Developers become more empathetic, in an enterprise context


Duration: 6 months

Team: me as freelance Designer, one in-house Designer, and the CTO.

Project type:

Key Activities:

Process overview (click for more detail)


The client organisation was a small start-up aiming to simplify the integration of blockchain networks with business applications.

The design brief included the usability of their yet un-tested SaaS platform. The scope later expanded to cover the usefulness of adding a significant feature: a marketplace.


Surfacing the team’s knowledge (and assumptions) by filling in research deliverables.

Approach 2/2

Investigating and comparing competitor offerings, describing existing mental models.

Immersing myself into the use-case of the platform through scenarios. Organizing two user-tests with the target audience.

Prioritizing and maintaining a backlog in Jira: recording findings from users, interpreting them, ideating solutions, using rapid prototypes to communicate with ‘tech’ and ‘users’, repeat the cycle.

Outcome + Impact

Allowing the team to experience a new process first-hand. Leaving behind materials and deliverables to lower the barrier for future sessions.

Some positive signs of change included increased budget for Design, opening up the platform for the public and creating an opening for a full time designer.

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 that understands their ‘user’ better

By cultivating a humble mindset and intentionally seeking to be corrected.

  • Desk research, Expert interviews, User Observation, Interviews and Testing
  • Jobs to be Done – expressing stakeholder needs, leaving enough space left for creativity
User Testing Session

Tangible props helped involve people who don’t sketch

A team with more internal alignment

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 development process that prevents costly 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 annoying? Are they protecting their reputation, or defending against criticism ?

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

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 🔗).

Because this is Service, not only UX Design, more deliverables were needed. These helped us see the difference in needs between the 3 main stakeholders, and how these actors relate to each other…

Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD)

Just enough constraints to allow for creativity

Ecosystem Map

(visualizing the flow of value)

The ‘Jobs to be done’ got the team talking in terms of scenarios. These provided just enough constraints to be useful, and not being to narrow as to block the creative process.

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

Another important part of Research was understanding the Enterprise Blockchain Landscape and Consortia between Organizations (Read more 🔗) This is where the team’s experience proved very useful…

Journeys out of Interactions

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

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 –

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.

For instance, here is the meaning behind what the user decides and sees:

User flow for two of our Stakeholders (open in new tab)


The beginnings of a Design System:

Building on top of a mature Design System (IBM)
Competitor mental models analyzed in a Moodboard

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

Positive 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


The team now has:

A new creative process that they have personally gone through ( Takeaway 3 )

Templates and preparations for future sessions, which makes them more likely to happen

Left a copy of the Book

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

Update: DesignOps

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.

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.