Why an up-to-date service map is essential when teams change direction

A couple of weeks ago, we published a post about how it took us 9 days to launch the Get or offer support service on the Co-operate platform. Part of that post explains how we were able to pivot so quickly from our roadmap to respond to emerging user needs.

For example, the team:

  • communicated and collaborated constantly to avoid confusion
  • worked in agile ways to learn fast and iterate
  • deferred to the design system to save time on decision making

In this post, Claudia and Leila from ustwo (who we’ve been working with) explain why our service map has been essential for direction, alignment and redesigning the information architecture.

What’s a service map?

Teams working on a digital service create a service map, ideally alongside stakeholders. The aim is to show everything that’s needed to maintain the live service with real customers and include all the moving parts from across the business. It means everyone has visibility of gaps and where improvements are needed. A service map changes as the service does – it’s never finished.

(That’s an overview but you can read more about what service maps are and why digital teams bother in this old post).

Our Get or offer support service map

The service map for Get or offer support shows the:

Front stage – this covers the interaction between people who have asked for help and our call centre, as well as the interaction between people who have asked for help and the people offering it.

Screen Shot 2020-05-01 at 14.21.16

Back stage – this covers the Co-operate platform which includes Contentful (the content management system), Smartsurvey (which we use to gather user data), our call centre and their data logging in Salesforce (which is used to securely store data)

Screen Shot 2020-05-01 at 14.21.48

We’re beginning to map the other Co-op business units who use the data Co-operate asks for in order to complete the user’s task. Co-op Health, for example, who will provide support with medication for those in England.

Changing direction and reflecting it in the homepage 

Co-operate has always been about helping people come together to make good things happen in their community. But the lockdown meant communities were no longer able to come together in person – which is why we needed to change the way Co-operate brought people together.

We reflected the changes in the homepage.

Previously, the focus of the homepage was finding and adding activities listed on the site. Our ‘how-to’ guides were also quite prominent.

Now, the focus of the homepage is on matching people who would like support with those who can offer some.

screengrab of the current co-operate homepage. the get support or offer support banner is central and prominent. below are two boxes. one titled: find online activities. the second titled: add an online activity

The homepage is the place where users will immediately recognise our change of direction – it’s obvious because they can see it. But a change in direction has a knock-on effect for the rest of the service too and the team is responsible for making sure it runs smoothly.

Here’s where the service map became invaluable.

Updating the service map: a priority not an afterthought

We updated the service map to reflect it the change of direction. We never view updating a service map as an administrative task – it is essential to the development of the service and to the team’s alignment. Without it, detail is overlooked and teams pull in different directions.

We knew it would help:

  • highlight where decisions needed to be made
  • communicate changes once, clearly, to everyone (particularly essential when we are all working remotely)
  • give the business units (such as Co-op Health and Co-op Food) an overview of where they fit in the bigger Co-operate service

The service map as a comms tool

We’ve used the service map in various workshops to collaborate with stakeholders and map out how the process has changed. We’ve found that showing them a visual representation of the service has been helpful because it moves the service away from something abstract – something they can’t necessarily see like data passing between 2 points – to something concrete that they can understand more quickly.

Having something to literally point at when explaining why we need an urgent decision on something has been invaluable.

During the workshops we’ve shown the stages of the service in a sequence of building blocks such as registration, vetting, training and matching those in need with those who can support. We’ve broken down each building block together to help each team member focus on what we want to achieve.

Making things quicker for users

Service maps focus on users: how a user gets from A to B. Using Co-operate: Get or offer support service map with stakeholders has meant we can naturally guide conversations back to the users – very useful because the ‘user first’ approach isn’t instinctive to people working outside digital.

The visual representation of the service helped us identify the steps followed by a user, and the steps followed by a call centre colleague. Seeing those 2 sets of steps together showed us we could get rid of duplication (asking for consent twice, unnecessarily) and reduce the amount of effort we were asking for from our users.

Service mapping is multi-functional

A large part of how we were able to get a new service live in 9 days was down to the service map. It showed the team an overview, it showed the team the intricate detail. We’ll continue to update it as Get and offer support matures.

Leila Byron, Service design lead
Claudia Ehmke, Product principal

2 thoughts on “Why an up-to-date service map is essential when teams change direction

  1. Harry M. N. May 5, 2020 / 9:02 am

    Having a service map is a really good idea. An interactive and concrete way to keep all relevant group members on the right path. I feel like implementing something like this within my working groups at school (and personal projects) could really drive productivity upwards.


  2. Emma Walker May 5, 2020 / 10:31 am

    This is such a fantastic concept!
    I am looking forward to take this idea to my supervisors , and apply it to my business!


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