Content Design London

Chat with Fola Tayo about her upcoming course Service Development and Research

Published 4 February 2021, by Claire Gordon in Content Design.

Clare Reucroft chats to Fola Tayo who is running a course for us on the 2 of March on Service Development and Research.

The following is a transcript of the conversation between Fola Tayo and Clare Reucroft taken from the following podcast

Content Design London · Service Development and Research course chat

Fola:
Professionally, my background is mainly HR. I studied law at university. I went on to do the professional exams, but knew before I finished that I didn’t want to practice as a barrister or a solicitor, I’d rather work in-house. And at the time I was looking for the jobs, I was offered a three month contract with an organisation and ended up leaving there 12 years later.

Fola:
That was working in HR in various departments. And from there, I went on to work in professional standards for membership organisations. There’s still the kind of, I suppose, lot of regulatory type framework, which was good and interesting. Then I had a few more HR posts and then eventually I landed where I am now, which is Scope, disability charity, and I joined there in a split role. I was half working on HR strategy and the other half was based on working on what they called the engagement and participation program, which was a program that was running at the time to ensure that our customers’ voices were more heard in any services or products that we were working on. We would make sure that we involved them from the outset and got their views along the way, as well.

Fola:
That was a contract role, and lasted for, I think it just under a year. So I left and then was offered another job there, so left and then went back three weeks later to start the role I’m in now, which is product designer or product architecture, I suppose. But that’s what we do. And in that team, I concentrate mainly on employment, but I also work on other things too.

Fola:
We have services department and we run lots of employment services and services for children and families as well, and then a few things for adults with disabilities, which are mainly community based. And, as I say, my focus is the implement side of things, so at the moment I’m mainly reviewing the services we have to make sure that they’re still current and we don’t need to make any adjustments. And also widening my role out to work with other areas of scope, as well, so getting involved in other things.

Clare:
Thank you. That was a really rich background to everything that you’ve done and certainly some interesting roles in there, and coming from law as well, that’s really interesting. So in terms of services you mentioned going over your current role and the employment services that you look after. Would you mind sharing what you think makes a successful service?

Fola:
Yeah, I think it would be one where you need to really get to grips with what the need for the service is. So start out by asking yourself why we’re doing this, and then as early on as possible look for some customers so you can get a decent amount of insight.

Fola:
I think a lot of the time organisations may have an idea of what they want to do. I guess our job is to take that idea, try and develop it, but at the same time, if you think that it’s going down the wrong road or it isn’t what’s needed, then I see it as my responsibility to notify the product project sponsors of that as well, to make sure that we are able to adjust when necessary and get things right. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a service that your organisation may think they want in their head, but in practical terms, is it going to be useful to the customers?

Clare:
Yes, absolutely. That’s the most important thing, will it be useful?

Fola:
Absolutely. I think it’s really important at the start of, well, as near to the start as you can, try and start gathering insight. Sometimes that isn’t as easy because your timeframe may not be the same as the other teams needed to be involved so you need to work around that. But I think as soon as you can, it’s really important to start gathering insights so that you’re kind of sure that you’re on the right track.

Fola:
I think the other thing is, at the same time, start doing some market research, because if you have an idea for a product or service, if there’s plenty of other options out there, is it worth you doing it? Is there a gap that you can sneak into to make sure that your service has a different angle, for instance, or a gap that needs to be filled? So I think you need to carry out some market intelligence near the start as well.

Clare:
Yes, certainly. I’ve been singing the same tune actually in the course that I’ve been running as well, making sure that you do all your homework and your research to inform your decisions is absolutely vital, whatever it is that you’re working on. I wanted to know, what would you say is the hardest thing about developing a service?

Fola:
I guess the main thing would be the same that is probably common to most projects, is that you’d normally need to work with multidisciplinary teams, and its getting everyone in line to fit in with your timeline that can be a challenge at times, so you need to be prepared to flex in areas.

Fola:
I remember I quite like working through project timelines and being very particular about things, but that’s not a particularly good approach. I think you can drive yourself crazy if you’re too rigid, because something’s going to happen and you’re going to have to flex and change something somewhere along the lines. I think you need to be prepared for that.

Fola:
Also, you need to get people’s buy-in because the one project that may be the most important thing in your life at the moment for someone in, say, the research team, it could be just one thing at the top of their list that they have to do, but not the most important thing, so you need to be prepared to fit in with them as well. You need their input.

Clare:
Yeah, absolutely. Having a team, and a particularly multifaceted and diverse team, behind you is really important, I’d say, to get the best service or product, whatever it is that you’re working on. They’re really, really vital.

Fola:
Absolutely.

Clare:
Do you have the experiences or examples of when that might have worked really well? Particularly working with such a multidisciplinary team, examples of where that’s gone well, and you’ve been able to see the results of it.

Fola:
Yeah. We learned that to avoid or to help reduce the number of bumps along the way, it was a really good idea to get all the relevant people in a room at the start and work through your draft timeline. And that gives people a chance to see when their services are going to be needed, when they’re going to need to engage with you, but it also gives you a time to know what their other priorities are and where you’re going to need to flex and to change things around. And that seemed to work really well.

