Practice Director for Experience Design, Sopra Steria
Bethany Jarroussié is Practice Director for Experience Design at Sopra Steria. She’s spent the last 15 years specialising in Experience Design, both as a practitioner, and a leader who has built teams and helped many large and complex organisations make the most of the digital opportunity. As a design leader she is now more focussed on embedding a design culture into organisations at the most senior level, using design thinking techniques to shape business strategy for Sopra Steria.
Eli Woolery: Bethany Jarroussié, practice director at Sopra Steria, welcome to Design Better Conversations. It’s wonderful to have you. So since a lot of our audience probably isn’t familiar with Sopra Steria, could you talk about the company and the work that you do there?
Bethany Jarroussié: So, Sopra Steria is a French company, but we have businesses across Europe. And so, I work for the UK part of Sopra Steria. We are a big business. There’s about 40,000 people worldwide. And in the UK we focus on certain sectors. So we have businesses around government, aerospace, defense and security, financial services, commercial, which includes retail and travel. And basically, we cover everything.
Historically, the business has been founded around IT outsourcing, business process outsourcing, but increasingly we’re moving into the digital sphere. So that’s partly why I joined the company. Myself and five other practice directors are heading up different areas that we believe are focus areas for the future. So around things like AI and automation, cyber cloud transformation, those kinds of things that you would expect from a technology company.
But I was brought on board to consolidate and develop our experience design service. At the moment we’re doing quite a lot of design and we have teams working in the different parts of the business and we’re doing a lot across Europe. But my role is really to try and bring that together and help make sure that we’re introducing those ways of working and those services across all of our client base, some of whom aren’t currently working with us on those types of engagements.
So we’ve got a really fantastic and interesting and varied client list, which gives me a really nice start point when I start introducing these ways of working. But in some cases it’s a fairly new world for some of these people. So it’s a really interesting place to be right now.
EW: For the companies that you’re working with that are newer to design practice, what are some of the things that you highlight to show the value of design to a company?
Bethany: I’ve got a few things that I like to talk to people about the business case for design. I spend a lot of time trying to illustrate to people that it’s not just a case of making things look nice. It’s not just a nice to have, and sort of a polish at the end. But this is a fundamental part of making sure that everything we do delivers the real value and outcomes that people are looking for. So I’ve got a few things that I hang that on. There’s a field of dreams kind of argument. If you build it, they will come. And I think a lot of people invest in technology with a belief that it will deliver certain outcomes without necessarily understanding the implications on behavioral change and the expectations on customers or users doing things differently.
So there’s a real strong argument around making sure that you want to understand your end user and you design with them in mind to make sure that they are actually going to engage with the kind of services that you’re looking at. A lot of our customers also looking at channel shift and being able to be much more effective in the way that they interact with their customers and using technology to do that. But again, it’s not just a case of building it and expecting it to deliver that outcome.
So I think increasingly people are really sold on the idea of putting their customers or their employees at the center of digital transformation. And digital transformation really is what we do to make sure that it has impact. So we talk at Sopra Steria about improving lives as the fundamental vision for what we want to do with digital transformation.
We’re not here to deliver technology for its own sake. It’s only really interesting to us in so far as what it can deliver to the end person and how it can positively impact on people. And so when you start talking about design, user centered design, service design, as well as product design, I think it all falls really squarely into that area and becomes a really strong and compelling argument conversation to have.
EW: You mentioned that at the moment you’re doing a workshop with a government agency. So, in this type of workshop, do you have any practices that help bring people outside of the design team into the design process?
Bethany: We’ve spent today tackling a huge area of focus for this particular organization and we’ve actually accelerated and condensed a lot of the traditional design practices that might traditionally take a lot longer into a day. So we’ve been doing personas and we’ve been doing some user journey mapping. But what’s been really interesting, we’ve actually had an artist in the room with us who’s been drawing things on the go as we go, using pens and paper. And that’s been fantastic and getting people really engaged in the process.
So at the end of today, we’ve got walls covered in art. We’ve got some beautifully drawn up personas, which really come to life. And I think that’s been really helpful in moving people away from everything being very digital, to people being able to contribute and very quickly see results by going back to the old ways of doing things. I’m a big fan of pen and paper.
And I think that’s a way of making design very accessible to people. We have also been using digital tools alongside that, but I think when you’ve got a room full of people, it’s really nice sometimes to move away from the computer and do things physically as well. So that’s how we’ve got things going today. It’s been really intense, but also really productive.
