ProdPod with Adrienne Tan

Adrienne Tan – ‘How product management and service design co-exist’

John Carter
July 25, 2017
Listen to this episode on your favorite platform!
Join our CIRCLE Community to discuss this episode

Connect with other ethically driven change makers from all over the world.

Learn more
ProdPod with Adrienne Tan
July 25, 2017

Adrienne Tan – ‘How product management and service design co-exist’

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Pretium est ipsum dictum lectus mauris netus. Diam sed sit quisque facilisi luctus feugiat.

Episode shownotes

Download this Episode | RSS Feed | iTunes | PocketCasts

Topics covered in this podcast

In this episode, we speak with Adrienne Tan, Co-Founder of leading Australian product management consultancy Brainmates. We discuss how the roles of service design and product management work together within organisations.

Other attendees

Martin Dowson is Head of Design Forward at Lloyds Banking Group a small team who design 3-10 yrs into the future to challenge and articulate the LBG vision for Digital Customer Experience.  Martin’s career has evolved through UX Research, UX Design, Information Architecture, Organisational Design, Start-ups, Service Design, running his own agency before going in-house.  He speaks, lectures and mentors on Design Leadership internationally.

Episode Transcript

This transcript was created using the awesome, Descript. It may contain minor errors.
Note: This is an affiliate link, where This is HCD make a small commission if you sign up a Descript account.

Gerry  Scullion: Hello, and welcome to the second episode of this is HCD. My name Gerry Scullion and I am a Human Centred Design Practitioner based in Australia. In this episode, I caught up with Adrienne Tan of Brainmates, where we discussed the roles of Service Design and the roles of Product Management and how they coincide and also how they exist within the methodology itself.

Some of you might recognise the name of Adrienne Tan, as she runs the Leading the Product conference in Australia. Australia’s biggest and best product management conference. Also, joining in on the conversation is Martin Dowson, who is the head of design features at Lloyd’s Bank in the U.K. In this podcast, we get into the details of IP ownership when engaging with service design, who does what in regards to Product Management and Service Design, and the roles and the framework used by both Product Management and Service Design to deliver success.

So, let’s jump straight in.

Gerry  Scullion: Hello, and welcome to the, This is HCD podcast. Today, we’ve got Adrienne Tan, who is from Brainmates, and is a product management consultant and welcome to the podcast Adrienne Tan.

Adrienne Tan: Thanks Gerry.

Gerry  Scullion: Alright, we also have Martin Dowson, coming live from Edinburgh actually. Martin, welcome to the podcast.

Martin Dowson: Thank you very much, it’s good to be here.

Gerry  Scullion: We have Mark Cantanzariti from Telstra. He’s a service designer and he, like me, is a co-organizer of this podcast, so welcome Mark.

Mark C.: Thank you.

Gerry  Scullion: No worries. So, Martin tell us a little about yourself, how you managed to get in to design leadership.

Martin Dowson: So, I actually started out doing Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at University and it was too hard. The math was too hard and socially it pretty awkward. So I switched over to psychology, which was my third subject and that’s where I fell in to human computer interaction and social psychology. I majored on understanding the social reality of social media and this was kind of before 2000. It led me into UX research and usability testing, eventually information architecture, UX design.

When I was fed up fixing websites, when the companies were broken, I got a bit of permission to kind of work out why companies were making such broken designs and then discovered that there was a whole orchestration layer underneath that was the business operation model and being at Accenture, I got a really got a great chance to do a lot of organisational design and change management. So built up all these skills around organisational design, change management, UX research, UX design, Information architecture, managing creative agencies, and it wasn’t until about 3-4 years later that I discovered that is a pretty good skill set for something called a Service Designer. But I actually had experience doing organisational design. Just organisational design, just change management. Just project management, and just UX. So my broken comb is quite deep.

What that then led me to was actually getting in far more involved conversations with organisations about how do we change to be what they called more customer led and what I understood to be more human centred. If you say customer led, the CFO gets scared, the COO gets a little, hmm, okay, the CTO gets a little worried, and only the Chief Marketing Officer is excited. But when you understand the designers actually care about problem solving in a way that gets sustainably delivered, then you get into this conversation about being human centred, operationally excellent, financially rigorous, because if you don’t care about these things as a designer, you are just an artist and your stuff gets in the gallery.

