Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Apart from PricewaterhouseCoopers, beneficiaries include public administrations involved in specific projects such as the Lombardy Region.
Uptake of co-creation by private companies is a relatively recent trend, spurred by increased connectivity, technological innovation, and prioritization of user experiences. A recent report from Hitachi Europe found that “58 per cent of businesses have piloted co-creation projects to help them innovate.” More rapid communication between customers and service providers has altered the typical business relationship and thus PwC Experience Centers are becoming critical for facilitating co-creation and producing viable solutions for public sector clients. At the Experience Centers, PwC builds business approaches and methodologies based on their BXT mentality – which recognizes the interconnectedness of Business, Experience, and Technology. It places the human experience at the center of business and technological transformation – ultimately drawing on multiple perspectives and disciplines in development processes. Summarily, the BXT mindset evaluates proposed solutions holistically and stresses the importance of collaborative approaches, building around questions such as; is the solution useable? Is the solution useful? Does the solution work? The Centers’ application of a BXT-minded Service Design for Growth model and its associated co-creation processes help PwC remain adaptable and adjust services to meet specific client demands. The Service Design for Growth model is comprised of four key stages: 1) Exploration, 2) Strategy, 3) Co-Creation, and 4) Growth and focuses on impact and growth delivery. For each design stage, the PwC team introduces exercises to gain clearer understanding, define the service through synthesis of research, generate solutions, and transpose the principles of open-innovation and collaboration in clients’ everyday business. However, different from the sequential and rigid Stage-Gate approach, the process remains Agile in design and replicates the Design>Test>Iterate steps until outcomes are approved by all actors. A final ‘rapid prototype’ is the expected output, which PwC underlines as “cheaply, easily, and quickly changeable.” This method is user-oriented – meaning it is human centric rather than a top-down process – and Co-Creation sessions allow PwC staff to bring together stakeholders in product/service conceptualization to secure equal investment and widespread of the project. PwC also importantly valorizes incremental innovation, focusing on the small deliverables and touch points throughout the design process. At the Experience Centers, PwC teams move clients through the co-creation process that consists of two pre-project phases, Discovery and Session Design, then the Co-Creation Session itself, and lastly is followed by two post-session activities, De-brief and Deliverable Realization. Co-creation sessions can last anywhere from 1-5 days, depending on the client’s request, and are customized to meet specified objectives. The flexible and iterative nature of the co-creation methodologies at the Centers also allows for bi-directional learning. PwC benefits from leading co-creation sessions by refining their own approaches and learning what works with clients and clients revise their own business models to match consumer demands. Applying co-creation approaches brings new knowledge to the firm while also attracting forward thinking clientele. To better understand the specific exercises used in each design stage, we will analyze the use of co-creation sessions and Design Thinking by the PwC Experience Center in Milan, Italy in the Portal for the Lombardy Region project. In July, the PwC Milan Experience Center hosted a collective group including representatives from Regione Lombardia, business and test users, service managers, and other relevant administrative personnel. The participants were selected based on their wide range of backgrounds and intentionally included portal end-users. From the beginning, the co-creation session objective was clearly defined and the following goal was shared with participants: How can we help the project back office (Lombardy Municipality administrators) to operate smoothly to support users in a simple and immediate accession of the project? PwC staff then provided an overview of Design Thinking methodologies and the Design Sprint approach, which aim to promote a multidisciplinary vision, are human-centric, and ultimately deliver solutions in a time efficient manner. PwC staff divided the group into two sub groups, the citizens and the firm, and the groups were given a secret task that involved the user portal in order to initiate the service road mapping exercises. In the mapping process, there was emphasis placed on asking ‘why’ behind each problem solving statement to help uncover what the root issues were for the service providers and consumers. Giving each group a persona with specific user characteristics helped participants develop mutual understanding for the needs of the user portal and the challenges faced by firms developing the products. Further, PwC bases proto-personas used in the exercises on real data and market research to guarantee that the alignment in communication resulting from the session is applicable in a real world setting. After discussing the frustrations and needs of each persona in their groups, participants played a word association game where they could role-play and discover their overlapping concerns. Next, in the analysis phase, participants identified the various touch points for the portal services and discovered where there were issues within the service delivery model. Lastly, they worked together to generate solutions for how to enhance communication between stakeholders and improve the operational flow from a “What I Need From You” perspective. Overall, in the Lombardy Portal use case, the Experience Center’s co-creation session was instrumental for bringing together stakeholders using an all-inclusive approach and for creating an innovative, user-friendly service/product delivery model. The final output was a new ready-to-use portal for standardization in resolving of public works issues and improved assistance for Lombardy residents. The role of front-end employees/public service staff in