Service Design for Better Business Support in Scotland

By: Dr Anna Whicher Date: 21/07/2017

There is a comprehensive array of innovation support mechanisms in Scotland but what is it like for a small business to access these programmes? The company has to hear about the support, understand if they are eligible, digest technical compliance paperwork, apply for financing, invest their own resources as match funding, comply with monitoring procedures and provide impact data. This is no small undertaking.

"In Scotland, there is a target to support 5,000 small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) over five years and Scottish Enterprise is one of the key providers of business support services."


In a one day workshop, PDR supported Scottish Enterprise to use a selection of design methods for improving the user experience of their innovation services and to explore the future of business support in Scotland. PDR has delivered business support on behalf of Welsh Government for many years and has conducted research on design programmes across Europe in the EU project Design4Innovation.

After an ice breaker to get the participants to think about the critical success factors in excellent customer service, the teams developed personas of archetypal applicants for Scottish Enterprise services. The groups created personas of a high-tech start-up, a duo of emerging entrepreneurs and a university spin-out. Based on the personas, the Innovation Specialists selected a programme and mapped the end-to-end user journey across initial enquiry, application development, appraisal, contract award, monitoring and post-completion review. Crucially, this enabled the teams to contextualise their services within the wider innovation support landscape and identify pressure points within the user experience. Using ideation techniques, participants were able to generate a large number of ideas to capitalise on the strengths and tackle the weaknesses.

At PDR, we think that conducting user research at least once a year should be mandatory for all civil servants. As such, we have developed the User Research Framework that codifies a number of considerations that should be taken into account. The participants worked through the segments of the tool to plan a series of user insights studies to perform back home.

"We will be conducting user journey mapping with real customers in the coming weeks using the PDR tools to put the theory into practice and understand how clients really feel about our programmes."


The workshop focused not only on good practice but next practice. Using Speculative Design we explored potential futures of design support in five, ten, twenty years’ time. Speculative design is a process to create provocations – such as concepts, prototypes, products, images or films – to conceptualise future scenarios in order to hold an open discussion around complex or abstract ideas, such as policies, programmes or services. By hypothesising about future scenarios, the group came up with a series of ideas and mapped them on a spectrum across probable, preferable, plausible and possible concepts. Ideas included...

- Gamifying business support to enable SMEs to 'level up' as they progress through the suite of Scottish Enterprise services
- Creating a customer portal with animations to demonstrate how far through an application or project process an SME might be
- Creating avatars of the Innovation Specialists to connect SMEs to Innovation Specialists with particular expertise
- Developing a ‘Support Calculator’ so that all Scottish business support organisations can see how much funding or support a company has received.

The participants were then able to extract the success factors from these speculations in order to prioritise viable solutions.

"All the tools, User Journey Mapping, User Research Framework and Speculative Design Spectrum, we can use with our SMEs and we will!"



Get in touch if you would like to discuss service design, business support or speculative thinking.