So, it was these attitudes that led me towards becoming more involved in design leadership, having consulted with a number of organisations on how to change.

Gerry  Scullion: Adrienne, tell us a little about yourself. How you got into Product Management and maybe your involvement at Service Design as well.

Adrienne Tan: Okay, so I started my career in Product Management really, even before I knew I was a Product Manager. I had a stint at, everybody has a stint at Telstra, but I had a stint at Telstra, many, many years ago when they were building up their internet services. At that stage, I happened to be a billing manager, managing all their internet billings, essentially, in their fraud department and they’re credit collections. But as part of that job, I spent a lot of time building up their billing system and I loved it. I loved making stuff. I won’t swear, I like making stuff. From then of you sort of, and that was in the 90’s … Old.

Gerry  Scullion: How old are you?

Adrienne Tan: I know! Really old.

Gerry  Scullion: Not that old.

Adrienne Tan: That was in the 90’s and then you start to discover there’s this role called Product Manager, and you generally don’t hear about it. I mean you do it, then it was kinda rare. Then I moved to a company called Austar, as they grew Product Manager to build out all their broadband services in the 90’s, late 90’s early 2000 and all their interactive television services. Our job was to build product and as part of that though, was also to make product successful, so I started off quite early. Then came the dot-com crash in Australia, and it was way, sort of honed your Product Management skills because at that stage, when you ran out of money, you had to find ways to …

I called a lot of services. I called a lot of services that weren’t making money and then I spent time figuring out how to reduce the cost of delivery of services. So at that stage, we decommissioned a whole internet network, right across Australia, to outsource it to, at that stage, it probably doesn’t exist anymore, a company called Comindico, where they had distributed it and they were wholesale providers. So from a customers respective, really, the brand stayed the same, the features, and the functions pretty much stayed the same, but the underlying delivery platform for that service had to change. Hence, that’s how I started my product career. Trying to find ways to make money, keep products alive.

Gerry  Scullion: Okay, right, so just going into the thing you said about Austar there, you were calling a lot of services. What kind of frameworks, back then, were in place for determining that this needs to be called that because people could have been using those services.

Adrienne Tan: Oh, people were using those services. The problem was that, insufficient number of people were using those services, so for us, in those days, it was a lot of strategic management principles. Nothing really is different to … There were certainly no blogs, and tools, and techniques that were readily available as they are today where you can read so much and figure out, well, where do I … What do I do?

But you go back to first principles, you look at your, in my day, profit loss and go, “Oh, look! You know this service is costing me X number of dollars to run, and there’s 10 people on it, it’s not sustainable, I’ve gotta close it.” You know? It just might not make 10 people unhappy, but I can’t keep servicing 10 people if it doesn’t deliver any value to the business.

Gerry  Scullion: At that stage, you had Product Management and it was emerging, even though we know it goes back further than that, it was emerging, probably in Australia at that stage, at what role did you start seeing the Human Centre Design Practitioner or Service Designer, and I’m using those role interchangeably at the moment, but I’ll get to that in minute, but when did you start seeing Service Design emerge, and you start getting into meetings and you’re like, “Hey, this is Dave, the Service Designer.”

Adrienne Tan: Well, I started to learn about Service Design, probably around 2005, 2006. So about … what is it now? 2017, about 10 years ago.

Mark C.: I feel ya, about 10 years.

Gerry  Scullion: It’s seven in the morning, you’re okay.

Adrienne Tan: Oh my God, about ten years ago, so I heard about it. So my first reaction, oh gosh, was this is very similar to what we do as Product Managers. It wasn’t, oh my God, this is a revelation, holy …, Sorry! Oops. You know, I’ve got some new tools and techniques, which we have, over time, built up this tool kit that we could all use, Service Designers, Product Managers, UX people, that we can all pull from, but very early days. Hey, that’s what I do. I would never put out a service without considering how customers engage with it before they buy til how they leave our product, leave our service.