Fola:
I think most of the time that has meant things have run a lot smoother. I think there’s always a chance that something can happen due to something that you can’t foresee that’s come in and someone may have something urgent to work on. That’s going to change things a bit. But on the whole, I think it helps people to feel valued. I guess it makes them feel like they’ve been brought up and they’re not kind of just an afterthought at the last minute. Oh yeah, I need some of this, so can you help me, please? So I think it’s a good way of getting people’s buy-in and making sure that they’re bought in and they know what they’re going to need to do. They know about the product and what you’re planning as well.

Clare:
Building on that a little more, in terms of bringing people along, and particularly managers, are there ways in which, for example, aside from bringing them into meetings, strategies that content people can use to get people involved in the design of the service?

Fola:
I think people need to understand that if you have the content team involved from the start, you’re going to have a much more valuable output. I’ve seen it work both ways where they’ve been involved more or less as an afterthought, and where they’ve been involved right from the start.

Fola:
I think working with the content team where I am now, it’s great because they know the customers so well because they produce content for the customers. They’re used to carrying out research on different areas, which is really helpful. So they’re really invaluable. I think that point needs to be got across. It’s almost as if you need to show, I suppose, a model of what the result would be if the content people weren’t involved, and then beside it a model showing the result with the involvement of the content team, and look at the differences, and that might convince people of the necessity to involve them more often.

Clare:
So perhaps there’s an element as well of doing things such as show and tells, and other kind of working in the open strategies, I suppose.

Clare:
In terms of the course that is upcoming, what would you say people can expect to gain from the course and how they might be able to use it and what takeaways they can get?

Fola:
I hope what they get out of it is, well, a good overview of service development, but within that, a really good understanding of the need to put the customer at the heart of it and make sure that they’re involved as much as possible.

Fola:
We are working quite a lot in a co-produced way, which is great because you produce with the customer beside you. So it’s a way of, I suppose, really involving them because they are co-owning it and getting them involved. So I’d like to get that across in the course.

Fola:
I’m trying to think of some ways to make it a bit of fun as well. I think if you strip back to the fact that it’s about service design, you think of the word design and your mind can go off in all different tangents, really. So there’s space for a bit of creativity and fun within it.

Clare:
Yeah, of course. And I think service design, for me, it’s still something that I’m learning about and I’d be interested to know how you relate to service design and how you might describe service design as a discipline. I know it’s a really hard question. It’s like somebody asking me to explain content design in two words.

Fola:
I guess it’s the developmental, the making of something, that customers are going to use and find useful. Something that’s needed. And I think it’s being prepared to try out many models. So you might have a fixed idea in your head of what you think will be the perfect model, but you’re going to need to be prepared to prototype it, make mistakes, learn from them, and move on and hopefully produce something better.

Fola:
I don’t think it’s ever static. Services move on all the time, so you need to be prepared for that. They need to be continually reviewed with customer input and changed to make them more effective if necessary. I don’t think it’s a discipline that would suit someone who likes things in a very fixed static way. You really do need to be prepared to make mistakes, tweak them, and come up with something better, and then continually review it.

Clare:
I really liked that last bit that you said around that it wouldn’t suit a person who likes things just so, I suppose. That is certainly the way that I think around services, is that you really have to zoom out to look at the whole service. And I guess what I’m also interested in is in terms of when you’re working on a service, what would you say are the main areas of the service that potentially can cause more problems or can be problem areas that need more attention in terms of how a user might interact with it?

Fola:
You mean during the design process?

Clare:
Yes.

Fola:
I guess when you’re developing a service, there’s a lot of unknowns. You could have a group of customers who are telling you what they would like to see, and you’ve got a good amount of insight, but I think there’s still potential to get some things, like even the staffing for example, wrong. You could have a model which shows you that you need 2.5 people at this grade and someone that is a more senior grade supporting or managing them. But I think until the service is up and running, it’s hard to know if that’s going to be right. You need to be prepared to tweak it over time.

Fola:
I find the budget’s always quite amusing as well, because you have to have an idea of the amount of money you’re going to need to run it. And again, I think sometimes that can go wrong because you can overestimate the number of customers who will actually ended up using the service, or underestimate, and then, again, have to rework it once it’s actually live.

Fola:
I think sometimes there can be, I suppose, some kind of disconnect between different parts of the organisation, which may impact on the development process. So you may have an idea that you want to use a particular aspect of the digital for your service that may not be available to you in your organisation, so you have to work around that and hopefully come up with something different.

Fola:
I guess they’re all things that, along the way, go to provide you with kind of bumps in the road, bumps in the journey, but you need to manoeuvre your way around and come up with solutions to work around them.

Clare:
Yeah, no, that makes sense. Certainly. So it’s a really interesting area for me and I’m interested to learn more about it from yourself. But those were all the questions that I had for today. Brilliant. Thanks so much for chatting with me today.

Fola:
You’re welcome. Thank you for chatting with me.

Clare:
Brilliant. Have a lovely evening. Speak to you soon. Bye.


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