Weeknotes #238

This week I did

Problem-focused

It’s easy to leap to solutions without understanding what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. This week was busy with trying to get an understanding of what problems we’re actually trying to solve with the products we’re being asked to build quickly for projects with tight timelines. I heard someone say (on a podcast, I think) ‘make the right things to make things right’, and it stuck with me. I also talked quite a bit about us trialing products purely with the intention of learning. I feel like we have lots to learn, so the sooner we start the quicker we’ll figure out the things we need to in order to help young people get effective training online.

Does digital creativity differ from non-digital creativity?

I finished my assignment ‘Does digital creativity differ from non-digital creativity?’ Spoiler: It does. I’ve learned about lots of interesting things in this module, and for this essay, about digital media. I’d really like to have time to go back over some of the ideas and write blog posts about them but that’s going to have to wait until after my dissertation is finished.


I read:

Digital Scotland Service Standard

The service standard aims to make sure that services in Scotland are continually improving and that users are always the focus. I like the idea of service standards. Although they seem quite aspirational and a little immature at the moment with few real-life examples of how standards have been implemented effectively, they are a great way to help others understand what it means to be ‘digital’. I know it’s a very different thing, but the standard that explains how to manufacture a bolt is very specific about measurements, tolerances, etc., but maybe it that’s just my understanding of the word ‘standard’, which isn’t the point here. The point is that even though some of the standards in the Digital Scotland Service Standard feel a bit context specific, overall it’s brilliant.

Climate impact of digital

Don’t watch this video 😉

Our digital world

I feel Like, Swipe, Click, Repeat & Change by Peter Trainor and New Public – For Better Digital Public Spaces complement each other and should be read together. One is about the effects social media sites have on us and the other is a about creating better digital spaces.

Reading list

My notes contains lots other things I’ve read this week.


And thought about:

Measures of influence

I had a thought that maybe a measure of influence is how many times someone has to say something for people to take notice of it. I could repeat the same message time and time again and no one would take any notice, because I have low influence. Seth Godin says something once and thousands of people listen to it, because he has high influence. On a smaller scale, it might be an interesting way to measure your influence at work.

Play jazz

After some conversations with Jonathan Holden on Twitter, I’ve been thinking a bit about how our use of militaristic (and so masculine) language relates to our mental models about work and groups of people organised to achieve common goals. Do creative/artistic endeavors offer a better way to think about it? Musicians can play alone, in perfectly in-sync large orchestras, and improvising in jazz bands.

Affordances and proto-affordances

I’m intrigued by the idea of affordances. An affordance is an object’s sensory characteristics which imply its functionality and use. The idea allows designers to “design for usefulness by creating affordances (the possibilities for action in the design) that match the goals of the user“. It seems like the missing gap between what a product is intended to achieve for a user and the design of the user interface.


Some people tweeted:

Positioning product management

Scott Colfer tweeted, “What do product managers like? No, not Venn diagrams. Quadrants! This one shows the range of what product management can look like (in my experience). Helps me when someone asks ‘how do I become a PM?” It’s a really useful way to think about how product managers move around in there role on the axis between tactical and strategic, and between generalist and specialist. So at the daily stand-up a PM might be a tactical generalist talking about UX decisions for a web page and later that day might be acting as a strategic specialist on the digital safeguarding.

Tweet-Syllabus: Prioritization 101 ⏱

Nick deWilde tweeted, “The most successful people I’ve met aren’t the ones who work the hardest. They are the ones who prioritize the right things to work on. These 7 concepts & resources will help you decide what to prioritize in your work and life” I found this interesting because I’ve been thinking about what we really mean when we casually talk about prioritisation for a few weeks. I’m not convinced by some of the tweets, for example that value is only measured by money, but the one about how every system has constraints and that when projects put pressure on a constraint it causes chaos is interesting. Considering bottlenecks in that way helps us think about the knock-on effects rather than just that one constraint in isolation.

Remote work research

Eat Sleep Work Repeat tweeted, “A lot of people saw that viral thread about remote work last week, chock full of unattributed opinion claiming that the office ‘was over’. Let’s try and use some evidence… what does published research tell us about what’s going to happen to our workplaces?” It’s interesting how the pendulum of remote working has swung between ‘the end of the office’ and ‘get back to normal’ and is finding the middle position between home and office. It’s also interesting how much of the discussion about the future of work centres around the location of people. Is that really the most important aspect about effective working, or is it just because its the most obvious and easiest thing to talk about it?