Gerry  Scullion: Okay, Adrienne, look, whenever you met that Product Design … Service Designer actually, what kind of problems, or what kind of things did you actually have to uncover to work better with them at that stage?

Adrienne Tan: So very recently, probably about two, three years ago, recently in my lifetime, I was put in a situation, a government organisation, where I was the only Product Manager amongst probably about 15 Service Designers.

Gerry  Scullion: Nice, that’s a good ratio. I like that.

Adrienne Tan: Nice, good ratio. Yes. So, at the early part of this project as a Product Manager, like jeez, what the hell am I supposed to do? When everybody is running out and doing a lot of research, and coming back with insights and doing their analysis. So apart from following and observing and being a part of that research, you’re thinking, well, what’s my role in all of this? So, it was a very poignant moment that you had to sit back and reflect, you know well as a Product Manager, what should I do? So, my approach was, where are the gaps? This is a pretty huge project. It wasn’t to deliver a fully functioning service. It was to deliver almost a prototype, so we didn’t really need to establish good development practises because we weren’t delivering code, we weren’t delivering a service that was usable. We were delivering a prototype to …

Gerry  Scullion: It was like a value proposition, you were trying to determine that.

Adrienne Tan: Exactly, a prototype to substantiate the fact that the process of delivering product was a good one. So you had to go, well where do I fit in? So the good thing was, and I’ve had 15, 20 years of Product Management, and not sort of be bamboozled by the fact there’s 15 Service Designers in the room. There were clearly gaps that Service Designers, at that stage, because they were all out in the field, didn’t fill, and that was that stake holder management piece. And it was a huge government undertaking, and so you could see …

Gerry  Scullion: Go on, I’m just going to say, talk with the stake holder piece because that’s something that, I’ve heard this time and time again, but any of the Service Designers I’ve ever worked with always tend to have strong stake holder skills, because it’s about selling your design and division …

Adrienne Tan: It’s not about … at that stage, they had no vision. They were out there in the field, and it wasn’t that they were bad at stake holder management, it was just there was a gap that wasn’t being done at that stage. So it was logical, that a Product Manager would fill the gap and that gap at that stage, was hey, this is the process that we’re going through. What are some of your requirements as a department? How do we communicate with you better so that we can share our learnings and insights? To mitigate to any uncertainty that you may have.

Gerry  Scullion: Just hanging on this topic a little bit more, because it’s a really good spring board based on the talk that we gave last year at Product Talk Sydney, it’s the broad, wide T, or the broken comb type skill set that Product Managers tend to have, versus the deep T which is … I tend to see more in Service Design. Where there strong on the research and strong on the analytical skills and understanding the system thinking. So how did you derive … how did you find your path, when you were working in with the 15 Service Designers? How did you … was it a conversation? Or a workshop?

Adrienne Tan: No, no workshop, no conversation. I think as a Product Manager you’re a leader in the team, I think, and it was merely a reflection and analysis, personal, to say well, where I be best placed on the field and apart from that stake holder piece, the other piece that I could play, because you see problems, your job is to solve problems as a product person and as a Service Designer as well. But because these Service Designers are out in the field, it was, well, I’m not in the field, I’m back in the office and so what’s not being done? And the piece, apart from the stake holder piece, was that leadership piece as well.

Which was, hey you’ve got a tonne of government departments, they’re all interested in this very high profile project and you could see, apart from trying to manage their concerns, you could see at some points, they would want to influence the process, stop the process, so you had to essentially clear a pathway for your Service Designers so that they could do the jobs that they were meant to do.

Martin Dowson: That’s a really valuable thing to be able to do for them. One of my reflections on that is, it sounds like there was a very particular type of Service Designers there and a very particular type of role going on and I’ve heard over the years, over the last 10 years, being exposed to Service Design in the U.K., really interesting perspectives from different clients on how they’ve used them. So I had this one chap who I know, he said he had the best Service Design agency in the U.K. working for him and he said I can’t take them to the board, because their ideas are too fluffy and I can’t take their ideas and give them to my Systems Integrator because the outputs aren’t understandable by the system’s integrator. So there was a translation issue, at around the value they were adding to the problems solving, which was definitely there, but their experiences as designers and being a part of a wider business problem. I thought that was very interesting at the time, but that was now about nine years ago.

