Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The main beneficiaries are the service users that receive follow-up services from the employment and welfare services. Consultancies providing design and programming expertise are involved stakeholders.
A service design approach was explicitly adopted for the preliminary part of the project. In the project document, it was stated that the project ‘uses service design as a method to ensure a holistic approach in the development of new concepts. Service design is used throughout all phases of the preliminary project, with a continuous focus on the user’. Hence, a ‘holistic approach’ and ‘continuous focus on the user’ underpinned the service design approach. The project is anchored in qualitative and quantitative user research, and designers worked closely with frontline employees responsible for follow-up work in the development process.
Digital Transformation Process
The simplified follow-up project is closely connected to digital transformations in the organization. It is specifically interlinked with the introduction of a new system, called Modia, supporting new work methods in frontline work and digital interactions with clients. Moreover, the project was taking place in parallel to a broader organizational shift towards more agile methods for system development and organizational learning.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The central results and outputs of the service design process in this case was the development of a digital activity plan with an integrated chat function for direct communication between councillors and users. The interactive functionality was enabled by broader system changes in the organization related to the introduction of the administrative system Modia, developed to support two-way interaction between users and councillors. There are indications that the new solutions are well received among frontline employees and users, and it seems generally perceived as an improvement to how service interactions and follow-up is being carried out. It is not possible to say whether these improvements have broader impacts regarding employment rates. Calculations of benefits realization were still ongoing at the time of the case study.
Challenges & Bottlenecks
The case highlights various potential dilemmas related to the use of service design for public service innovation. First, service design assumes open, creative innovation processes in which time is spent on deeply understanding the service and its ‘pain points’. At the same time, service design stresses the importance of iterations as central to the creative processes, which require a proposed solution that can be prototyped. In this case, there was a concern that the main solution was launched too early, which somewhat closed the innovation process. It was reasoned that the result perhaps became less ‘revolutionizing’ than it could have been. Second, service design also underlines the importance of working both holistically and iteratively. The case shows how this can involve dilemmas in the sense that iterations may lead to a narrow focus on testing and improving specific solutions, in which the broader, holistic perspective of the services gets lost. Third, it was acknowledged that the insight work informing service design processes may run the risk of becoming detached from existing research knowledge.
Transferability & Replicability
The case can serve as inspiration for similar public service organizations seeking to digitalize service interactions, or to improve existing digital platforms for interaction with users. There are potential for learning from the service design approach underpinning the innovation process, and there are potential for learning and transferability when it comes to the concrete digital solutions that were developed and implemented.
There are valuable lessons to be learned from this project when it comes to efforts to rethink relations and interactions between public services and users in the context of labor and welfare services. These relations tend to be largely asymmetrical, and the users can feel inferior and alienated from the administrative processes of the public service organization. The outputs of this project (the digital activity plan and the chat for communication between users and frontline employees) challenge these asymmetries. The new solutions seem to provide platforms for improved interactions between employees in the welfare bureaucracy and users. The case shows that interactions through digital platforms can strengthen relations and interactions between service providers and users.