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Service Design Framework

Practices and tools for delivering optimal user experience journeys.

Initiate phase

During the Initiate phase, align with key stakeholders on objectives, the steps you’ll take during the service design engagement, and possible results of the process. This will start the project off on the right foot with shared goals and vision.



Identify and understand the right problem so you can come up with solutions that address customer and organization needs.


Set ground rules for cultural norms, how you’ll work together, and constraints and aspirations; get stakeholder buy-in and educate stakeholders on the process.

Plan of action

Identify areas of potential opportunities and set goals and vision for the engagement.


Gaining stakeholder buy-in and trust is critical to the success of a service design project. For those who are unfamiliar with the process, use the Initiate phase to set expectations upfront so you can mitigate potential issues down the road. Share information about the service design approach, including steps in the process and the activities that are a part of it. You can use kickoff meetings and alignment artifacts to fill in details such as what role each team member will play, how you’ll communicate and share documents, and when deliverables are due.

During this phase, you should also articulate areas you may explore for improvement (opportunity areas), as well as solutions that may come out of the service design process. This will help ensure that leadership is prepared to consider implementing potential changes to organizational structures, processes, and products.

Defining clear goals during the Initiate phase also helps set the scope of research — including its breadth and depth — in the next phase, Discover. Finally, uncover any project constraints and requirements, as these will inform which solutions you pursue and how you implement them later on.

By the end of the Initiate phase, your stakeholders should understand the outline of the process; your team should understand how it will work together; and you should have enough of an understanding of the problem that you know where to start with research.

Case study: Kicking off the project with the Weather Systems Office

U.S. Air Force Weather Systems Office (WxPO)

When Skylight began its work with the WxPO, our first step was understanding the stakeholders in the project ecosystem and beginning to build trust with them. This helped us establish a baseline understanding of the problem space and align on the vision, goals, area of focus, and users the project would impact.

The initial scope was to improve how customers experience support for their new cloud platform with an emphasis on onboarding customers to the platform. During the Initiate phase, we uncovered stakeholder motivations and their expected outcomes for their digital transformation efforts.

When the project pivoted after further research revealed a need for a larger scope, the work we did in this phase to create trust and alignment helped us bring our stakeholders with us.

Methods and other activities

Stakeholder mapping

We conducted initial research to understand all the people who could influence our project and how they’re connected, then laid them out visually.

Kickoff workshop

We led key stakeholders through a series of activities and conversations to align on goals and vision for the project.


In collaboration with our stakeholders, we built initial personas based on team assumptions to start building empathy for users.

Embrace service design.

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