That same agency would not recognise themselves in terms of their ability to actually do that and bring people along. I wonder whether there’s something that is … depends on how you want to use these skills, as to how you want this whole thing fits together. So they sounded like they were out in the field a lot, rather than facilitating things inside and when I hear Service Designers in the U.K., they talk about being end to end with the experience and front to back of the service. So, their need to facilitate the conversations with state quarters back at base would be as high as their to need to go outside into the field. However, I find, few and far between, Service Designers can actually do that.

Adrienne Tan: We were in a very unusual situation. We were all external suppliers working together in an unusual situation and so they were tasked with doing certain jobs and a lot of it was external facing and as a Product Manager, when you’re in a situation where you have 15 other people trying to do the same job, you try and look for other jobs to solve. So, that was definitely a gap that I could fill.

Gerry  Scullion: Well, one of the big things for me, Martin, and just echoing what you’re say is, organisations … first of all, the culture may not be there to allow Service Design to flourish. So what you really need to understand in those organisations, need to understand is what Jared Spool spoke about at UX Scotland as well, is it’s not just design plus product plus business. It’s the design feasibility and viability coming together to make a solution as a collaborative effort.

Martin Dowson: Yeah, Absolutely. The fact that actually … there’s some language things I think that aren’t helpful, when Service Design says we’re end to end and front to back, but when you think actually well, hang a second, as a Product Manager, I’m looking at the entire life cycle of this and I’m actually going to touch it all the way along, all of the time. Because I’m actually managing this product for the whole of its life. So, that’s not to say that there isn’t input from designers all the way along that, genuinely owning that all the way through and that’s a distinction that requires the organisation to have a maturity around as well. Not just the design maturity.

Adrienne Tan: It also requires Product Manager to also have that maturity because sometimes, where … look I love Product Manager and I love my Product Managers, but sometimes we forget, we think that Product Management is about making incremental features and putting things to market so we only value the things that we do or our worth when we add features and send it to market and add more features and send it to market. When matter of fact, we have more value to give, and more skills to wield across that life cycle and we often forget to go back to products that are currently in market and go well, how is it performing?

Mark C.: So Adrienne, in your experience, is there anything about the scale and complexity of the organisation that depends how much Product Managers are siloed in any way? Because I can imagine in a smaller organisation, there’s just so much more that you would take on.

Adrienne Tan: Yes.

Mark C.: But in a larger organisation with this product that I’m owning, but then there are others. And there’s a need to coordinate the experience across that. How does that happen?

Adrienne Tan: Yes, so absolutely there is differences between a small and a large organisation, and I know, and I work with lots of Product Managers in banks and they’re often very siloed. I think that you need strong product leadership skills to be able to drive that conversation and that set of activities across that customer experience. Often we forget to do that, and we don’t do that. And you see that, in the products as consumers that we experience. There’s a lot broken elements, that bits and pieces don’t hang together. And you can talk at Telstra …

Mark C.: It ends up feeling very disjointed, yeah, across the different channels and different components.

Adrienne Tan: Yeah, exactly. And it’s very hard to bring that leadership skills across at organisation like Telstra, because every bodies building bits and pieces in their own little workshop.

Martin Dowson: And that’s one of the areas, where I wonder if there’s a maturity, when you have a mature leader, coming from Product Management, and when you have a mature leader coming from design, that they can work very well together to do that orchestration. Whereas, there are levels of experience within each of these areas, right, actually very mature design leaders from a Service Design perspective to orchestrate large scale.

Adrienne Tan: Yes, but you know, it Australia, unfortunately, there is a lack of product leadership and there’s a lack of design leadership at the upper echelons of operations of organisations. There are a lot of sales, and marketing and legal people that run businesses. Primarily legal people. There are insufficient number of product people and designers essentially running organisations. I think that when you do elevate your product and your design people, I think you see a very different … you see different products on market.