co-creation. In co-creation sessions, front-end employees are essential for facilitating and guiding participant interactions. At PwC Experience Centers, there are two main types of employees working with external clients. The first group, are the creative specialists (digital engineers, industrial designers, UX technicians) that bring clients’ visions to fruition. The second group, are the facilitators of the co-creation sessions. The PwC staff in the facilitator roles are extensively trained in facilitator methodology and are well experienced at bringing together different perspectives in collaborative design thinking. Critically, the plurality of employees’ job profiles at the Centers allows for creativity in services offerings and guarantees that various types of clients will have the necessary personnel to execute the co-creation session objectives. To quote a Senior Manager at the Rome Experience Center referencing the value of staffing Centers with a variety of skillsets “the team (PwC) must be ready to support the different projects in every moment.” As aforementioned, the PwC staff act also in a ‘meta-consulting’ capacity – sharing information with and teaching internal PwC consultants. The normal managing consultancy team structures are not applicable to PwC Experience Center project teams. Instead, the front-end employees play dual roles as they are also actively participating in the co-creation process and the member composition is distinct from the usual partner, manager, senior associate, and junior associate team format. This is vital for co-creation to remain focused on the user and decentralized in structure. Additionally, the PwC Experience staff are tasked with procuring transformative interactions between stakeholders and ensuring that solutions from sessions are participant driven. This function is divergent from a typical PwC-client relationship, which can be less iterative and more unidirectional.
The role of users/citizens in co-creation
As noted in the section on how co-creation is outlived, co-creation prioritizes users/citizens at every stage and incorporates participatory design thinking. One of the main priorities of co-creation is iteration – allowing for user feedback and touch points throughout the development process. PwC considers customers/users/citizens as co-designers and their involvement is critical for avoiding product-centric outcomes and replication of past implementation mistakes. Part of PwC’s intermediary role is to relay the value of active user involvement to clientele, including public organizations and governments contracting the Centers’ services. This is executed through PwC’s creation of user and provider ‘personas,’ which helps cluster common characteristics and fosters mutual understanding among participants. Users/citizens need to feel a sense of commonality amongst themselves and development of personas also reveals universal concerns, frustrations, and challenges that were previously unacknowledged. 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.
The role of other stakeholders (private actors, communities) in co-creation
Given the Service Design for Growth delivery model’s emphasis on multi-stakeholder engagement, other private actors and the community at-large are valuable contributors, especially in co-creation sessions. Community stakeholder groups and private actors are active in participatory design thinking exercises in order to keep the target focus group, end users, at the core of solutions. Becoming representatives and managers of the public services/products instills important leadership characteristics in participants and ultimately facilitates self-governed, sustainable organizational processes.
Digital Transformation Process
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 intermediatory 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.
Overall, PwC builds its Centers’ objectives around four key pillars:
Customer: placing the user at the center of the design process
Power of perspective: incorporating multiple perspectives in solutions
Always in Beta: maintaining iterative solutions that can be adjusted
Experiment with tech: enhancing existing tech and/or brainstorming new uses
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. 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.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
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. 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. The ability to measure performance varies from center to center, as there is not a standardized system of analysis at the macro level. At the above-mentioned PwC Stockholm Experience Center, they have begun testing ways to assess the effectiveness of their products/services in terms of end user impact. Labeled as a ‘creative audit,’ PwC Stockholm staff retroactively analyzed their work in the past year. The criteria used to measure impact were developed around questions such as “How many end users have we reached?” and “How many lives have improved as a result of innovative business and service models?” There is a distinction in how PwC aims to measure the performance of Experience Centers against the broader PwC mission, which has traditionally been more concerned with client value. The underlying driver for evaluation is improvement of end user experiences rather than profitability and other conventional business metrics. While still in its early stages, the results from the Swedish case to a certain extent validate the value of PwC Experience Centers as innovation incubators. In addition, external organizations and other Living Labs are also looking to collaborate with PwC to actively monitor the impact of co-creation in their respective sectors. Based in Norway, the Asker Welfare Lab, a citizen engagement lab that “adopts an investment mind-set and treats citizens as co-investors,” has contracted PwC to help develop key performance indicators for the lab’s projects. They are working with PwC to develop a measurement model that, together with Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities, can monitor outcomes and trace results of how the lab is driving innovation. The PwC Experience Centers’ role in measurement practices is still yet to be determined, but validating the Centers’ activities and helping other labs track their progress are chief priorities.
