21 Lucky, Basic “Design Methods” at Publicis Sapient

Child looking at map facing an open field.

Since the birth of IDEO’s unique approach to open sourcing their design methodology, there have been many variants that have been grown from that original, ambitious effort. Today you can visit any one of these resources:

to gain the skills of an expert “design thinker.” And although there are countless other collections of design methods out there, at Publicis Sapient we have a long list of our own of course. In the spirit of continuing in the standard of sharing that IDEO set over a decade ago, what follows is a curated “short list” of our favorite methods to use with our clients. It’s culled from a looooooong list that we maintain internally that was originally kicked off by our fabulous London Experience Design team.

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1. Kickoff Workshop | WHEN Framing @ 1–4 Hrs

WHAT

A kickoff meeting is the first meeting with the project team and the stakeholders at the start of the project. The purpose of a project kickoff meeting is to introduce the team, understand the project background, understand what success looks like, understand what needs to be done, and agree on how to work together effectively. It’s a chance to set expectations and get the team and client aligned.

OUTPUTS

Problem Statements, Need Statements, Questions and Assumptions, Brief, Research Plan, Define Ways of Working, Communications Strategy.

WHY

  • Outline the project and introduce the team and stakeholders to each other.
  • Create enthusiasm and understanding about the vision and goals of the work.
  • Align the everyone.
  • Promote communication and agree on ways of working.

HOW

Make a list of stakeholders and team members invite and plan the workshop:

  • Client — What’s the background?
  • Project — Why are we doing this?
  • Scope — What are we doing?
  • Approach — Ways of working?
  • Roles — Who is doing what?
  • Comms — How are we going to communicate?
  • Kick-off — What’s the agenda for the client
  • Success — What does success look like? Metrics?

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens, large sheets of paper and some space.

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2. Interviews | WHEN Understanding @ 30–60 Mins

WHAT

An interview is a common user research technique employed to gather information and insights from either existing or potential users with a series of open-ended questions. Interviews are structured but typically informal and conversational. The interviewee is representative of a target user group.

OUTPUTS

Insights and Need Statements.

WHY

  • An effective way to understand a person’s motivations and gather qualitative information.
  • A quick means to understand people’s attitudes, values and opinions.
  • An effective means to understand people’s goals and motivations.

HOW

  1. Decide on the goals of the interview.
  2. Articulate and recognise your assumptions.
  3. Select the interview method; in-person or remote.
  4. Prepare a discussion guide and some questions before the session — avoid any leading questions.
  5. Select and screen your users carefully and consider edge-case users, new target markets and current customers.
  6. Record and then transcribe your interviews.

MATERIALS

Questionnaire, note book, pens, video camera. Ensure you have a comfortable quiet space to talk.

3. Shadowing | WHEN Observing @ 1–2+ Hrs

WHAT

Shadowing is an ethnographic study in which the researcher follows the user performing a job, or task or a typical work-day to observe and record them in action. We observe the user’s interactions and workarounds to find painpoints and understand what actually happens. We make a record what the user does, says, thinks, feels and with whom they interact and what tools or software they use.

OUTPUTS

Journey Maps, Painpoints and Need Statements.

WHY

  • Helps identify tasks and activities.
  • Identifies the emotional state of user.
  • Identifies patterns, work flows and painpoints when performing tasks.

HOW

  1. Shadow the user as they perform their daily work and tasks.
  2. Identify modes of work, behaviours and their emotions while performing tasks.
  3. Measure time on task and completion rates.
  4. Ask the use to ‘think-aloud’ and describe what they are thinking as they perform the task.

MATERIALS

Questionnaire, note book, pens, video camera. Ensure you have a comfortable quiet space to talk.

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4. Hopes & Fears | WHEN Understanding @ 20 Mins

WHAT

If you’re starting a project, kicking off a workshop, or bringing in new team members, this activity helps you get to know each other, highlight aspirations and express concerns. It’s a good way to break the ice and get a ‘temperature check’ from the team or a group of stakeholders.

OUTPUTS

An understanding of aspirations and worries.

