectives and specific performance metrics for testing and refining new ideas, products and services.

Immersive observations of and interviews with people inside and outside the organization to understand their pain points, challenges, behaviors and intents.
Traditional instruments for gathering quantitative and qualitative insights.
Analysis of qualitative and data science–based evidence to help unpack challenges and evaluate potential solutions.
Using foresight or “trend scouting” to identify critical signals and shifts taking shape across a range of dimensions in the industry and problem space.
Assessment of social, technological, environmental, economic and political (STEEP) considerations.
Use of qualitative and quantitative modeling to design and explore potential future scenarios.
Co-creative, design-led working sessions featuring rich interactions, purposefully provocative dialogue and thought-provoking exercises to create a trusted, collaborative stakeholder environment to surface stated and unstated needs and preferences.
A process for quickly generating, building, testing and iterating potential concepts and solutions.

About the Authors

Elaine Beeman

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Civilian Lead

Tim Irvine

Managing Director, Lead – Accenture Federal Studio

Kathy Conrad

Director – Accenture Federal Services, Digital Government

Chris Zinner

Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Civilian Innovation Lead

Vanessa Godshalk

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, Strategy & Consulting Lead


Building government resiliency with strategic foresight
Serving the public in a new world
Advancing equity with inclusive product design

Get the essentials

Futureframe is a human-centered design methodology for tackling the multifaceted challenges government agencies face in serving large, diverse populations. Explore the full research below.

The big read

25 minute read

Futureframe: Human-centered design at societal scale

Our full report exploring how agencies can use human-centered design to implement transformative change.


Short on time?

10 minute read

Futureframe guide

A step-by-step guide to the Futureframe federal framework.


15 minute read

Executive summary

A shortened version of the full report highlighting the main findings.

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