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What on earth is a service blueprint?

12 October 2021 <> Written by Danny Tomalin
What on earth is a service blueprint?

The blueprints to good design.

There are lots of things I love about my job, but identifying and solving problems for our clients is probably one of my favourite parts. Together, we discover the hidden mysteries of their businesses and we help them deliver commercial value, which is amazing. We identify ways of improving processes for all their users (including their team and customers) - buzzing!

To create an awesome service blueprint you have to be interested in business, and you have to be interested in people. Commercial awareness is crazy important. We can’t make a difference to people unless we make a difference to the business. Want to know more? Hell yeah, you do!

What are service blueprints?

Often when we meet with businesses they already have an idea of the solution they want us to provide, which is cool. But, sometimes they’re looking in the wrong place. Companies are very good at finding coping mechanisms, and actually, the real issue can be happening in one place, while the symptoms are appearing in another. We know businesses don’t have a one-track mind and their departments don’t work in total isolation. So what we do is visualise the entire company with a service blueprint. Service is complex and multi-layered. So how can we really get to grips with everything that’s already happening while trying to drive innovation? We create a service blueprint. A service blueprint is a diagram that helps you understand a business's service process. It shows relationships and touchpoints for the customer journey and often unlocks things you never knew existed. We focus on understanding the following:

  • Customer Journey
  • Frontstage Operations (Anyone the customer has relationships direct communications with)
  • Backstage Operation (Anyone that deal directly with the frontstage but has no customer interaction)
  • Support processes

Then there are lines of service that flow separately to these categories - and we need to show how they interact with each other. These are:

  • The lines of interaction
  • The lines of visibility
  • The lines of internal interaction

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But why do we do this? Not many businesses visualise their whole servicing process in one big flow map. By doing this and creating service blueprints, we can create a holistic view of the service that can be shared across organisations that we can use to identify waste and we can measure value-added.

Businesses often don’t know or realise all the different channels and touchpoints they have with their users, because let’s face it, businesses are quite big and complex! When working on service blueprints we get everyone in the same room (virtual room #covid) at the same time. This is great and sparks so many important conversations. You might find that two departments have the same issue, but one of them already has a solution that will help the other.

How do we create service blueprints?

We start off with the end-user who interacts with the system and establish what their goals are. As a business, you want to satisfy these goals, because that’s how you make money. Now, this is a really important first step, because until we know their goals, we don’t actually know how they’re going to interact with your business.

The first thing we do in a Razor discovery session is to understand who the users are in a given scenario, then we can perform the service blueprint exercise.

We can take it a step further and include emotional mapping, which helps us add another layer to our blueprints. We want to represent how the user is feeling at this stage of their journey, and for accessibility, we use emojis to display this. 🙂😠😢

Normally you find you have an unhappy user because you have an unhappy business process. We need to find a way to improve this business process, which might be automation. Automation frees up your team to deliver that extra value stuff, and make your user feel great.

Doing this exercise really shows the team their business in a way they might not have seen or considered before. It gives them a holistic view of the services they’re offering, and rebalances what they do and what they can do, while we also identify the value of the waste areas.

We need to validate and test proposed new processes and see what happens. There’s no magic silver bullet that means automation is always the right solution. Sometimes we have to introduce manual processes. Emotion is a very key part of an experience - people remember how they feel over anything else so as always, our goal is to get those smiles from the customers .

Sometimes, we need to get immersed in the reality of the context to really understand the processes. That might mean we use contextual inquiries like screen recording or interviews, or we get on-site and join delivery drivers on their routes for example. We don’t know what your day is like or what your environments are really like until we actually experience them as a fly on the wall. It just doesn’t get any better than watching somebody doing their job. It allows us to be aware of their reality, so we can then find informed new solutions.

Now, this is a really important point. These service blueprints aren’t created by us in isolation. We can't stress that enough. This is us getting to know the people and getting to know how they do their job. And they don’t all know the user, so we have to ask the user themselves too. We'll get them to tell us exactly how the process works for them.

This investigation is crucial because the users aren’t always in the room with us, and we don’t know your business as they do.

What are the benefits of service blueprints?

Creating service blueprints allows us to visualise your business and identify the times to take to uncover the value and waste areas. If we know that a process is 70% value and 30% waste, we wouldn’t be touching the 70% value area first. We’re going to work on reducing that 30% waste. That 30% waste might be a length of time, and we all know that time = money. So by saving that time we’re also saving money, which is something that can be clearly measured.

Together, we can decide on an end goal for your business, which may be 10 years down the road or 10 months. Then as a design and development team, we can work on building you an MVP Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a slither of the end product that delivers value now. Then we can release more updates in iterations, to continue delivering value along the journey to the end goal.

If you're making software you should know the process that people go through, you should understand the impacts of the design decisions that get made. You should know how when you add that button on that screen it actually affects somebody. Without understanding the impact our design has, we can’t create cool stuff that works for everyone. We need to be designing things consciously. How would you ever get to automate if you don't understand the manual?

Our CEO, Jamie, has an analogy that I love. “You can’t eat a whole watermelon in one go...you have to eat it in slices.”

And that's what I've talked about with the vertical slices in the service blueprint. Do this bit first, then this bit. Little steps and marginal gains. Because we started with the end goal in mind, we know that each step is taking us to the final goal. Slice by slice.

Service blueprints are perfect for people who want to get better, who want their business to improve for their customers and their employees. They want to be freed up to work on cool stuff and implement things that take all the frustration out of their work.

When we create them we’re fully considering how it affects all users - the team and the customer. That’s why we do the emotions, so we can represent and serve the whole organisation.

Service blueprints with the Razor team

We’re not experts in your industry (yet), you are. We know tech, we know processes, and we know people and how to bring all of these together beautifully.

We work with a lot of businesses in a lot of sectors, and we can take inspiration from a lot of them that work for you. We can take our learnings from manufacturing and take them into healthcare.

We never approach any project with predefined solutions to anybody’s problems.

We’re goal-driven, and most definitely not a package consultancy.

We will work with you to discover your goals, and understand your users, and then find amazing solutions.

We will ask questions, be curious, and genuinely listen.

So be prepared for excitement and lots of discovery where we search for the right answers.

Want to find out more about working with us? Let’s talk.


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