Service map resolution: Le Touquet-Paris-Plage

I explore how much detail I should go into service maps in my continuing ramble on service design tools, techniques, and thinking. ‍
March 1, 2021

According to Wikipedia, 'A map is a symbolic depiction emphasizing relationships between elements of some space, such as objectsregions, or themes.' 

Also, according to Wikipedia, 'A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an ideaobject, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences.'

Service maps are purely symbolic of the service they are representing. They are not supposed to be exact replicas of the service. This is why it is important to think of how much detail I want to go in to.

Here's a lazy example: say I had just booked a trip to the lively Northern French beach town of Le Touquet, and I was looking for a place to eat on the night we got there. Whether or not I knew where I wanted to go, I would still need a map to figure out how to get there from our accommodation as I have not been there in years. For this exercise, I don't need a brick by brick replica of Le Touquet for directions. I need a symbolic depiction of the town emphasizing the spatial relationship between the restaurant and our hostel. Or to put it another way: if I wanted an exact representation of Le Touquet in Northern France, I would go to Le Touquet in Northern France (which is lovely and fun, by the way).

This is the same for the level of detail I need to go into for my service map. When just about to make a service map, I consider the following: 

Context

This might sound paradoxical, but we should understand the context for the map. We might not need one at all. It might be tempting to map all the things, or a stakeholder might pressure the team to create one. A healthy 5 Why's session should flush those assumptions out.

Time

Constraints cultivate creativity. Being a designer, there was a time where everything needed to be perfect. I've now learnt that there is such a thing as 'good enough'. Balance, with a healthy dose of...

Purpose

What's the map going to be used for? Last week I spoke of Show ponies. Most maps I've made are for the sake of stakeholders or other teams, so they need to be accessible. Ponies take time to make, so I need to make sure I have enough of it to work them up. If they were for the team's benefit and were scrappy notes, I've probably got more time to dig a little deeper. 

When do we know a map will be useful enough? When do we know when to stop? Ben Holliday has recently put out a post on as-is service maps, and this quote stood out

I've seen teams, often with an imbalance of Business Analysts compared to Service Designers and User Researchers, going to extreme levels of operational and process mapping in discovery... activities should be focused on getting as much insight as is useful about how things work now, and why.' 

I've also seen service designers and user researchers tie themselves in knots and embark on rabbit hole excursions if they don't 'know enough'. I've found myself coming to terms with knowing that there's never, ever going to be enough insight. But that's another blog post.

Like their geographical cousins, maps are fraught with inaccuracies, biases and just plain old mistakes, but it's unlikely we'll see them. Once, I used to get anxious about the detail of my map. Was the insight detailed enough? Was it designed just right? 'If I had more time, it would be perfect!'. If I had all the time in the world, I would build Le Touquet brick by brick and grain of sand by grain of sand, but I don't; that's why I have a map. 

---


‍Of course, the above comes with the caveat that this is my personal opinion derived from my working experiences. I'm sure there are instances where some of this works for you, and other times it doesn't. Feel free to cherry-pick, adapt and change. Either way, let's carry on the conversation


Photo by Arthur Guiot on Unsplash




---

Next week I will talk about resolution. 


Of course, the above comes with the caveat that this is my personal opinion derived from my working experiences. I'm sure there are instances where some of this works for you, and other times it doesn't. Feel free to cherry-pick, adapt and change. Either way, let's carry on the conversation