How We Saved a Client $750K, and Won a Design Leadership Award for Doing It

By Lisa Helminiak

October 13, 2017

Each year the international Design Management Institute (DMI) recognizes a handful of projects that exemplify the strategic value of design or design management practices.

DMI’s Design Value Awards define “strategic value” as positive financial gain, value to the user/customer, advances in process, improvements in organizational capability or culture, or positive impact on social issues or environmental sustainability.

We’re proud to announce Azul Seven and our partners, Hennepin County, received a 2017 Design Value Award, as a result of more than five years of work together.

Let’s Back Up For a Minute…

Hennepin County contains the city of Minneapolis and is the most populous county in the state.

With more than 8,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $2 billion, the county’s mission is to enhance the health, safety and quality of life of its residents and communities in a respectful, efficient and fiscally responsible way.

In 2012, the county began a program to begin using technology to better deliver services to residents, partners and employees. Initially, Azul Seven assisted the county in simplifying and consolidating the technology it used. This included unifying 21 organizational silos into a single Web Influences Group for creating online content. In total, the work lead to a current annual savings of $750,000.

But the work together didn’t stop there.

Following the success of early design-led projects, the digital government initiative gradually transformed into a broader, human-centered design initiative focusing on innovation, excellence and service across the county.

The five-year arc of the collaboration (which continues to this day) has gone something like this:

  • Research, design and development for digital government
  • Human-centered design training for core staff
  • Organizational change and alignment around design leadership
  • Establish Center for Innovation and Excellence and Innovation By Design Initiative
  • Human-centered design training across county departments
  • Design-led innovation projects across county departments
Impact Beyond the Budget Figures

Saving three-quarters of a million dollars each year is nothing to sneeze at. But it’s only part of the value created by the county’s new focus on design-led innovation.

Using human-centered design and other innovation methods, the county now redesigns internal processes based not only on the needs of staff members, but also on the researched needs of residents. Overall, this is making it easier for residents to interact with the county for critical services.

In 2017, working with their broadened tool set, Hennepin County’s new Center for Innovation and Excellence completed or started 15 Innovation Lab projects, representing three lines of business. The Center also trained 90 county employees through Innovation by Design learning cohorts, and developed an Innovation by Design community of practice with 49 active participants, who will continue to spread the methods of human-centered design throughout their different county departments.

Some of the direct results of the county’s design-led approach to innovation include an improved housing and supportive services model for youth, a redesigned and consolidated housing department, a human resources study on deferred compensation, and improved customer service at Resident and Real Estate Services centers.

To learn more about Azul Seven’s work with Hennepin County, read the case study here.

Also, check out Azul Seven’s and Hennepin County’s winning submission as well as the other impactful projects at the DMI Design Value Awards website. We are proud to be part of this inspiring group of design leaders.

And, as always, if you have any questions about how design can create value for your organization, please contact us.

Want to learn more about design for innovation or biomimicry?

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