The 8 Ps
A simple way to capture the backstage of a service, from people to purpose.
The “8 Ps” of service design are a way of bucketing and focusing on the most relevant information when listening to stakeholders talk about a service. We listen out for information that relates to the eight Ps, as they are highly relevant to understanding the current state of the service and help us see alignments, frictions and just plain crazinesses in service architecture.
What are the 8Ps?
Listening for people
The first of the 8 P’s is people, and focuses on the people who contribute to and use the service. As we look to explore and express the interior workings of an organisation, our primary focus is currently on the people who work with the service on the organisational side. Later on in this course, you will also consider “people” as service end users or customers.
Who are the “people” we are typically interested in learning more about when looking to explore the interior workings of an organisation?
These people are typically customer-facing. They provide the service as a human and interact with the customer, either face-to-face (as in a shop) or through the telephone or internet. Examples of front-of-house staff include a barista or a customer service representative.
Middle office staff
These people typically serve administrate roles and functions, often translating leadership decisions and strategies into products and services. Examples include office managers or team leaders.
These people tend to be focused on internal processes, maintenance and delivery: the unseen operations of a business. They include people working in payroll, logistics, and operations.
External from the business, these people have a contract or business relationship set up with service as a provider of a product or service. For example, Australia Post are a provider of logistics services for many online retailers.
In a service blueprint, customers interact with every provided touchpoint at the line of visibility, either directly or indirectly. How the customers interact with these touchpoints feedback into organisational decision making. Whilst present in service blueprints, deeper customer insights come out in customer journey maps. You will put together a customer journey map for Sole Shoes as part of Assessment 2.
Why are we interested in people?
People are almost always core to a service and its functions. Looking out for insights relating to people when reviewing research recordings allows us to appreciate the different hierarchies that exist in the service’s current state. Each organisation has its own way of doing things, its own structures and hierarchies of people. These hierarchies will affect the way people work together and by extension, the way the service operates. By listening “for people”, we can unpack and understand these relationships and how they affect the service in its current state.
What to listen for in ‘people’
Assessing research materials for content relating to people includes looking out for:
- Mentions of inter-team relationships
- Noting down who the “people” are in the service
- How roles, responsibilities and expectations affect someone’s work
- Skills or knowledge gaps
- Enthusiasm, stress, or other emotions
- Definitions of who people are, and their role
“Products” includes any tools which people use to get things done for a business outcome. A computer is a product because it allows people to get work done, but so too is computer software such as Office365, a document made within that software such as a spreadsheet, or a physical product used with the spreadsheet such as a printer, paper or pen.
Why are we interested in products?
Products are highly relevant in gaining an understanding of the internal workings of an organisation because they help stakeholders get things done, or should help them get things done. As businesses and technology evolves, existing products become outdated, or new products underutilised. Great products can help drive an efficient service, and bad products can create a bad service.
What to listen for in ‘products’
When you assess research materials for content relating to products, look out for:
- Talk of technology and tools — what products are being used
- Complaints about the efficiencies of these tools, or praise for a use of technology
- Any scarcity or abundance of particular products
- General vs specific products (such as “my phone” vs “web browser” vs “Chrome”)
- Hacks — where someone is using one product because there is no better product
“Places” are where activity occurs for a business outcome. Places can include a shop floor, call centres, home offices, or somewhere outside: any physical location.
Why are we interested in places?
Places can inhibit or accelerate processes and performance. The quality of the working environment can effect colleagues’ well-being and their relationships with others. In 2020, COVID-19 caused many organisations to move their staff from working in offices to working from home. This caused massive change in ways of working and interacting.
The place where activity happens can affect the activity itself. Whether a meeting takes place in a coffee shop, board room, or an outdoors location will affect the tone and therefore outcome of the meeting.
What to listen for in places
When you assess research materials for content relating to places, look out for:
- Mentions of any physical locations and what happens in that location
- Comments on how a location affects an aspect of service delivery
- Transit (on the tram, in an Uber)
- Assumptions of places where things occur
Processes inform how an activity occurs in order to achieve a particular business outcome. Processes structure behaviours, interactions, and products in order to ensure reliable and repeatable outcomes. They are often measured by performance, and are often created as a function of organisational policy. Examples of processes include payroll, checkout scanning, internet cart creation and checkout, or a sign-up process. Processes can be small and quick — such as using paywave to pay for a coffee — or massive and long — such as amending a federal law.
Why are we interested in processes?
Processes often underpin the design of a service. They decide how a service end user progresses through a service, and how a member of staff conducts their work. As service designers, we work to refine and enhance processes to make them more efficient.
There are often many different layers to a service. Whilst a paywave process as outlined above might seem small and quick, if we dig deeper it is actually quite complex. What happens when we scan our card? How does the merchant get paid? How many paywave terminals does the merchant have, and how many merchants are there in the area? What seems a simple process is actually a small part of a massive, wider process. Some of these processes we may have control over, whilst others may lie beyond the organisation. A coffee shop cannot change the way they receive money through Paywave, for example.
