Empathetic developers in an enterprise context

Client: Unchain.io

Date: 2019
Duration: 6 months

Project type:

Key Activities:

Helping a technical team reshape their SaaS platform – making it more useful for their customers, as well as easier to use.

Surfacing assumptions by filling in research deliverables. Observing sales calls and conducting informal discussions with the target audience. Using every opportunity to Research while I work on making space for Design to happen consistently.

Investigating and comparing the competitors using a mood board. Immersing myself into the use-case of the platform through exercises. Organizing two user-tests with the target audience.

Completing the feedback loop a few times: recording findings, interpreting them, ideating solutions, using rapid prototypes to communicate and validate with ‘tech’ and ‘users’, prioritizing and maintaining a backlog in Jira.

Outcome + Impact
Allowing the team to experience a new process first-hand. Leaving behind deliverables that keep on evolving (research, prototypes).

Some positive signs of change included the creation of a new designer position and opening the platform for the public.

The business impact of design: faster to market, lower development costs and more engaged employees!

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so – Mark Twain

Key Achievements

An Organization with a sharper understanding of their User

By cultivating a humble mindset and intentionally seeking to be corrected. Tools proven to be useful:

  • Desk research, Expert interviews, User Observation, Interviews and Testing
  • Jobs to be Done – digging under the surface and expressing what the audience’s end-goals are.
User Testing Session

Tangible props helped involve people who don’t sketch

A Team with more alignment – toward itself and toward external stakeholders

This participative approach motivates colleagues and builds buy-in. It also increases alignment by building a common mental model…

  • Ecosystem Map – mapping the flow of value, and showing that the customer is not the user
  • Blueprint Map – how the effort behind the curtain shapes a consistent experience
  • Rapid Proto. – communicating with Tech, paving the way for repeatability and a Design System

A process that prevents large mistakes

Resulting in lower costs and fewer large disappointments… Increasing team morale and confidence.

  • Rapid Proto. – speeding up the feedback loop by testing with users
  • Letting the Engineers experience the benefits of a Design-led process firsthand – showing not telling.

Click through the process ➡

The rest of this article describes in more detail the three main efforts:
Organizational Change

Wide and Qualitative

Why are people resisting reality-testing their ideas with the target audience ? Are they trying to avoid being perceived as annoying? Are they defending against criticism and damaged reputation ?

Click to read more | Service vs UX Design

In Service Design, there are more perspectives (business strategy, operations management, organizational change, etc.) and more stakeholders to take into account compared to UI/UX Design

Empathy, an in-depth understanding of the users and their context is still necessary but not enough. It is important to have the same awareness toward all relevant stakeholders.

Other stakeholders with an influence over the success of the service include: the internal employees in various departments within the company and other relevant external stakeholders (complementary service providers, regulators, client’s clients, etc).

Adapted from Fabrique

A constantly evolving understanding of the users (and their context) is necessary but not enough. It is important to have the same awareness toward all relevant stakeholders.

After listening to team mates for their perspectives as well as collecting Raw data through:

  • Observing and Interviewing the target audience
  • User-testing parts of the journey

The findings were interpreted into a Persona– the user being different than the customer (Read more 🔗)

Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD)

(what outcome is this stakeholder after ?)

Ecosystem Map

(visualizing the flow of value)

The ‘JTBD, User Stories and Key Insights’ got the team talking in terms of scenarios. These tools also showed the difference in needs and goals between the 3 main stakeholders.

The Ecosystem Map provided a wider overview which covered Actors, Organizations as well as Human-Machine interactions.

Part of the wide research was understanding the Enterprise Blockchain Landscape and Consortia between Organizations (Read more 🔗)

Journeys out of Interactions

Zooming in for the important details…
And zooming out to ensure a holistic experience

The Blueprint map provided a holistic perspective over what must happen within the organization (facing the customer + behind the curtain) for the service to be delivered, while managing the emotional arc of the intended audience.

It also contributed to a shared understanding within the team on how various hidden details and internal process work to create a bigger picture for the customer.

Read more... What is a Blueprint map ?

Micro-moments are individual interactions. Put together they create a holistic experience, for instance from pre-purchase to post-purchase. The wider perspective is called a Journey map (or Experience Map if it covers more customer segments/personas).

By asking through which channel the interactions take place, and what it is required in terms of support or back-end processes to deliver that experience, we create the Blueprint map.

Source – frankly.studio


Other work:

Building on top of a mature Design System (IBM)

Analyzing the competition using a Moodboard

Rapidly prototyping the MVP and beyond

Organizational Change
(that lasts)

Empathizing with your own team members is perhaps even more important than empathizing with other stakeholders

Why are they doing X ? Is it how the system is set up or what it incentivizes ? Are they trying to protect their work from criticism or their process from too much interference?

Leaving behind an organization that embodies Service Design is a project that takes more than half a year and more than a part-time Junior Designer.

But its a start.

This effort included:

  • organizing Sessions – some things are only learned by experiencing and doing, not observing
  • lobbying Decision makers for budget or process changes
  • creating Ambassadors at key levels in the organization who speak and act in key moments

Design impacted Business Strategy

Presented a tailored roadmap, including milestones on capability building and achieving higher and lasting design maturity.

Shaping the path

By building on top of an existing SaaS Marketplace platform, the creation of it would not become a technical challenge but a human one (community building, trust creation). It would allow for design sprints in which the developers would not be asked to code, but to fake it.

The team now had:

A new creative process: Presented earlier ( Jump: Takeaway 3 )

Templates and preparations for future co-creation sessions to make user engagement less intimidating or risky

Left a copy of the Book

Signs of Change

  • The only person in the team with a design background was given more time to do it
  • Addition of one more full-time designer (not a freelancer – very important)
  • Opening the platform for public beta and experimentation


I am grateful to
Jelle who made space for Design and Learning,
Thatcher for being a Cheerleader and Design Ambassador

P.S. the need for DesignOps

Having good Designers on the team does not guarantee that their work will be relevant for the key stakeholders.

They need to be Empowered and integrated – not assimilated.

Designers need to be involved during planning and strategy too. They need to have a say over how work is accomplished, not just what work is to be done.

Design Operations (DesignOps 🚀) has the purpose of shaping an organization in order to ensure that the 3 activities are happening together consistently:

Technical work done based on design decisions, which in turn would rest on understanding, validation and user research.