Martin Dowson: Just like, going way back to a point that Mark made there earlier about working with all of the best Service Design consultancies in the U.K., now in my experience whatever businesses engage with consultancies, how do we think that the results change depending on an external consultancy working in versus an internal Service Design team? Are there different outputs?

Adrienne Tan: Are you suggesting that, you know do we engage externally or do we in source?

Martin Dowson: I’m saying with Service Design consultancies, as they engage in, it’s harder for them to get their vision across the line and it requires more of a change management piece and it requires more of … versus like an internal design piece, so me, I don’t know many internal design services that are champions and also that are celebrated for doing excellent work. It tends to be the bigger Service Design agencies like Fjord and Meld and …

Adrienne Tan: Which is very sad that you have to outsource the heart of your product really.

Martin Dowson: What I’m really interested in, the external consultancies can flourish because they’ve got their own culture and they are able to bring that culture in, almost like a cocoon, it’s sustained, it’s cocooned. All I want to know is how can we, as an industry, implement and suggest change within organisations to enable Service Design, and Product Manager to flourish?

Mark C.: Just to build up on that, internal versus external, I’ve had experience running relationships with a number of the large service agencies inside a number of large companies and the thing that stands out, at the best agencies, they are the one that come in assuming that you’re not going to need them later. Assuming that their job is to help you build that culture internally and assuming that their role is to continually that team once it’s established, not challenge the rest of the organisation continually. So it isn’t actually their vision as the agency, it’s helping you create your vision and when they do that well and obviously, I deal with the Service Design agencies and the design agencies, but when they do that well, they already have a really solid understanding that product or engineering and design are gonna have to work together.

Martin Dowson: So whose responsibility is it? Is it the Service Design consultancy working into the organisation or is the organisations themselves to bring the uplift?

Mark C.: You need to know that that’s what you’re buying. If you buy external consultancy to do something for you, and then realise that you want to be able to do it yourself, you bought the wrong service and they won’t be ready to do it for you. And that’s happened in a number of places I’ve been at and the agencies have been seen to fail because the contract they had was come in and do it for us. The contract for coming in and help us build it, is a totally different contract.

Martin Dowson: Yeah, I agree.

Adrienne Tan: Look, we’re consultants, but for us, we’re educators first and foremost. We advocate that you learn how to do this. We tell our product people when we are in businesses, you cannot outsource your customer knowledge and insights. You cannot give that to an external organisation. Even though I do some of it, I want every product person that I work with to do it as well, I mean, my job is to leave you with the capability and the know how on how to do it. I think it’s weird that I know more about your customer than you do. I just find that odd.

Mark C.: Yeah, I’ve worked in parallel with big agencies and they would go away and do what businesses would call customer centric design, and I would request for them to give me the data as the ownership and they refuse. I understand there is an ethical there for it, but I would just get very, very light touch insights. Whereas, whenever they left with the business, I was left with nothing. I was left with very light, fluffy, kind of insights. Th knowledge being taken out of the business that they paid for. So it’s kind of hard.

Adrienne Tan: Yes, I understand.

Martin Dowson: I’ve had agencies do that before and they’ve gone off and done the research and brought it into a vision workshop and then I’ve said, oh, so who from the company was involved in that and nobody that was in the workshop was involved. So everybody in the workshop was starting again.

Mark C.: You almost need to have that maturity to stand up in the room to stand up and say, well actually if you’re coming into this research, we need to have 50% or our team part of that project, or two people or whatever it is. Just so the knowledge can be retained, and the OP can be retained within the business.

Adrienne Tan: And I think it’s a very … as much as we love to transfer information as consultants, sometimes we don’t even know what we know, so when you’re sitting in research, you’re sitting, and you’re watching, and you’re in someones home, and you’re watching how they behave, you might be able to summarise that and provide, as a consultant, a really good prospective what’s going on, but you can never provide 100% of what you saw. You can’t. And I would be surprised for consultants who say they can, I think they’re lying to themselves. So you hold so much more knowledge that you try and transfer to your clients, but you can only do so much, so we always say come out with us. It’s a shared experience, shared knowledge so that you can have that conversation. I can show you how to do it.