What to listen for in processes
When examining research materials for process, look out for:
- The different steps a stakeholder has to do to carry out a task
- Whether a process is fixed, or could be amended
- Generalised processes such as customer onboarding or review processes, that can all be broken down into smaller or more specific processes
Platforms are a type of non-physical place where a service or part of a service occurs. Platforms typically offer an opportunity for a product or service to be more widely available. Ebay is a platform for businesses to sell goods, Facebook and Instagram offers organisations a platform to interact with their customers. Note that Ebay, Facebook, and Instagram are all providers of a service, but that organisations can use all three as a platform to promote or provide their own services, too.
Why we are interested in platforms?
Platforms cause constraints in service delivery as our ability to influence them can be limited. It is unlikely that an organisation is able to change the way Facebook offers it’s business pages platform, for example. An organisation’s choice of platform(s) can greatly influence service outcomes.
Platforms also highlight the fact that service design does not, by default, consider a “whole business”. An organisation can offer many services, and as a service designer our engagement may be to only investigate one, or even part of one. You might be asked to investigate an organisation’s use of a platform, or even asked to help a platform provider improve their own service. You will explore the complex nature of multiservice businesses elsewhere in this graduate certificate.
What to listen for in platforms
When considering research materials in terms of platforms, look for:
- What platform(s) are the organisation currently using?
- How do they limit or constrain the service?
- How reliant on the platform(s) are they?
- Are any clear benefits which the business gains from specific platform usage?
- Are platforms referred to as other P’s (e.g. Facebook as a product?)
Performance is the measure of success or failure in any business activity. Organisations tend to believe the notion that “what can be measured can be controlled”, and rely heavily on numerical performance as a key indicator of how to spend money, and how to save it. Measures of performance can include stock performance, time on task, conversion rates, click-through rates, and footfall.
Why are we interested in performance?
Listening for performance tells us a lot about what an organisation values. Observing the differences between what a CEO says regarding performance, and what a team leader says, helps us to realise what is important to each character, and brings about any disparities. Noticing how different people measure performance is also useful to know as it helps us, as service designers, to engage them by talking there language.
A critical area where service design plays a role is helping organisations to explore, communicate and celebrate non-numerical performance criteria. Whilst some numerical performance data is objective, others, such as ratings, are highly subjective. Consider how you “rate” different rideshare drivers for average service, and how that might contrast with how your friends do so. Helping organisations embrace non-numerical indicators of performance can sometimes help them more accurately realise their strengths and weaknesses.
What to listen for in performance
When assessing materials for performance, consider:
- What metrics the organisation is using
- Who is speaking, and why the metrics are important to them
- How their metrics contrast or conflict with others
- What non-numerical indicators of performance are being mentioned
- Consider how performance might be inspiring or constraining behaviours towards tasks
Policies are any set of guidelines which regulate, contain, or constrain an activity. Policies place limits on what can or cannot be done in relation to their topic. For example, an organisation should have a policy on discrimination in the workplace, the health and safety of employees, and data protection.
Policies are a way of organisations protecting themselves, their customers, and other stakeholders. Policies can be created by the organisation, or be imposed on them by government, the law, or a regulatory body.
Why are we interested in policies
Policies (arguably) guide and constrain all the other “P’s”:
- They limit how people interact (e.g. a bullying and harassment policy)
- They constrain how products are used (e.g. an email use policy)
- They define how places are maintained (e.g. a workplace safety policy)
- They inform how performance is measured (e.g. a reporting policy)
- They decide how processes are used (e.g. a grievance policy)
- They explain how purpose is evidenced (e.g. an ethics policy)
Often, our research findings relating to the other “P’s” will be informed by policy. For example, a person may carry out a task in a certain way “because the policy says so”, or stakeholders may explain that a process works the way it does “because that’s what the policy says”. Policies are created, and therefore, can be designed. This makes us very interested in them as service designers!
What to listen for in policies
When hunting for policy-related content in interviews, look for:
- Mentions of a practice or way of working being influenced by policy
- How government regulations or requirements impact a service
- Absence of policy in decision making or actions (sometimes this can be a personal, ethical, or efficiency-based decision which looks like a policy, but is in fact not one)
“Purpose” refers to what drives an organisation. An organisation’s purpose tends to be informed by whether it operates in the private, public, or voluntary sector. A private sector organisation is more likely to see maximising shareholder value or financial profit as it’s purpose, whereas a public or voluntary sector organisation may be more likely to pursue the public good or a particular social issue.
Why are we interested in purpose?
Discovering an organisation’s purpose is vital in understanding a service’s current state. If we know what drives an organisation, we can talk their language when liaising with clients.
Appreciating purpose can help us understand why an organisation does things as they do. For example, what might initially seem like a missed opportunity to make money could be considered irrelevant in a voluntary organisation.
What to listen for in purpose
When you assess research materials for content relating to purpose, look out for:
- Content which reflects what drives the individual and organisation
- Discussion around values or ethics
- Behaviours or actions which occur due to purpose or values
- Promises being made to groups of people
Thanks to Robert Jack at Curio.co for the development and edit!