WHY

  • A good warm-up exercise.
  • An effective way to gauge participants’ attitudes about a workshop.
  • It helps participants reveal their expectations about what can be accomplished and their concerns.

HOW

  1. On a large piece of paper or on a whiteboard, label one area for ‘Hopes’ and another for ‘Fears’.
  2. Ask team members, ‘What gets you excited about the project? What has potential? And what are you concerned about?
  3. Diverge — with each team member writing one ‘Hope’ or ‘Fear’ per sticky note and applying it to the appropriate area on the map.
  4. Playback, discuss, and synthesize. What themes emerge?

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

5. Stakeholder Map | WHEN Understanding @ 30 Mins

WHAT

If you’re integrating new team members or starting a new project, this activity helps you identify key people and stakeholders that are important as influencers, sponsors or contributors. We can identify their role, their relationships to each other and how important that are to the success of the project.

OUTPUTS

Stakeholder Relationship Map

WHY

  • Helps to understand who is involved and their influence.
  • Identifies who is impacted by the decisions made on the project.
  • Identifies people’s roles and dependencies.

HOW

  1. Start by identifying stakeholders; one per sticky note.
  2. For each stakeholder, add a second sticky note with a quote expressing their thoughts, opinions, or expectations.
  3. Group stakeholders in activity clusters and label the groups.
  4. Draw and label lines connecting stakeholders and their groups representing relationships such as influence, process, or dependency.

MATERIALS

You will need a sticky-notes, pens and a template or a large sheet of paper.

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6. Problem Tree Analysis | WHEN Understanding @ 60 Mins

WHAT

A problem tree analysis is a pictorial representation of a problem, its causes and its effects. This analysis tool helps the team get a quick glance of how a range of complex issues contribute toward a problem. The problem tree has three parts: a trunk, rots, and branches. The trunk is the main problem. The roots are the causes while the branches represent its effects.

OUTPUTS

Problem Tree Diagram

WHY

  • The problem can be broken down into manageable and definable chunks. This enables a clearer prioritisation of factors and helps focus objectives.
  • Provides a guide as to the complexity of a problem by identifying the multiple causes.
  • Identifies the link between causes and effects.

HOW

  1. Each person lists their problems as statements
  2. Cluster the problem statements that have been identified — remove duplication.
  3. Identify a core problem (this may involve trial and error before settling on one).
  4. Determine which problems are ‘Causes’ and which are ‘Effects’.
  5. Arrange Causes and Effects, in a tree hierarchy i.e., how do the problems relate to each other.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

7. What’s On Your Radar | WHEN Framing @ 40 Mins

WHAT

This is a mapping exercise where a people involved in the project can outline important issues that they are concerned about. The issues are then prioritised based on how important or relevant the group consider them to be.

OUTPUTS

A Radar Map, Prioritised Problem Statements and/or Needs Statements

WHY

  • An effective way to gauge participants’ attitudes about a project.
  • Enables a team to align and agree on a set of prioritised issues.
  • Consider what is currently important to the team and the business?

HOW

  1. Create three, large concentric circles. Mark them ‘Critical’, ‘Important’ and ‘Not Important’
  2. Using a sticky note, each team member should individually write down the issues that are currently a concern or represent an opportunity.
  3. Stick the post-its on the canvas based on the importance to you, important ones in the centre.
  4. Finally cluster the issues based on themes and label the themes- you have now aligned on critical issues and their themes.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

8. Affinity Diagram | WHEN Prioritising @ 30+ Mins

WHAT

A method to organise raw data, ideas and findings into logical groups and bring order to chaos. After identifying patterns, you will be able to better sort your set of data and to draw insights and opportunities.

OUTPUTS

Affinity Map

WHY

  • Helps to identify themes.
  • Reveals patterns and commonalities.
  • Triggers positive discussion and aligns the team.

HOW

  1. Start from transcribing your set of data into a series of sticky notes.
  2. Identify a topic and start grouping your sticky notes around it.
  3. Discuss and rearrange groups and sticky notes.
  4. Label the clusters.
  5. Identify patterns and similarities, and eventually draw a link between similar ideas that belong to different clusters.