Gerry  Scullion: So how do you get the culture in organisations to be ready for that? I mean, what can we do? Because I’m working with a big Vintak company here, and they’ve got no Product Management and they’ve got no design, and I’m really interested in doing a capability uplift as regards to design and product at the same time. So, what other things can organisations do, who maybe they don’t have a Service Design offering and they maybe have Project Managers? So how do get into that? I know that there are a lot of eyes being rolled. But that’s the problem that Service Designers have, like they are like there’s a product owner and there’s a service owner and there’s a Project manager, and there’s a Product Manager, that need to be brought into the business. You’re like hey, I’m the Service Design, and I don’t really understand the difference between a product owner and a service owner.

Adrienne Tan: Okay, I think for a start, one thing I think addresses the topic of how Service Designers and Product Managers work together. There is so much work to do, and most times we’re not doing it, so don’t fight for work. Don’t feel like you’re taking on each other’s toes. I think its an important thing to do, have that conversation. What is that you can do? Want to do? Excel at? And vice versa, because certainly there’s crossover, but any mature team should be able to have that conversation and say hey, I’m going to go out and do some research, this is the steps that I’m going to take, here’s the insights I’m going to bring back, how might we use that. As a Product Manager, I love to have a Service Designer as part of my team because there’s just so much work to do and so many people to tell stories to and bring across the line and so I want to address that first.

But the other point you bring across, how literally lift the maturity of big organisations? I’m a big believer in doing small things often. I hate the whole transformation, big project, ta da, lemme write you a process … Although companies buy that from us, and lets bring the key stake executive sponsor and let’s take them all on this journey. I just find that they fail too often and …

Gerry  Scullion: It sits in a box sometimes and it ..

Adrienne Tan: And as a consultant you don’t want your work to sit in a box, so what I like to do and what I think companies should do, is start small. So what’s the first thing we can do as a team to change some of our behaviour and it could be what you said, which is what you’re doing. Which is we’re going to do some rapid prototyping when we do that, we’re gonna take that and make this and we’re going to test it and we’re going and see whether people buy it and use it. And you start to do that and as start to incrementally go up the chain to make that change, then you have that kind of transformation, that you’ve brought everybody along the journey, you didn’t have to reveal something big and you’ve got output and hopefully good outcome out of that.

Martin Dowson: So I guess it goes down to what type of engagement you have with your client. If you have an ongoing engagement versus a short engagement. Short you kind of have to be like the dancing monkey, you have to be like hey we’re gonna do all this cool stuff and then you’re gone and the culture kinda swallows back up the work that you’ve done. And the long term engagements that go on for a year or two, there’s a kind of coaching or mentoring to help that team flourish, seems to be better fit for a lot of businesses that I’ve worked with. What do you think about that, Mark, as well?

Mark C.: I agree, I agree. If you’re gonna get into that term, that relationship, you’ve got to know that you’ve got the coaching and mentoring skills in house as a provider, because that’s a service in itself and I have found that some of your best people as agencies, just want to do really great work and I may personally be someone who believes that really great work is enabling others to be able to do what I do. But that might not be some of your best peoples views, so you need to invest in a layer of people who are able to explain what they do and teach what they do and care about doing that, if that’s the approach that you’re going to take and I think that’s a skill that clients and, I definitely think for a lot of the organisations that I’ve worked with, don’t know to ask for in the design space. Really interestingly, or by agile coaches. Right well that industry, that skill area have done a really good job of saying, you know what, you need to coach this stuff in. And the design site hasn’t really done that.

Adrienne Tan: Or the Product Management side hasn’t done that either because what happens is, if you get a job as Product Manager, hey guess what, you come with apparently, tonnes and tonnes of education and learning and skill that you don’t need any support or uplift in your capability. You’re there.

Martin Dowson: Yeah, I think there’s something in the … so where I am currently at Lloyd’s Bank, we’ve got some really experienced and some really awesome Service Designers and what I see them doing every day is teaching and demonstrating by example. Bringing people along, spending a lot of time actually recording what they are doing, so that they can retell how they’re doing things?

