Dec 14 The Process behind the Best Banking App in the World

… and other insights from the Service Design Conference 2017.

Recently Carmen Liu and I delivered an immersive workshop called “Transformation by Design: Managing the People Side of Change” at SDCG 2017.

Our talk focused on using behavioral design tactics to drive organizational change. We shared the basics of human behavior, touched on the evolutionary psychology behind behavioral heuristics and biases, and discussed the roles of identity and motivation theory in behavior change. (Feel free to email me if you’re interested in learning more about the workshop.)

The conference was a fantastic meeting of service designers from around the globe focused on scaling service design in organizations. During the conference, I had the pleasure of hearing from four other service design experts. Here are the best takeaways from those talks.

We have entered a new era of technology enablement

Larry Keeley (Author of “10 Types of Innovation”) gave a fantastic talk describing the technology that drives some of the world’s most innovative companies, Airbnb and Uber. Respectively, they are now the most valuable hospitality company and biggest taxi company, despite not owning any hotel rooms or cabs. The magic is in the technology… or is it? Larry Keeley argues that the technologies underpinning both Airbnb and Uber are not as proprietary as we might think. In fact, of the 57 technologies that Airbnb uses (data applications, devops programs, utilities, and business tools) only seven are “semi-proprietary”. The magic is not the technology but rather the ingenuity of the business model.

I found this talk most interesting as it exemplifies just how accessible technology has become to build the core functionality of a scalable enterprise. No longer is technology a limiting factor. In the example of Uber, we have seen a number of competitors come to scale. Didi, Ola, Grab, and Lyft all have billion-dollar-plus valuations and were founded after Uber. This means that start-ups and established enterprises will find it increasingly difficult to create competitive advantage exclusively through technology barriers. Rather, companies will need to find differentiation in their ability to quickly adapt to market changes; through new products, services, or experiences that enhance their business model; or through other tactics such as strategic partnerships.

Scaling service design requires multi-dimensional capability building 

Jamin Hegeman (VP, Head of Design, Capital One) spoke about his experience scaling service design in a large organization after Adaptive Path (his service design firm) was acquired by Capital One. His story begins with the occasional workshop facilitation, moves to his team’s infusion into projects, and ultimately culminates in an organization-wide capability building effort.

What I appreciated most was Jamin describing their evolutionary framework to scale service design in an organization. The first component is focusing on a bottom-up approach to infusing tools, methods, and processes into the organization. To do this, the service design function must train teams in processes, act as a coach, model behavior, and curate tools. A combination of these tactics allows for a scalable hands-off and hands-on approach, enabling learners to either partner or act autonomously. Lastly, the team must focus efforts on top-down change. Tactics geared towards leaders should focus on changing systems and structures. This includes building service design practices into program evaluation, governance, and accountability measures. By taking both a bottom-up and top-down approach, we can better ensure service design will scale in an organization. This is similar to our approach at Rêve where we focus on tactics in 7 areas of CX maturity: Vision, Measurement, Culture, Brand, People, Process, and Technology.

Standardize, don’t centralize

Louise Downe (Head of Service Design at the UK Government’s Digital Services Department) gave a great overview of the UK Government’s efforts to scale service design across the organization. Her task was a daunting one with some government processes having not been changed in over 200 years! In addition, the scale is vast – roughly 20% of the UK GDP is spent on public services, of which 80% is spent on central services. The most astounding statistic, however, is that 60% of that cost is spent on phone calls and casework. Louise works in a government group of 10 heads of design and 800 designers focused on reducing that number by making government services work better for users.

The most insightful part of Louise’s talk were the tactics in helping achieve service design scale and sustainability by standardizing practices. This is in contrast to the usal desire of organizations to centralizing service design efforts. Take for example payments: an organization (especially the size of the UK government) may need to take payments for many things (application fees, fines, subscriptions, taxes, etc…) Now imagine the scale and consistency gained by standardizing this part of a service, and by providing those delivering or building the service the code base, documentation, design patterns, content, and other related business logic such as a confirmation email. Standardizing interactions can lead to significantly shorter build times of services and provide consistency of interactions across touchpoints for users.

3/6/9 Framework

Derek White & Rob Brown from BBVA, a bank whose app was recently named “the best mobile banking service in the world” by Forrester, provided one of the simplest and most interesting takeaways of the conference, the 3/6/9 framework. It was designed to ensure all new products at BBVA were built on the core pillars of design: empathy, co-creation, and iteration.

The framework goes as such: 3 days – 6 weeks – 9 months. Three days to assemble a team consisting of a designer, a technologist, and a business owner. Sound familiar? It mimics the Desirability, Feasibility, Viability (DFV) framework popularized by Stanford’s Six weeks to test a prototype with users. Nine months to launch the product.

What I love about this framework is how easy it is to remember and how the outcomes imply process without being overly prescriptive. Three days with three roles ensures the inclusion of DFV perspectives and acts as a natural stage-gate to ideas that are not exciting or untenable in their desirability, feasibility, or viability. Can’t recruit a technologist? Maybe that’s because your product is so technically complicated that no one wants to sign up for the challenge. Six weeks ensures the team is testing the concept with users to gain feedback that can be worked into the design. Lastly, and most ingenious, is product delivery in nine months. This may seem like a long-time in the start-up world but it is fast to go from concept to launch that quickly in large regulated organizations. Nine months ensures teams won’t succumb to analysis paralysis or build a tool with unneeded features – but focus instead on putting a simple Minimal Viable Product (MVP) into market.


For more photos from the conference, please check out the SDN Flickr.

If you are interested in learning more about our workshop “Transformation by Design: Managing the People Side of Change”, in which we share strategies, tested tactics and real-world examples that leverage behavior design to scale service design within organizations, please contact Taylor Larson at

Taylor Larson
Taylor Larson

Director of Strategy and Behavioral Design