MATERIALS

Post-Its, pens and meeting chart paper (or large piece of paper).

9. Customer Journey Map | WHEN Generating @ 60 Mins

WHAT

A Customer Journey Map describes the journey of a customer when using a service by representing the different channels and touchpoints that characterize their interactions with the service. The journey is divided into the three phases of; ‘Pre’, ‘During,’ and ’Post’ Service.

OUTPUTS

Customer Journey Map

WHY

  • Supports the audit of existing services.
  • Explore the distinct phases of a service.
  • Supports ideation of alternative service journey concepts.

HOW

  1. Start filling your Canvas from the Pre-Service period — look at digital and analogue media. What channels are used to engage the user start the service journey.
  2. Consider: Paid Media, Earned Media, Influencers, Owned Media and SEO.
  3. List the stages, actions and touch-points that your user experiences during the Service Use.
  4. Define the Post-Service phase and how to support the customer and motivate them to feedback or activate become advocates of the service.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

10. Persona | WHEN Communicating @ 1–2+ Hrs

WHAT

A persons represents a user or customer or segment in a market. Use this artefact to synthesize the data and information collected through the primary user research to create a psychographic profile that is representative of your target user. A persona evolves as more data and information is gathered about the user’s needs, desires, attitudes, values, aspirations, value to the business, influences and frustrations.

OUTPUTS

Persona (as an infographic, website page or PPT).

WHY

  • Keeps the focus on users.
  • Helps the team understand the user’s needs and helps develop empathy for the user.
  • A good way to summarize and share insights and important information collated from research.

HOW

  1. Identify and research a set of archetypes that are representative of your target user.
  2. Develop and write a description for each them keeping in mind their role, what they do, their painpoints (as Problem Statements), and their needs (as Need Statements).
  3. Extract a quote that is representative of their way of thinking and doing.
  4. Describe their values, attitudes, aspirations and influences.
  5. Outline a detailed summary for each persona.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

11. Needs Statements | WHEN Generating @ 40–60 Mins

WHAT

Need Statements are a very effective activity to use with your team when you feel that you’re drifting away from the actual needs, desires, and goals of your user. It helps reorient or reframe the work around your user, and to focus on their real needs. You can create Needs Statements with customers, clients and users.

OUTPUTS

Need Statements

WHY

  • Articulates the users needs from the user’s point of view.
  • Allows the team to identify ways to create value by focusing on the user’s pain-points.
  • Articulates the benefits that the user wants.

HOW

  1. Write the statement in the following way: <A user> needs <to do something> so that <the benefit>.
  2. Focus on your user’s painpoints — this helps get at what the underlying problems are.
  3. Stay away from listing individual features. Instead, ask yourself, ‘What does my user really seek? What does she really want?’
  4. Cluster similar needs, identify themes and discuss.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

12. Service Ecosystem Map | WHEN Prioritising @ 1 Hour

WHAT

The Service Ecosystem Map is a visual description of the service, the processes and the different actors involved. It shows their relationships, links and the flows of different assets (e.g. materials, energy, information, money) through the system. Draw this map is used to represent the system components and their mutual relations, it provides systemic view of the service and its context.

WHY

  • Maps flow of information and transactions through a system.
  • Enables the team to map interactions between actors and users.
  • Shows the relationship between supporting partners.
  • An exploration different perspectives from different actors viewpoints.

HOW

  1. Define the core elements of the service system. This might be your user, a touchpoint, an actor or a support service provide.
  2. Form clusters to show affinity.
  3. Draw the mutual relations that connect these elements.
  4. Draw the user flow and then visualize the activities that generate value or exchange of goods.
  5. The system map is completed when your diagram can be used to explain the service to others.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

13. Service Value Strategy Canvas | WHEN Generating @ 45 Mins

WHAT

The Service Value Canvas is a tool for identifying service value and how it is delivered and by whom. This canvas helps stakeholders, product managers, designers and developers create a value a strategy based on three categories: value-in-use, service ecosystem, and collaboration management.

