Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

There are several examples where PwC Experience Centers engaged multi-stakeholders and served as platforms where users/citizens could express their needs and wants of certain products/services. In the Lombardy case, for instance, in addition to the co-creation session PwC helped organize a call-for-feedback session, where Lombardy citizens were able to submit their opinions on the new public portal. Through this process, the Regione Lombardia could collect responses and better understand the fundamental issues of the application based on the user experiences. Another example, the Meet Sweden project pioneered by the PwC Stockholm Experience Center in partnership Swedish Industrial Design Foundation (SVID) and Swedish public agencies, highlights how the public sector is growing increasingly interested in the role of users/citizens in service model development. Asylum seekers in Sweden often struggle with long and arduous processes when trying to resettle and legally immigrate to Sweden. Information is lost between multiple visits to disjointed public organizations and refugees does not feel in control of their own asylum journey. To remedy some of these issues, PwC Stockholm brought together private and public actors as well as the migrants themselves at the Experience Center to participate in co-creation sessions and generate human-centric solutions. Assessing the needs of the migrants was essential when developing the layout and in-app design features in the Meet Sweden mobile application. As a result, the participants jointly created a new mobile application that streamlines the asylum process and saves time, money, and energy of all involved actors. This is just one project where livelihoods were improved based on co-creation design thinking and it exposes the potentialities of Experience Centers in enhancing public service delivery models.

Co-creation process

Through iterative activities at the Centers, including group brainstorming in the Sandbox rooms, usability tests of company products and design thinking exercises, PwC works jointly with the public sector, its providers and the citizens to develop approaches that align with the above pillars. PwC intentionally outfits each Experience Center with adjustable, client-friendly workspaces and focuses on developing efficient and agile solutions. While Centers in every country belonging to the PwC network abide to a shared set of methodologies and approaches, each has its own focus and peculiarities. PwC structures each physical space differently to match regional and cultural characteristics. One example is the PwC Rome Experience Center. Inside the Center, there are flexible spaces with adjustable walls and moveable tables to accommodate activities organized for and with clients. It has a work café with objects of Italian design to create a familiar environment conducive to make people unwind and spur a positive ideation and reflection process. Additionally, the interactive technology and writeable walls incorporated in the central Sandbox meeting room offer clients unique spaces for meetings, workshops, and trainings with PwC UX design and technology professionals. The Testing Lab and Observatory Room include a unidirectional mirror so clients can carry out usability tests and observe real time client reactions to services/products. The Rome Experience Center also has AI technology, 3D printing, and contemporary digital programming to collaborate with clients in the development of prototypes.

Digital Transformation Process

Scholars envision Living Labs as the generators of concrete, tangible innovations based on contributions from users and communities, rather than just simply functioning as brainstorming spaces. The PwC Experience Centers propel forward several iterations of innovation by recruiting diverse job profiles, applying co-creation methodologies, and prioritizing the human experience in all project designs. Dynamism and functionality are consistent features across all PwC Experience Centers and this allows innovation to manifest in a variety of ways at different stages in the development process. Namely, we will detail out how the Experience Centers incite business model innovation for its public sector clients, and how they understand service/product and touch point innovation throughout the design process. Innovation is transient across levels and, at PwC Experience Centers; it is contingent on the end goals of the client.

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

PwC Experience Centers’ principal objective is to bring together customers and businesses in dynamic spaces to establish business models that incorporate user feedback at all design stages. In occupying this intermediary role, Experience Centers help identify user needs and the root causes of customer dissatisfaction through co-creation processes so the resulting business model used by the client satisfies needs of end-users. This open-innovation environment attracts private companies and public organizations looking to modernize and transform the business-consumer service delivery relationship. Their human-centric nature makes these spaces distinct and helps concentrate varied perspectives and problem solving tactics in a central meeting location. In joint collaboration with other stakeholders, PwC helps clients rethink their mission and generate innovate business models to meet end users’ needs. By asking questions centered on how to alter current business practices for greater customer satisfaction, clients can identify areas for growth and ultimately find a new path forward. The PwC promoted business models are considered innovative, especially for the public sector, given that they reconfigure the model to meet new objectives established based on consumer input. Thus, by enabling conscious changing of an existing business model or the creation of a new business model, clients can strategically elevate models to better satisfy the needs of the customer. The associated organizational structures and methods for service/product delivery reflect a shift in mindset of the client and focus on impact and growth.

