Design as a Service for continuous improvement

We are a digital design studio, based in Istanbul & London, focusing on “the experience”. We create memorable products that work best for both users’ needs and business goals. Abiding by our home-cooked design methodology SHERPATH, we challenge ourselves in three areas: product & service design, UX consultancy, and UX training. And, to us, design thinking is a manifest of continuous improvement, and investment in UX should never cease.

So, Design as a Service? Yes, it’s possible.

The thing is, design studios are not well-equipped for adapting to a changing landscape. No plan survives contact with the enemy and project-based quotes, fee-per-page pricing models do nothing but add up to the complications that arise from a sudden change of direction in plans.

That’s why we invented our way of doing business: DaaS, Design as a Service, a subscription-based fee model to keep the ball rolling, nonstop.

With ever-changing user needs and evolving business models, having a user-centric perspective at the core of your business is the way to get results. And, in a world where needs and expectations are constantly changing, companies are in a search for plug & play task forces that possess all the necessary skills to collect user feedback, ideate on digital solutions and deliver insight-led products.

In a way, it’s another “Don’t give me the fish but teach me how to fish” case, where giving a fish means employing design thinking only to come up with solutions for specific problems. You can always hire an elite team to solve your problems; but acting with a user-centred mindset, taking on each challenge with a UX perspective is the key today to meet the user needs while working towards your business goals. Before having the best chef cooking a stellar dish for you, you should set up a kitchen with the right toolset and ingredients for sustainability and scalability.

In a long story short, we dug deeper to understand the ways of working with our project owners and came up with the DaaS model, where we offer a vast array of UX skills and an opportunity to transfer user-centred design thinking into your company rather than working with an agency for a defined task like a landing page or a mobile app. 

A walkthrough of our proposal process w/ DaaS

Imagine this: Project owner comes to us and explains the details of their project. Most of the time, they’ve got three key variables that affect their decision making: time, budget, and scope. Upon understanding each variable in detail, we come up with a resource allocation proposal for their project including a fee for our services. Yet, differently enough, what we do here is just giving a ballpark estimate in terms of hours to hit the milestones as regards to the needed resources.

All in all, our proposals could be boiled down to one sentence similar to this one: “For your project and requirements, we propose 150 hours per month for 6 months to come up with insight-led solutions to your expectations.”. In those 900 hours, we essentially offer discovering business goals along with user needs, ideating on solutions and a UX Strategy, and creating interaction solutions & interfaces.

  • The reason why we do not create turnkey project proposals, I. Drawing from our experience, we know that we can only propose a high-level time plan, a monthly resource allocation table, and a list of the key processes we plan to touch upon during a project. Other than that would be a mere guess that does not factor the weight of the user expectations to be obtained once the project starts.
  • The reason why we do not create turnkey project proposals, II. Thanks to the DaaS model, we always highlight the fact that our project owners are free to use their SHERPA resources how they see fit. We might have agreed on a mobile app project, for example, but in the following months after the kickoff, our client is free to change the setup and use their allocated SHERPA resources on a completely different scope. No strings attached. Because we do not assign particular team members to a project or strike a deal based on the endpoint. What we aim to do is give SHERPA credits to project owners to be spent on anything digitally relevant.

We know that every pre-defined project scope is subject to change with the user insights obtained at any time in a project, and confidently claim that no one can give you a laser-cut proposal if you are looking for a truly user-centric solution. If understanding user behaviour and building user-centric products is a priority, then project owners should adapt to changing scopes and have the flexibility resource-wise. That’s why we offer SHERPA’s UX skills with a time & material pricing model regardless of the project you’ve got.

Fine-tuned for better products, T&M with tweaks

First off, the elevator pitch: DaaS (Design as a Service) is a transparent business model in which we allocate “hours” to project owners upon deciphering their needs. It is simply a subscription-based model, where we take on any brief at hand in line with an allocation bandwidth. 

DaaS is flexible. We are not limited by scope and can adapt to your changing priorities, the only constraint being the number of hours allocated to your project per month.

DaaS is transparent. At the end of each month, we provide highly detailed timesheets (based on person/task/minute spent) to our project owners to justify the ROI of UX services we delivered.

DaaS is user-friendly. One way or another, if 100% of a project’s monthly resource allocation is not delivered, we take its remaining part starting from 50% and add it to the following month. We don’t like inefficiency, nor any kind of waste.

The key benefits

There are two things we know about building a product: Diversity creates value, and resource allocation requires flexibility. 

Therefore, whether or not there is an in-house UX team on board, we believe that grabbing additional resources from a UX studio will pan out nicely in the grand scheme of things. Aside from the operational advantages, there are three main benefits production-wise for those who are interested in working with our DaaS model.

  • Building a diverse team

The secret to building digital products is simple, having strong product teams. Culturally diverse, cross-functional teams are behind today’s top products. 

In our case, as a team of UX experts, we strive to bring our unique experience to the table while collaborating with product teams. In a sense, our collective memory is a repository for those who seek to find a relevant solution-set regarding their project. And as consultants, we work on multiple projects spread across several industries, which eventually unlocks a great opportunity; rapid testing of our assumptions and fine-tuning every aspect of our work in a relatively short amount of time.  Therefore, as practitioners, who “have been there before”,  we can catalyze a reaction fairly quickly than a product-specific team.  

  • On-demand talent acquisition

The number of problems in your agenda can quickly reach alarming levels, requiring an expansion of the talent to deal with it. Yet, it might not be always feasible growing headcount to handle the work, because bringing talent without thoroughly considering the consequences may paralyze a team for a couple of reasons. 

First, it’s not easy to find talent. Without spending an enormous amount of effort on talent acquisition, you’re not going to be able to form a team, coming from a relevant background to take care of your problems. You need someone who “has been there before.”

Second, you probably need a temporary solution to carry the workload. You do not want to set anything on a stone if you do want to get financially tied up. That’s why interim teams come in handy to alleviate the pain stemming from an overfilled backlog. 

We shorten the time needed to find talent and soften the blow on your talent acquisition activities for a simple fact: we’re talented, we are relevant, and we’re only there as long as you need us with the power of DaaS.

  • The vast spectrum of skills

From initial launch to late maturity stages, each milestone in a product’s lifecycle demands a different set of skills to meet user needs. As a natural outcome of this process, a need for new skills gradually emerges. Similarly, the UX expertise you need changes in time while working on an idea. Instead of having high turnover rates to fill out gaps in skills, elite teams could come in to play to give a hand.

We are on a mission to understand users and find intricate ways to solve their problems, and the methods we utilize to do so are largely diversified. It would not be rational to expect all the necessary skills from a candidate or an embedded team. To cope with a skill deficiency or extend the level of UX maturity in a team, external teams with flexible business models like DaaS can provide unique value as temporary remedies. 

DaaS, now

DaaS is not something new on the shelves that is brought to you without a proper validation process. As the firm believers of iterative solutions, we validated our idea by simply using this model for projects varying in size, from a complete redesign to small research projects. Ever since 2015, we’ve been working with DaaS and creating better solutions for our clients relentlessly. Unorthodox it may seem, you should give it a chance with this mindset, with or without us. Change is constant, so should your efforts to keep up with user needs.