Gerry  Scullion: A video recording?

Martin Dowson: Yep, iso socles and slowly, sometimes explicitly just teaching as well as getting the outputs done as well and I think that’s a great recipe for success. But it requires you to take the attitude as the designer, and I don’t think it’s exclusive Service Designers but all designers, that I’m here to support a set of outcomes, and objectives. I’m here to, yes, provide the human centeredness, I also need to care that the Product Manager’s going to need this to be operationally excellent and financially rigorous as well. But this Product Manager and Product Management team that I’m working with, they have to live with this and keep running it, so there’s going to be a lot of things you want to transfer, as skills, into the running of the business and then move on and focus on the next part of the business that needs your help.

And that’s a very different attitude and I think if Service Design can do that, we’ll find that Product Management and Service Design can coexist beautifully but you will find that you’re not necessarily doing the same things for Product Management teams all the time because they will have learned from you and the rest of the business will have learned from you as well.

Adrienne Tan: I do want to make a point though, that as product person, that I don’t expect, and I probably don’t want you to transfer your vision to me. As a Product Manager, I see myself as a composer so I come up with that vision, a conductor, I manage the cadence of the team. A translator, I can talk to Service Designers, engineers, executive people with my finance knowledge so I wouldn’t see it as you’ve done all this great work, transfer that vision to me and I’ll run with it, I would see it more as a partnership where we visionize … is that a word? It’s a new word anyway. Together because as a product person, a perspective, a North star of where I want to take this product.

Gerry  Scullion: Well I know, Andy Polaine who co-wrote the Service Design book for Rosenfeld Media, is in Australia as well, he’s got a really strong analogy of Service Design being a lot like the movie industry where you’ve got the producer, who films the projects and stuff, you say the conductor is the Product Manager, I think many people in the Service Design industry would probably challenge that. Because I don’t see anyone as being the conductor or the director of the movie, using Andy Polaine analogy …

Adrienne Tan: But there are. There are directors of movies. You need a director.

Gerry  Scullion: But what happens whenever you’ve got a Product Manager in an organisation whose within one vertical and the service spans more than one vertical and it goes across, you’ve got four different Product Managers. How does that work?

Adrienne Tan: Well, hopefully you have a portfolio manager, you have a general manager that should have that broader view, that broader perspective.

Gerry  Scullion: That’s where Service Design tends to see themselves playing, able to see that map of view.

Adrienne Tan: And we would value all the input, and insights, and information and the conversation, but still as a Product Manager, you live with this. This is something that you not only produce and put out and market, but you nurture it when it’s in market, to point where you retire it. There is that life cycle piece. We have to stay with it, our job is to stay with that product and to extract as much value, well deliver as much value to our customers, and extract it sufficient for our business and make sure that we drive a return on investment for our business. So we stay with it, so we have to have that vision. We can’t outsource that vision to somebody else.

Martin Dowson: I don’t think that the orchestrating across products is outsourcing your vision. So, I think the challenge with the word product is a singular word, and it’s also a word the elicits a tangible thing and the difference that … so I was talking about this before, the difference between Service Designers, the design of services, versus the idea of Service Design being a human centred design discipline, if what you seek, is to be able to do more human centred design across your products, that you got out to market, that is one thing. If you genuinely as an organisation want to design for services, then you need some orchestration. Because what you’ll tend to do, is you  will tend to look at products as a suite of things that come together to make an end to end service and sometimes product and service overlap directly, but they don’t always. Gerry’s right that it’s quite easy for Service Design to see itself as having that orchestrating view.

What I do notice and observe though, is that user experiences, and people say the say thing, engineers say the same thing, Product Managers say the same thing, everybody within their discipline, regards themselves as needing to have the strategic pen, which is interesting, because you can’t all have the strategic pen.

Adrienne Tan: You’re right and that’s why I preface it by saying it’s a partnership. I never … I think it’s dangerous to say that it’s mine only. Like I said there’s lots of work to do. There’s no need to fight over the work. But at some point, there is an accountability, that you are measured against something, you should be anyway, otherwise we don’t know whether you’re successful or not.