OUTPUTS

Service Value Strategy Canvas

WHY

  • Identifies value-in-use for users of the service; Customer, Experience and Interactions.
  • Map the Service Ecosystem and its service networks.
  • Helps the team think about collaboration within the service network.

HOW

  1. Identify the user and or segments, the experience expectations and the interactions with the user.
  2. List the core services, the partners that help deliver the service and then how you manage the core relationships.
  3. List the enriching services, the partners that help deliver the enriched service and then how you manage those relationships.
  4. Finally, state nature of what role the business will play in the relationship.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

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14. Offering Map | WHEN Generating @ 45 Mins

WHAT

The offering is visualized through a diagram to support the elaboration of the service idea as well the development of some specific solutions, it could be a tool for the implementation of the concept but also for the communication of the service to the final user. The offering map will assume different configurations and language with reference to the specific aims of the map.

OUTPUTS

Offering Map

WHY

  • Enables the team to describe the offering as well as where and how value is created.
  • Allows for various levels of exploration as well as a deeper understanding of how the service will be used within its cultural boundaries.

HOW

  1. Using Post-its, define the value and benefits being created.
  2. Then list how that benefit or value is created though the operations and processes.
  3. Then list the touchpoints and channels though which the value-in-use to delivered.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

15. Service Blueprint | WHEN Synthesizing @ 1–2+ Hrs

WHAT

The Service Blueprint is a graphical illustration showing the sequential stages of a service in chronological order and describes the structure and characteristics of the service. It features the frontstage (the public face of the service) and backstage (the behind the scenes part of the business and its operations). The ‘frontstage’ features the user’s actions and interactions above the ‘line of visibility’. The ‘backstage’ is below the ‘line of visibility’ and features the supporting operations and processes.

OUTPUTS

Service Blueprint

WHY

  • Provides a high level view of the service.
  • The Service Blueprint enables the organization to build the service by setting out the order of activities, identifying its touchpoints, actors, processes and points of interaction.
  • Both internal groups and external partners can see the inter-dependencies.

HOW

  1. List each step of the service that user passes through in sequence.
  2. Outline the actions of the user as a user story in the frontstage. Outline the actions of the employees — (the actors) the user comes into contact with on the frontstage.
  3. Identify any backstage actors that are supporting the process.
  4. Link the frontstage contact activities to the support functions and processes.
  5. Add the touchpoints and evidence of service for every step and customer action.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

16. Touchpoint Matrix Map | WHEN Generating @ 30–45 Mins

WHAT

A touchpoint is a point of contact or interaction, especially between a business and its customers or consumers. This map provides a visual framework to understand how the touchpoints relate to the system by considering the way the user interacts with them in a specific context and it is used to identify one or more user journeys.

WHY

  • Helps map and uncover the customer journeys using touchpoints.
  • Or Helps create ideas on how to support the user in a journey using new touchpoints.

HOW

  1. Define the different stages that represent the system flow (top row).
  2. List all the touch points that you have identified in the current or future scenario (first column on the left).
  3. Highlight the presence of each touchpoint in the respective stage.
  4. Highlight the steps of your user journey(s).
  5. Identify the opportunities and pain points of the user journey.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

17. Cross Channel Matrix Map | WHEN Generating @ 30–45 Mins

WHAT

The cross channel matrix map shows the customer and employee interactions for all phases of the life cycle, across all channels, documenting specific channel requirements. Channels are both frontstage and backstage in a service ecosystem.

OUTPUTS

Cross Channel Matrix Map

WHY

  • Supports the organisational alignment of channel specific processes, staff and systems.
  • Defines how channels support the delivering of service.

HOW

  1. Create an inventory of the channels, both physical and digital.
  2. Bring the customer along a journey, considering touchpoints and the respective channels the interaction occurs through.
  3. Consider what channels are appropriate for each touchpoint given channel strength.
  4. Develop new or alternative for how channels can be used to deliver the service.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

18. Actors Map | WHEN Generating @ 30–45 Mins

WHAT

This tool helps the team to document and develop shared ideas about the actors, their roles and their roles in supporting and delivering a service or ecosystem. Each actor is linked and their role and remit described in supporting the service and delivering value.