Charity Service Model Canvas – iteration 1

This is the first iteration of my Charity Service Model Canvas.

The good thing about a canvas is it encourages you to think about how the things on each box connect and support each other. Are the outcomes realistic given the funding and resources? Are the marketing channels going to be effective for those beneficiaries? Will the outcomes actually meet the need?

Needs

What needs will the service address?

Commissioning body

Is the service being commissioned by a local authority, for example? If so, what conditions will there be to adhere to that will shape the service?

Marketing channels

How are the right people going to know about the service, including beneficiaries, refers, supporters?

Beneficiaries

Who is the service for?

Who will benefit from access the service, just the beneficiaries, or also their family, school, local community?

Activities

What is the service going to offer?

Do the Activities require any Resources or Supporting services?

Will these activities contribute to achieving the Outcomes?

Supporting services

What else is required to run the service that the charity itself cannot provide, e.g. taxis, building hire?

Outcomes

What will the service achieve? How will this be measure and reported? Will the Outcomes match the Needs?

Costs

What aspects of the service will have costs, e.g, staff wages, admin time, consumables, building hire?

Funding

What sources of funding will be available?

Will the funding provide full cost recovery?

Over what time period of funding available, and how will the service be funded after that?

Resources

Staffing – Will extra staff have to be recruited?

Skills – What skills are needed to deliver the service? Do we have them, if not how are we going to get them?

Technology – What technology will the service need? Do we already have it or will we need to build/buy it?

Time – How much time will be spent delivering the service, e.g. 8 hours a day, 1 day a week? How much time will be spent administering the service? Include support functions such as finance? How long is the service expected to last?

Manifesto also have a canvas. Theirs is far more thorough and better thought out than mine.

Theory, practice, praxis and framing

Put simply: methodology is not, in itself, a theory. And I mean theory in quite a social science way: a framework for understanding peoples’ behaviours and actions. When I see service design in the line of work, it is probably best described as a spectrum of research methodologies or meta-methodologies (as in, it can eat up more focused methodologies and reconstitute them as being part of a whole: ethnography and wireframing can sit in the same box, and become “service design” by dint of the order of deployment and the use of the outputs).

Schmenner’s Service Process Matrix – but for charities

Introduction

Developing services for charities is no easy task, especially as the need for their services increases and the available funding reduces. What approach can charities use to help select the most appropriate type of service? Perhaps we can learn from research from the commercial services sector, with some adaption for the charity sector, to better understand how to make strategic choices about service types.

Service Process Matrix

Schmenner’s Service Process Matrix (Schmenner, 1986) classifies services by the amount of in-person support is required from employees to enable the service to function, and by the amount of customer contact and/or customisation the service requires.

Source: Verma & Boyer, 2000

We could apply the same thinking to charity services, but change the language to help us move away from the commercial mindset and towards a greater focus on the needs of the beneficiaries of the charity services.

‘Customer contact/Customization’ refers to whether the service is offered in the same way to all customers or is customised for each customer. It could be renamed ‘Service-user’s need’ in our charity adaption of the model with more complex needs in the right hand column of the diagram and less complex needs to the left. This axis tells us that there is a notional threshold point at which a charity designing a service needs to decide whether the complexity of the service-user’s needs are sufficient to suggest the service should use a model in the right hand column, or simple enough for a model in the left hand column to apply.

Schmenner talks about ‘Labor intensity’ as a ratio between people and machinery, so a low-intensive labor business uses more technology than people in delivering its services (the top row of the diagram) whilst the opposite is true for a high-intensive labor business (the bottom row of the diagram). For our charity adaption we should keep this definition of labor intensity as it gives us a sense of the balance between people and their time and the technology used, but expand it to include other available resources such as funding and skills as these greatly affect a charity’s ability to deliver services. We can rename it ‘Available resources’. This axis tells us that there is a decision to be made about whether to use a model from the top or bottom row based on an understanding of the resources the charity has to implement the service.

Service Factory

Schmenner gives the examples of airlines and hotels as Service Factory services because of the low customer contact & customization – everyone gets the same service, and low labor intensity – the ratio of effort by people in delivering the service is less than the equipment, buildings and aeroplanes in this example.

An example for a charity might be a website with information about self-examination for testicular cancer or self-service web portal that allows the booking of a counselling session. These require little human effort and utilise a greater degree of technology to deliver the service.

This type of service works well where the service-user’s needs are less complex, such as needing to source simple information, and where technology can be implemented to meet that need.