Martin Dowson: There’s a need to be more … make sure there’s more engagement of design in the strategic direction and the elicitation of strategy in an organisation. When I say involvement of, very often, highest level strategy in organisations is pretty much MBA, McKenzie Style consulting. And then as Product Manager and designers, we all receive a wisdom of a portfolio and the business of service to articulate at. Now when you have more design orientation around that strategy, then what you end up with is a portfolio that is more balanced around customer … around human centeredness, operational excellence and financial rigour, that then allows for a much better conversation about how are we going to drive this portfolio out through Product Management.

Then I think there’s a very, very, different level of design activity there, where everything you’ve described, Adrienne, actually is in place. Where there is plenty of work to be done and there is plenty of roles to take up. Sometimes Service Designers, or designers, can help teams augment their skills, skills, and then walk away, not vision, right? Skills, and then walk away. Or sometimes they can fulfil specific roles that teams would like them to fulfil.

Gerry  Scullion: Okay, Agents, so we’re coming to the end of the podcast here. What advice or what thoughts do you have on how Service Design and Product Management can work better together?

Adrienne Tan: Before two halves get together, before they embark on any project essentially, I think it’s important for the Service Designer and a Product Manager to discuss, to establish a process for discovery and design. I think both groups generally have their own processes, so it’s important that both get together and talk about how they might discover the customer problems and design a solution that solves those problems.

Important for the group to also establish some work principles, what they’ll do and what why won’t do and from a strategy point of view, this is something that Martin brought up earlier, it’s important that each group has their own strategy. I mean a product strategy is a little bit different to a Service Design strategy, and ultimately strategy is about overcoming a challenge, solving a problem, beating a competitor, and I think it’s not incorrect if both parties have their own strategy. It’s a different approach, but ultimately both groups need to solve the same problem and achieve the same goal and I think that’s what the strategy helps us do.

Gerry  Scullion: Okay. So there we have it. A great conversation between Adrienne, myself, Mark and Martin Dowson from Lloyd’s Bank in the U.K. Thanks for joining us. If you want to join in on the conversation to help shape that podcast, get involved by going the Slack channel and you can learn more about how to of this by visiting, This is HCD dot-com and hopefully we’ll be able to discuss a little bit more about what you would like to hear in that podcast. Also, if you want to ask any questions about this podcast, feel free to do so at the Slack channel as well. Thanks, See you again soon.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ipsum blandit at sed a, vulputate eget. Integer in egestas rutrum risus tortor. Augue sed ac magna semper vitae, orci morbi auctor. Diam dui ut ut purus aenean volutpat.

The human centered design CIRCLE

Join. Connect. Learn.

Join the private community for the Human Centered Design Network

Basic Membership


Join the online community and stay up to date with everything inside the community. Connect and message other designers just like you.

Access Members Area
Access Podcast discussions
Quarterly Campfires
Premium Podcast Subscription
Exclusive community discounts
Exclusive giveaways and discounts for international Design partner events
Sign up now

VIP - Journey Management


Led by Richard McMurray, this community launches on April 1 2024. This community is perfect for anyone looking to learn more about Journey Management, and also connect with other people who are implementing this in their organisations.

Everything on Basic Membership
Monthly Journey Management meetups
Dedicated community chat
Invited guest speakers
Maximum of 40 community members
Sign up now

Basic Membership


Save €8 by paying annually.

Join the online community and stay up to date with everything inside the community. Connect and message other designers just like you.

Access Members Area
Access Podcast discussions
Quarterly Campfires
Premium Podcast Subscription
Exclusive community discounts
Exclusive giveaways and discounts for international Design partner events
Get started

VIP - Journey Management


Save €20 by paying annually.

Led by Richard McMurray, this community launches on April 1 2024. This community is perfect for anyone looking to learn more about Journey Management, and also connect with other people who are implementing this in their organisations.

Everything on Basic Mambership
Monthly Journey Management meetups
Dedicated community chat
Invited guest speakers
Maximum of 40 community members
Get started