Transferability & Replicability
It is expected that such digital transformation practice could be replicated in other parts of the Italian public administration if the need and the will is there, since it is the same socio technical conditions that apply. Whether such digital transformation can be replicated in public organizations located in other national contexts depends on the way public administration is organized in such contexts as well as the level of digitalization of both businesses and society.
PwC Experience Centers strive to alter existing unidirectional service/product deliveries. In regards to the service experience for users, more specifically there are two principal focuses:
Become more human centered in solutions for problems through qualitative based research approaches and human insight
Produce agile and iterative ways of working that draw multiple perspectives and provide timely/efficient testing of concepts for enhancing user experiences
Theoretically, in applying these principles PwC can foster multidirectional and collaborative relationships between developers and consumers. Improving co-creation interactions has two potential effects for the customer: (1) It reduces transaction costs, risk, and uncertainty, and (2) it reduces the costs of the interaction for the consumer, which leads to greater satisfaction with and trust in the company (Rajah et al, 2008). These improvements for the customer are interlinked with enhanced productivity for the supplier and for the contracted firm (PwC in this case). In working with the end users throughout the co-creation process, subsequent organizational models used by clients reflect specificities of the customers and provide material for PwC Experience Staff to utilize in their role as meta-consultants to the firm. The resulting service experience/relationship is circular, valorizing iteration and human input in design. Clients and customers can walk away from experiences at the PwC Experience Centers with new levels of understanding and transparency, which then translates to sustained changes in business models and provider-customer relationships.
Uniquely, the Experience Centers allow PwC to diversify its approaches away from traditional Stage-Gate methods toward more Agile On-Demand approaches and this has also impacted the inside work culture at PwC. Stage-Gate is a methodology where the project is divided into separate phases and the manager leads the continuation of the process. Developed to avoid reworking or redirecting processes, the Stage-Gate model remains limited in its ability to incorporate external feedback and in its dynamism. Amidst the digital revolution, Agile approaches emerged and gained traction as they were inherently more responsive and emphasized the role of people over processes. At PwC, the adoption of Agile methodologies by its Experience Centers has expanded and permeated across other business units and has attracted new and varied clientele. Further, through the Experience Center unit, PwC experiments with additional forms of flexible approaches and this has contributed to its successes in rapidly developing product/services that alleviate misalignments between the client and their customers. In the public sector, transforming the service experience to be more human-centric is growing in popularity and in several cases PwC’s involvement has helped spur new private-public partnerships. Another use case from the PwC Stockholm Experience Center is the Storsthlm project. In response to Stockholm’s recent growth, the Greater Stockholm municipalities needed to reorganize management processes in the areas of politics and public administration. Together with PwC, the municipalities and the County Council collaborated on the Health and Support initiative as part of the new Regional Development Plan that aims to enhance citizens’ mobility and access to public resources. One aspect of the plan focused on improving public assistance programing for the aging population. Within the PwC co-creation sessions, outputs were constructed around a core objective: How can we make sure to deliver on helping citizens through the aging process? In working with the public municipalities, engaging with elderly citizens, and integrating co-creation methodologies, PwC helped keep the solution human centered and rooted in qualitative research. The municipalities reinvested in their citizens and relied on PwC business approaches to solve reoccurring issues in administering of public services. This resulted in improved interconnectivity between municipalities and a collaborative program design that moved away from typical silos and disjointed public assistance organizations in the public sector.