OUTPUTS

A map of actors and their relationships.

WHY

  • If you’re designing a new service this activity helps you identify actors, their roles, relationships and how they add value.
  • It helps the team to map dependencies and relationships as well as where there is an exchange of value or information.

HOW

  1. Identify anyone involved in the service that supports the service.
  2. On three sticky notes write: Name, role and what they do.
  3. Draw lines with arrows connecting these actors to describe their relationships and the information they exchange.
  4. State the value they provide.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

19. Epics and User Stories | WHEN Generating @ 1+ Hrs

WHAT

Epics and user stories are a tool used in Agile software development to capture the description of service changes or software changes to features. An epic is a large user story that cannot be delivered as defined within a single iteration or is large enough that it can be split into smaller user stories. The user story describes the type of user, what they want and why. A user story helps to create a simplified description of a requirement.

OUTPUTS

A collection of Epics or Users Stories.

WHY

  • Enables the team to identify fast wins, strategic dependencies and view the service increments in a holistic way.
  • Keep track of service features and requirements that have and haven’t been implemented.
  • Enables the team to work in an agile way throughout the organization.

HOW

  1. An agile epic is a body of work that can be broken down into specific tasks (called ‘stories,’ or ‘user stories’) based on the needs/requests of customers or end users.
  2. Start with User needs and the business need based on the Service Blueprint.
  3. Detail can be added to user stories in two ways: By splitting a user story into multiple, smaller user stories, or by adding conditions that must be satisfied.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and large sheets of paper. Use software such as Atlassian’s Jira or Trello to create tickets with user stories.

20. Mixed Backlog | WHEN Managing @ 1+ Hrs

WHAT

The Mixed Backlog is an ordered list of initiatives that need to be done to deliver a desired service or product. A Service or Product Owner is responsible for the Mixed Backlog. The SO or PO is responsible for creating, prioritizing, ordering, and maintaining the backlog. Anyone can contribute, but the PO has the final decision. Elements in the mixed backlog are prioritised and ranked based on user need, business imperative, risk, feasibility and dependencies. A business case is created based on ROI and cost of delay to the business.

OUTPUTS

A prioritized ‘Mixed Backlog’ of Epics and User Stories.

WHY

  • Use to keep track of development progress and service features and requirements that have and haven’t been implemented.
  • Enables the team to identify fast-wins, strategic dependencies and view the service increments in a holistic way.
  • Enables the team to work in an agile way throughout the organisation.

HOW

  1. A Mixed Backlog is never complete. It lists all features, tasks, requirements, enhancements and fixes that constitute the changes to be made to the service in future releases.
  2. Mixed Backlog items have the attributes of a description, order, estimate and value to the business and the user.
  3. Based on the Service Blueprint define Epics, and define user stories and then prioritise them.
  4. User stories are then placed in the Sprint Backlog for implementation.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and large sheets of paper. Use software such as Atlassian’s Jira or Trello to create tickets with user stories.

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21. Shaping Capability Mapping | WHEN Shaping @ 40–60 Mins

WHAT

A Capability Map provides a framework for capturing all key features, components, systems, policies and other business and technical capabilities that will need in order to deliver your service. It can be used to assess the business needs, understand IT costs, and align investments with strategic priorities. The ‘Capability Map’ documents all the capabilities and their relationships that are part of the target business operating model and value chain.

OUTPUTS

A map of capabilities; people, operations and processes.

WHY

  • Enables the team to outline business capabilities, materials, and expertise need in the organization in order to perform core functions.
  • Enables the team to identify fast wins, strategic needs, dependencies and prioritize investment in people, operations, processes and IT systems.

HOW

  1. Based on the Service Blueprint define operational need and dependencies.
  2. Identify change candidates: people and skills, processes, operations, IT capability and gaps.
  3. Agree on priorities and identify common interests for investment priorities.
  4. Map out under each operational component the changes and needs based on value creation.

MATERIALS

You will need sticky notes, pens and a template or large sheets of paper.

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