1.1 What is a future-state blueprint?

Course materials

Module notes

So what is a future state blueprint? 

Well, to explain that, we first need to give you a basic understanding of blueprinting as a concept. 

A blueprint is a map of how your organization delivers an experience – a service or product offering to a customer. 

This delivery is a complex operation made up of:

  • Touchpoints, people, systems, processes, and policies.
  • These elements set the stage for the customer experience.

Touchpoints are the points of interaction between the customer and the business.

People are the roles and responsibilities of the people required to deliver the experience.

Systems are the technical systems used in delivering the experience.

Processes are the supporting processes that need to be in place for the operational delivery and maintenance of the experience.

Policies are the organizational policies or rules that impact the experience.

What’s unique to blueprinting as a methodology, vs. process mapping for example, is that we aim to stay customer centric in how we understand, assess, design, and plan the backstage operations of the business.

Specifically, blueprinting uses the lens of a customer experience (a scenario) to look at how the organization is delivering that experience. In this way, we stay customer-centric in how we assess and plan our business operations.

Now, blueprinting is a method that is core to what we call “service design” – a design discipline focusing on services. However, we believe anyone can, and should, do blueprinting. It is a flexible tool that can apply to many different contexts, whether it’s a service, a product, and even events or other programs. 

Think of it this way. When you talk about a birthday party, you don’t talk about how this is a service that delivers cake and presents to a group of family and friends. That would be silly. Yes, blueprinting can apply to any kind of thing that creates an experience, even a birthday party!

So in this course, we don’t talk about service design, or “service” blueprinting, and instead, you’ll just hear us refer to it simply as “experience blueprinting”, or just “blueprinting.”

There are two kinds of blueprints you can make: a current-state blueprint and a future-state blueprint.

At a high level, current state blueprinting is a discovery tool that looks at the existing experience and how it is currently being delivered by your organization.

On the other hand, a future state blueprint is a tool that helps you design new or significantly improved experiences, as well as speculating how your organization could deliver them

Before we get into the details of future-state blueprinting, let’s do a quick review of current-state blueprinting before we jump into future state.

A current-state blueprint is best done as a discovery tool, and is an “audit” of the current experience and the current organizational practices that produce that experience.

A current-state blueprint looks at an existing experience to answer the following questions:

  • What is the current customer experience for particular key scenarios?
  • How is the organization delivering that experience through processes, systems, people, policies, and more?
  • And… How might we improve our delivery to support a better customer experience?

By mapping your current experience end-to-end, and looking at how your organization delivers that experience — the surface-to-core — we get a clear picture of what’s working, where the critical moments or breakdowns are — either backstage for the organization or frontstage for customers — and where there are opportunities for improvement, either tactical or strategic.

Let’s talk about when you should make a current-state blueprint.

Before setting priorities for the quarter, the year, or the next big milestone for your service, it’s a great idea to do current state blueprinting. This will help you have a more grounded understanding of what your organization delivers today, and enable you to make more informed plans for improvement.

Additionally, if your customers are sharing specific feedback or pain points in a certain part of your service, that is a good time to do some blueprinting and get to the root of what is going on.

The benefits of blueprinting the current state are:

  • To build shared understanding across the business silos that are involved in delivering the experience
  • To understand how your delivery — the backstage — results in the customer experience
  • What might be causing customer pain points.
  • Identification of improvement opportunities - both for the customer as well as the business
  • And, to align your stakeholders and give them a shared, holistic understanding of the experience delivery, allowing teams to move forward with better coordination

At its best, a current state blueprint is a highly efficient, holistic diagnostic tool that lets you assess the current experience and organizational delivery.

If you want to go deeper on current state blueprinting - consider enrolling in our other course on current-state blueprinting linked in the notes of this module.

How are current state and future state blueprinting different?

Where current-state blueprinting is focused on looking at the reality of an existing delivery process and how that results in a customer experience, future-state blueprinting is about inventing something new, both for the customer and for the organization.

When we are trying to imagine a new offering, there are several factors we should consider:

  • What should we be offering?
  • What need does it solve for the customer?
  • Is there a business case for solving that need?
  • Does this fit within our organization’s portfolio, brand, and capabilities?
  • What is the ideal customer experience?
  • What will truly be the best experience that customers wish to have?
  • How might we find this out? How might we test this?
  • How feasible is the ideal customer experience?
  • Is our blue-sky desired experience realistic to deliver?
  • Do we have the capabilities to deliver it, and if not, what are our gaps?
  • How might our organization deliver the desired customer experience?
  • What could be a “minimum viable solution” to pilot this new offering?
  • What could we bootstrap today to test our assumptions?
  • Then, how could we scale that implementation?
  • What resources would we need?
  • What realistically can our organization deliver, and when?

When you are designing a new offering, you are both imagining an ideal experience for the customer, but also imagining a business model that can support consistent, quality delivery of that experience. You are inventing something new! There is no aspect of this that is easy.

And even if you are designing an improvement to an existing offering, this requires thinking through what needs to change for the organization to deliver the improved experience.

Future-state blueprinting can help your team to balance the tough conversations about resourcing, processes, systems, implementation, and the support that is necessary in order to create a great new customer experience.

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