Challenges & Bottlenecks

Typically, larger organizations have more rigid organizational hierarchies and learned cultural habits, which can make implementation of flexible methodologies difficult. The objective of the PwC Experience Centers are to function as testbeds and incubators for entrepreneurial design thinking and help PwC evaluate hybrid/agile managerial approaches to public sector challenges, in-house. By having the Centers operate in this way, PwC can overcome organizational challenges and share niche-consulting expertise gathered through Center activities to internal PwC consultants. This sort of ‘Agile Desk’ unit of PwC is transformative for internal work cultural – both enhancing workflow and teaching nuanced strategies for managing client relationships. There is a tri-fold benefit from PwC Experience Centers as clients, their customers, and PwC, learn and improve from the co-creation sessions and find solutions to broad, complex problems.

Transferability & Replicability

The PwC Experience Centers can also serve as intermediaries and network enablers between actors that have struggled to communicate productively. According to researchers James Stewart and Sampsa Hyyaslo in their analysis of the role of intermediaries in the development and appropriation of new technology, intermediary organizations, such as PwC, configure the users and involved actors yet maintain a position of separation from the decided end use of the technology. This enables intermediaries to influence through workshops and co-creation sessions, however, the participants have the final decision-making power. Thus, as an intermediary PwC drives the new partnerships through six key “bridging activities” (Bessant and Rush 1995):
  • Articulation of needs, selection of options
  • Identification of needs, selection training
  • Creation of business cases
  • Communications, development
  • Education, links to external info
  • Project management, managing external resources, organizational development
When broken down further, it essentially tasks the intermediary with enabling transfer of knowledge, sharing knowledge across the user community, brokering to a range of suppliers, and diagnostic/innovation – trying to identify what end users actually want. These tasks are driven by three main social learning roles occupied by the intermediary: facilitators, configurers, and brokers. In the PwC context, Experience Centers are living out these archetypes as they bridge gaps between customers, companies, and the public sector. In practice, we have seen the importance of PwC occupying this intermediary role and facilitating critical client-customer interactions at the Centers. Contamination of approaches between the private and public sectors, knowledge transfer, and elevated understanding of shared challenges are just a few of the benefits in having PwC as an intermediary network enabler.

Success Factors

Social learning and/or contamination of techniques/approaches during interactions at PwC Experience Centers is another key way that public value is realized. Social learning refers to two simultaneous, complementary, and intertwined processes: innofusion (Fleck, 1988) and domestication of technology (Sørensen, 1996). Fleck defines innofusion as the innovation that takes place during the diffusion of new technology amongst participants. In this phase, users discover their needs and wants through a process of technological design, trial, and exploration. The other component, domestication of technology, addresses the pre-existing “heterogeneous network of machines, systems, routines and culture.” Essentially, it recognizes how cultural consumption habits influence user behavior and underlines the value of incorporating users’ creativity in product design processes. For PwC Experience Centers, a transfer of co-creation approaches and design thinking techniques to its participants is valuable for ensuring sustainability of solutions and enabling shared sponsorship to anticipate possible resistance to project implementation. Additionally, there is a cross contamination of techniques between participants as they originate from diverse backgrounds and bring to the workshops different views for how to solve problems. In this process, divergence in ideas and incorporation of distinct actors allows critical knowledge transfer that often precludes innovation and helps identify overlapping challenges. Outcomes generated from co-creation activities at the Centers have included the use of private sector business models by public organizations. By seeing the design elements of private sector models implemented by PwC, clients can interpret and apply similar structures in their own operations – thus initiating a transfer of proven strategies between private and public actors.

Lessons learned

Living Labs play a critical role in displaying the mutual value of co-creation approaches for public and private actors. In the public sector, there is a hesitancy to welcome consumer engagement throughout the service design process. Governments and public organizations are fearful that actively seeking consumer input is too cost and time intensive and are unaware of the potential benefits for engaging customers in the earlier design stages. Therefore, it is essential to understand the PwC Experience Centers’ role in helping enable public-private mutual understanding and fostering innovative co-creation solutions. They add value by acting as a platform for idea exchange between all actors, inciting and analyzing customer feedback, and promoting multi-perspective discourse. The resulting improvement in services and increase in public value benefit the supply-side and user-side equally, and substantiates the importance of intermediaries in opening communication channels. It enables organizations and companies to explore how to improve their own services and/or processes with consumer engagement as the central focus and at the Centers they can test, fail, retest, and optimize proposed strategies before actual implementation.