EW: You mentioned that Sopra Steria is moving into new technology areas, and things like voice and AI and VR are enabling new types of interactions. Are there any opportunities or challenges that you see in these new technologies that design can help us address?
Bethany: Yeah, I think the opportunities are absolutely boundless and I think design underpins all of it, because I think if technology is being delivered and develop it for its own sake, it doesn’t have a purpose. I think the design is what gives it a purpose. And I may say, I may be sort of talking up my own discipline a little bit, but I feel like it’s the glue that holds all of this stuff together.
So in our organization, we have practice leads who are leading on each of these areas, but it’s very rare that we would have an engagement with a client where one of us was involved and not more than one, because they hang together, they support each other. I feel like design is what makes this stuff impactful. There’s no point coming up with shiny whizzy tech if it’s not addressing a real need, I think.
And I think there are some brilliant examples where VR, for example, is doing some amazing things. And we’ve got some really exciting work going on with augmented reality in the healthcare field. We’re developing something with Microsoft HoloLens called HoloCAT, which is addressing such a fundamental need. It’s helping surgeons when they’re doing surgeries to have better information about the surgeries and to have better outcomes. But it’s not necessarily right now when you look at the actual experience, the most interesting, shiny, sexy widget, but it’s delivering such meaningful impact.
I’ve got to a stage in my career where I’m starting to think when I look back and when people ask me what I’ve done with my life, is it all about creating shiny things? Or is it about being able to demonstrate how that links back to making a difference? That might sound a little bit grand, but when you’re operating in certain fields like government, like health, where there’s some big problems that can be really fundamentally shifted by the practical application of technology. But the design is what makes it work, in my view. And that’s where it gets really interesting.
EW: So I was doing some sleuthing on your LinkedIn profile and I saw that it looks like you have a side project with baby moccasins called Bimble Shoes. Are you willing to chat about that a little bit?
Bethany: Yeah, sure.
EW: One reason I’m curious is that I come from a background in physical product design and then shifted to digital product design. And a lot of people in my network have made a similar move. But I haven’t seen as many people start out in the digital realm and then take those skills and apply them to a physical product. What are some of the things that you take from your digital design career and bring to the challenge of designing shoes for kids?
Bethany: Well, it’s a good question actually, and I’m not entirely sure. I think there’s two elements to setting up the moccasin brand. So there was the product itself, the shoe, and then there was the brand that sat alongside it. And the shoe actually was given to us. My parents were shoemakers and they made that shoe for me and my siblings when we were little. So we tweaked it and we redeveloped it, but essentially it came to us as a product that was already well tried and tested. The bit that was really interesting actually and I loved doing was around creating the Bimble brand, marketing it and getting it out to customers. We did some customer research, we did some market research. We applied a lot of the techniques that I’d learned around product design in the digital space.
Bethany: We looked at concepts of minimum viable product and what we could get away with launching with and building on that. However, I have to say it’s a lot easier to do it for a client sometimes than it is to do it for yourself when you’re in it. And it’s sometimes really hard to take that step back and give myself the kind of advice I would have perhaps given to somebody else. But it’s been a really interesting journey.
And the one thing that I really love about it is I love making something that you can see and you can touch and you can see people using it. And you do get that to a point with digital, but it’s always slightly removed, and there’s something really nice about crafting something with your hands. And a lot of those shoes that we’ve sold, I’ve made personally. I haven’t made them all. We have had people helping. But I know how to make shoes and there’s something very nice about that kind of process of traditional craft that I think is just a lovely thing to do.
EW: I think a lot of that story resonates with me because I miss that aspect of working on physical products. My mom is a maker and I started a handbag company with her for a while where we made our own products. It was a fun experience, but it’s also hard if at a side project level to devote the resources that are needed to make something launch successfully.
Bethany: I mean, I love walking into a room full of leather and picking it up and seeing how it differs, and the qualities of the material. I loved all of that.
EW: Are there any books or blogs or podcasts or any resources that have been helping you either in the past or now in your work?
Bethany: When it comes to day to day, referencing what’s going on, what’s happening, E-Consultancy really has been a go-to resource for me for many, many years in the UK, offering events and case studies and news and all kinds of stuff that I’ve always found really useful and interesting, and a way of sharing stuff with the teens that helps inspire them and get them thinking.
But there’s a few books that I always come back to time and time again. 100 Things Every Designer Should Know About People is probably my favorite book to bring into a workshop and pull out to illustrate points and get people thinking differently. It’s kind of around the psychology of design and a really brilliant reference point. It’s been around for a long time now.
EW: Excellent. Bethany, it’s been fantastic having you on Conversations. Thanks so much for coming on the show.