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Service Design Framework

Practices and tools for delivering optimal user experience journeys.

Discover phase

The Discover phase is an opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the systems, people, and activities that make up a service. Qualitative and quantitative research and synthesis help make sense of the complexities.



Add breadth and depth to the problem space and build on your understanding of the ecosystem and the stakeholders.


Continue iterating on the problem space and work towards a shared point of view (POV), while formalizing personas and the service blueprint.


Build a deeper understanding for your users and stakeholders and become an expert on their needs and motivations.


Before you start improving a service, it’s important to understand the different components that interact to create a service ecosystem. During the Discover phase, focus on researching the service and problem space and pulling out patterns from your data through synthesis.

Collecting information through methods such as stakeholder interviews and desk review can help you leave behind the assumptions you had coming into a project. They also enable you to build empathy for the customers who use the service and the stakeholders who deliver that service. Service systems can be complex — particularly in government— so it’s worth spending time on these methods to understand organizational hierarchies and structures, product delivery systems, and the people they ultimately serve.

The team gathers many observations during the Discover phase. Visualization and synthesis activities allow you to organize findings, pull out patterns, and translate data into insights. Refine your personas to build a common understanding of the service’s customers, a customer journey map to capture their experiences with the service, and service blueprint to grasp the relationship between the frontstage and backstage components of a service and where they come together (touch points).

Before moving to the Strategize phase, you should synthesize the information you collected in the Discover phase. Organize it into a digestible format so you can start filtering through it in the next phase.

Case study: Empathizing with the Program Office

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

In order to fully understand the scope of what challenges the WxPO continued to encounter while it was undergoing its digital transformation, we needed to build empathy for the end users, customers of the cloud platform, and stakeholders. This empathy allowed us to recognize several opportunity areas that would enhance the customer experience for those engaging with the WxPO. It also pushed us to broaden our initial scope to include other areas that could impact customer experience, including training, knowledge sharing, support services, and offboarding.

Methods and other activities

Stakeholder, WxPO personnel, and end user interviews

We conducted several interviews to better understand where the WxPO was currently at with its digital transformation efforts, as well as the pain points people were experiencing.

Affinity mapping

After these interviews, we took the data we learned and went through affinity mapping sessions to draw out insights that we could then take action upon.

Desk review

In order to build a deeper understanding of successful digital transformation efforts, we spent time researching how other organizations underwent their own transformation.


Based on our research, we created several personas that allowed us to focus on specific users as we moved to the Strategize phase.

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