“I think there has just been a bit of a general zeitgeist, or recognition, that design has more to offer than perhaps people have traditionally felt,” says Luke Jeavons, Head of UK Design Team at Sopra Steria.
“One of the challenges that a lot of the designers have felt who have been involved in projects is that sometimes they have been brought in at the wrong time, or brought in too late to try and make things look good at the end. But actually the real benefit that designers can bring is to projects at the beginning in terms of how you structure your thinking, making sure you’ve got the right approach to innovation, make sure you understand your users’ needs properly and build from the ground up.”
Jeavons, who runs service design for the whole of the UK from the tech firm’s Edinburgh office, talks of a paradigm shift in the way government is thinking about its approach to public services. In the past, there was undoubtedly a tendency to issue multi-million pound invitations to tender, and wait for a solution to roll in. That approach now feels outdated, and solutions providers are more embedded within government, to try and get richer and deeper understanding of how people interact with public services, not simply digitising paper-based processes, which themselves were never efficiently designed in the first place.
Sopra Steria is working with Social Security Scotland – a new government agency to which powers are being devolved to distribute benefits to people in Scotland. It is a massive flagship project, if ever there was one, and it’s fraught with risk, but also opportunity. Jeavons is unable to go into detail, save to say that the team working on it are highly energised by the potential to do some social good.
“It’s a public service that touches everyone in the team, with friends, relatives or people that they know. People are pretty passionate about getting it right,” says Jeavons. One of the benefits in the way Sopra Steria has structured its team is in its multi-disciplinarity. Rather than a siloed approach, a ‘cross-functional’ team consisting of designers, technologists and researchers have been able to ‘bounce ideas off each other’, creating an environment for people to get more fulfilment from their work and the improve the quality of the work.
Like government, the organisation has also created its own playbook, which has become an asset library for the firm. Jeavons adds: “It’s the heartbeat. It’s how Sopra Steria approaches things, from user research to proto-typing. It means we can deliver things faster, templated, but it also can immerse people into the way we do things.”
This article appeared in the Autumn issue of FutureScot Magazine, distributed in The Times Scotland on Saturday, November 23.
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