5x5, In-house Service Design, JoEllen Kames

Interview with JoEllen Kames, Portfolio Lead | Vice President at Northern Trust

by Thomas Brandenburg

“A huge myth is that the work for in-house design teams isn’t as exciting as consulting work. While that might have been the case in the 80’s and 90’s, I believe that we are in a new era for in-house design teams.”

1. What are couple of the key ways you go about training or educating the rest of the organization in service design?

There are a few things that have been working well for us. We host monthly lunch and learns focused on sharing relevant research and design skills where participants learn and get a little experience practicing them. These are small (20-24 people) and are open to all in the organization. We also do deep dive workshops over an extended time period with selected teams to build up their aptitude with human centered design. We're experimenting with how we might engage teams in short term work collaborations (e.g design sprints) to help them achieve something tangible quickly in a human centered way.

2. What are couple of important factors needed in order to successfully set up and integrate an in-house service design practice?

After writing the list, I’m not sure how different it is than what makes for good consulting engagements, but here goes: the right high-level champions, understanding how the work contributes to the company’s goals, delivering high quality research and design outcomes, and designers and researchers that are interested in understanding what others do and building connections.

3. As we know, at the heart of service design is collaboration and co-creation—how do you go about finding allies in-house? 

One of the best ways we've found is connecting with  complementary groups, such as teams focused on technology innovation. Relentlessly being client centered naturally creates allies at Northern Trust because of our long legacy of delivering exceptional client service. As a relatively new team one of the reasons we've gained traction quickly is that connection to Northern’s client centric culture.

4. Tell us about the metrics that your team works toward?

We select projects that will deliver differentiated client or employee experiences, and we work towards delivering those experiences, but we’re still in the process of determining meaningful metrics. Similarly for our outreach/education efforts, we are in the process of defining meaningful metrics - just measuring the number of people exposed or how many classes or workshops you’ve delivered doesn’t really get at the understanding or skills that you’ve fostered.

5. What myth about (in-house) service design would you like to dispel?

A huge myth is that the work for in-house design teams isn’t as exciting as consulting work. While that might have been the case in the 80’s and 90’s, I believe that we are in a new era for in-house design teams. The complicated nature of actually delivering a consistent, coherent product or service requires deep collaborations across teams responsible for the different touch points. Developing a breadth of these relationships across an organization is difficult to do as a consultant but much easier when you’re an employee. When it comes to important breakthrough innovations, I’ve noticed a trend towards leaders engaging teams of people that have made a commitment to the organization (employees) rather than sending that strategically important work out to consultancies.

To see JoEllen Kames at our upcoming SDN US National Conference register here

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