3 Quick Human-Centered Design Tactics to Get Your Project Unstuck 

Let’s take a second to set the stage: you’re a service desk manager and you’ve hit a wall on how to solve a tough challenge. Your team has lost momentum and isn’t sure how to move forward. Don’t panic! Human-centered design techniques can help get your project back on track. Here are three HCD tactics that you can start using today—literally.

Talk to Your Users

You know this from ITIL already—you have to call a problem by its right name in order to solve it (i.e., root cause). HCD can help you get to that root cause. Problem and stakeholder identification starts off as simply as writing down the problem you want to solve. Although that sounds simple, folks often skip this step, but asking yourself “What problem am I actually trying to solve?” is helpful for making sure you’re solving the right problem. 

Next, gather your team and brainstorm a simple list of what your different stakeholder groups think, feel, say, and do related to the problem you’re trying to solve. Discuss how the problem impacts them and what assumptions you have about how those stakeholders experience the problem. Then, dig a level deeper and turn assumptions into questions and go talk to real users. To understand their perspectives and experiences, ask open-ended questions like “When a computer stops working in the field, how does it affect your ability to do your job?” Ask branch chiefs how it feels for them to report low scores—what does it mean to them to be in hot water with their CIOs, CTOs, or other Agency leaders? 

Sentiment analysis is also helpful if the technology is available to you (products like Medallia and Qualtrics can be helpful for this). Look for themes across different stakeholder groups and common insights that hold true for many. These conversations often reveal new directions worth exploring.

Build Rapid Prototypes

Once you have talked to users and started to gain insights from what they’ve said about their pain points, begin building quick and dirty prototypes to make your solutions tangible. You can use the free versions of intuitive tools like Mural to visualize storyboards, Figma or Balsamiq to mock up wireframes, or old school pen and paper. 

Creating low-fidelity prototypes allows you to explore more possibilities and iterate without excessive time or cost. Test different options with users and use their feedback to determine your next steps. The key is to prototype rapidly without overthinking and allow the process to generate new solutions. Don’t worry if you can’t host multiple prototyping sessions. One session with the customer’s viewpoint at the center is better than doing nothing at all and gets you closer to a solution that truly meets your customers’ unmet needs.

Get Feedback and Iterate

Conduct user tests to evaluate prototypes or early product versions. Watch how people interact with these early iterations and listen closely to and capture their feedback. Look for pain points as well as what resonates in your prototype. User feedback helps validate or invalidate your assumptions, identifies areas of improvement, and spurs new concepts to better address the problem you’re trying to solve. Then, use that input to make changes and enhance your solution from your user’s point of view.

HCD Tactics in Action

A government Agency service desk received feedback that Very Important Persons (VIPs) (e.g., political appointees, government executives) did not receive sufficiently prioritized support. However, the service desk lacked additional resources for dedicating agents specifically to VIP requests. Our CX team used HCD tactics to deploy a shiny new automated solution to detect and prioritize VIP callers without reducing service for traditional customers. 

The Agency implemented a “VIP button” agents could activate upon receiving a call from VIPs. Activating the button automatically placed the VIP at the front of the queue. The VIP was also assigned a specialized service desk agent skilled in addressing their specific and unique inquiries. The button enabled faster service for VIPs within the normal flow of service desk operations and staffing levels. In the first month, nearly 350 VIP callers received prompt, tailored support, demonstrating the Agency’s commitment to responsive service.

By starting with the end user experience in mind, we deployed an innovative solution that enhanced support for all, including those requiring specialized assistance, without disruption or delay. The VIP button shows how using HCD to develop even small technology and process improvements can achieve impactful and measurable results. 

Remember, HCD involves continuous feedback from end users. Understand their needs, test, and improve concepts quickly, gather reactions, and let that drive your decision making. Using even one of these tactics can help reveal new pathways forward and get your project moving again. So, pick a technique, connect with your users, build on what you learn, and don’t be afraid to fail fast.