Service Shop

Services with low labor intensity / resource needs but high customer customization / service-user’s need are classified as Service Shops. Service Shops can provide various types of customized services for the service-users but rely on more technology/capital resources than human effort to deliver the service.

Charities might use a Service Shop model to deliver individualised support pathways for young people getting into training. Each young person using the service receives support, mentoring and training that meets their needs, and the majority of the service is provided through technology such as a Learning Management System for training courses and video calls for mentoring.

Mass Service

Mass Services have low customer contact/customization in combination with high labor intensity, meaning that everyone gets the same service but it requires people to provide the majority of it. Schools use this model, providing every student with the same curriculum which is predominantly delivered by lots of in-person contact with the teacher delivering the service.

Charities use the Mass Service model to deliver services that are difficult to deliver using technology but don’t require a great deal of customisation in order to meet the needs of the service-user. Charity shops fit this model (although existing to generate income rather than meet the needs of service-users) as they require employees and volunteers to sort stock, serve customers, etc., all tasks that could not easily be automated. Charity shops offer the same service to all customers – buying stuff – and don’t change that based on the customer’s needs.

The Mass Service model is often used where a service needs to grow through replication, that is, in our charity shop example, opening another charity shop that works in the same way as every other charity shop. This is because recruiting more people to run the same service in a different location.

Professional Service

These services have both high customer contact/customization and a high degree of labor intensity, and tend to be highly customized according to the particular situation/need of each customer.

Charities providing expert legal advice for people experiencing domestic abuse or facing homelessness are utilising the Professional Services model. The high degree of education, skill and time required to deliver the service explain why this is high in ‘Available Resources’, and the high complexity of the need, including dealing with landlords, benefits system, courts, etc., explain why this service requires greater customisation in order to met the specific needs of each individual.

How to use this in designing a charity service

Choosing an appropriate service model

When initially designing a service the most appropriate model should be selected from the four types. To design and attempt to deliver a service that uses the Professional Service model when a charity doesn’t have the necessary resources will result in the service only meeting the needs of a few. And to provide a service built on a Service Factory or Mass Service model when the needs of those using the service are highly complex will result in the needs of those service users not being fully met by the service.

Multiple service models to make up a service

The complete service doesn’t have of only use one type, in fact a service could be designed with different parts of the service using different models where the complexity of need differs throughout the entirety of the service and where some parts could use technology to a greater degree than others.

Trading off needs and resources

In reality, there is always a trade off. The service user needs might be highly complex, for example a family dealing with a parent with terminal cancer, and requiring a high degree of resourcing, for example many hours of one-to-one care by a specialist nurse, but the charity simply does not have enough nurses to meet the needs of patient and family members. The charity then needs to decide whether to continue to offer the Professional Service model of support, either to fewer people or for fewer hours, or to redesign the service using a different model. Or sometimes, the difficult decision to decide that they are not the right charity to be providing the service.

Shifting service type with changing needs and resources

Designing a service of one type doesn’t necessarily mean that it should continue to use that type. If there is a change in the needs of the service users (becoming more or less complex over time), or a change in the available resources (introduction of better technology, more time and funding, improved skills) then charities should be able to shift the service to a different model.

If a service is delivered using a Service Factory model because that was appropriate at the time of initially building the service, but then the needs of the service-users become more complex then the service could be moved to utilising a Service Shop model to achieve better outcomes. Similarly, if a charity was providing a service using the Professional Services model but then experienced a reduction in funding that meant they no longer had the resources available to deliver the service in that way, then they should be able to redesign the service using a Service Shop model to ensure a service can still be delivered.

Conclusion

Schmenner’s Service Process Matrix, with some adaption, offers an interesting model to conceptualise the types of services designed and delivered by charities. It provides some practical direction in choosing a service type based on the resources the charity has available and the complexity of needs of the service-users, and guidance on responding the changing needs, both within the charity and from the people who benefit from the service.

Perhaps the important realisation here is that increasing the capacity of an existing service is not the only way to respond to changing needs, and reducing the capacity of a existing service is not the only way to respond to a reduction in funding, and/or employee and volunteer availability. Charities can respond to change by shifting service model.

References

Verma, R., & Boyer, K. K. (2000). Service classification and management challenges. Journal of Business Strategies, 17(1), 5-24. Cornell University, School of Hospitality Administration site: http://scholarship.sha.cornell.edu/articles/59/

Schmenner, Roger W., How Can Service Businesses Survive and Prosper?, Sloan Management Review, 27:3 (1986:Spring) p.21