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Why Service Design and DesignOps Are Key for a New EO

By Greg Godbout and Jordan Watts

According to a recent executive order (EO) from President Joe Biden aimed at improving the federal customer experience (CX) and the equity of public-facing services, “The Government’s primary mission is to serve.”

The EO is a continuation of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA), which “recognizes that improving the delivery, efficiency, security, and effectiveness of Government programs will advance equity, enhance people’s everyday interactions with public services, and provide greater opportunities for those who need it the most.”

Adopting service design culture and implementing DesignOps (design operations) are key drivers to help agencies meet the new EO’s expectations.

Currently, the thick, tangled, outdated and inefficient web of offices, phone numbers and websites makes it extremely challenging for people to access and engage in government services. For those who lack digital literacy or access to digital devices or cell phones, navigating government services is nearly impossible.

The EO focuses on key service areas affecting Americans, especially those impacting milestone moments in peoples’ lives – like having babies, applying for business loans and military veterans returning home – including healthcare, retirement, taxes, education, travel and business.

With the new EO, agencies will also be expected to put customers at the center of everything they do by “modernizing programs, reducing administrative burdens, and piloting new online tools and technologies that can provide a simple, seamless, and secure customer experience.”

To align with this EO, the government should shift their methodologies to value:

  • Outcomes over outputs.
  • Product thinking over project management.
  • Service delivery over IT capabilities.
  • The user-centric over the policy-centric.
  • Insight sharing over information gatekeeping.
  • Data-driven decisions over top-down decisions.

By influencing new models through a service design culture, we can create the conditions for better DesignOps, which is key to designing better services.

In addition to the service design approach being adopted by service delivery teams governmentwide, we consider DesignOps necessary to achieve the EO’s intent.

A key challenge outlined in the EO is breaking down silos for CX and service delivery. DesignOps allows enterprises to design at scale by sharing user insights and creating shared research, tools and solutions across teams.

Working with multiple product teams across agencies, we have discovered that they often have the same users but fail to leverage assets by sharing research and tools. For example, one team may design a button and another team could use the same type of button but cannot share it as they use different tools. In other situations, we find a team might be investing in DevOps or migrating to the cloud but they are still ineffective because they weren’t designed with users in mind.

To correct these problems, the EO correctly focuses on the “voice of the customer,” a driving force behind all CX decisions. Additionally, the EO urges agencies to rely on user research and testing and “joint action” projects involving multiple agencies working together.

DesignOps is fundamentally about a service design culture enabling inclusive design, co-design and centering the “voice of the customer.” With DesignOps, teams can become more agile by getting user feedback more quickly and reducing precious time to product delivery.

When we shift away from the project mindset – checking off a list of deliverables – towards a product mindset using DesignOps, we can deliver products efficiently and effectively.

Adopting service design culture and investing in DesignOps are two solutions federal agencies will need to successfully help the government meet its “primary mission…to serve.”

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to And to read more from our summer/fall 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort and a link to their stories.

Greg Godbout, an entrepreneur and experienced solution architect, is the chief growth officer for Fearless, a full stack digital services firm based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jordan Watts, director of design for Fearless, is passionate about designing and operationalizing user-centered design practices, helping teams develop user experience (UX) tools and methods and fostering a high-functioning design community of practice.

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