x close

Want full & instant access to shape?

To access the full benefits of shape you need to register for FREE

Register NowAlready registered? Log in here

Welcome to the Shape online resource. This is a quick guide to the features and unique navigation of Shape

Show me how to use Shape Skip
x close

Want full & instant access to shape?

To access the full benefits of shape you need to register for FREE

Register NowAlready registered? Log in here
x close Shape - Better Services


The IDENTIFY stage will help you define the objectives of your project, describe it as part of a larger context, identify the stakeholders and develop a strategy for how to engage them. It will also help you establish a framework for managing the human, financial and technological resources required to successfully deliver your objectives.


Complete the worksheet online or download it to your desktop or project map.

Download Worksheet | Complete Online


In this step we will look at:

Success indicators

You need to clearly define the objectives of your project when you start planning and development. This is a lengthy process, as any outcome can fulfil different needs and potentially have negative impacts, but it all needs to be analysed and addressed as early as possible.

Have an open discussion with the people delivering your project, addressing questions such as:

  • What is our project setting out to achieve?
  • What is our overall objective?
  • What complementary objectives or added benefits are we aiming for?
  • How will we know when we have succeeded?


Sometimes the problem you set out to solve is ultimately not what needs to be addressed, which can be wasteful of time and resources. To avoid this you should clearly establish the reasons behind your project.
Example: Why it is important to frame your project correctly?
You have been asked to develop a website. Start by questioning and exploring the reason behind this, in order to establish the purpose of the website.
Scenario 1)
Community research shows there is no web presence for your initiative.
This is a valid reason for your website development.
Scenario 2)
The community wishes to raise awareness for an issue. The target audience is people who are over the age of 70. The objective is awareness-raising, so a website might not be the right solution – or the only one – to communicate with the target audience due to the lack of internet usage in this audience.
Remembering to ask ‘why?’ is the basic starting point in any project.
Designers call this process ‘challenging the project’.

There are exercises you can use to get to the core of your problem by framing, challenging and reframing, such as:

  • Re-evaluate the problem in a collaborative reframing workshop. Focus on brainstorming and idea generation, then prioritise potential solutions based on their viability.
  • Use techniques like ‘Six Thinking Hats’ by Edward de Bono.

> See ‘Six Thinking Hats’, in the tools menu, for more information.

Reframing workshops produce valuable outcomes, but they might still need to be analysed before being used. All contributors and ideally other stakeholders should be involved in agreeing and re-shaping your challenge. You should ensure all relevant parties are engaged in the process as early as possible, even if you cannot hold a formal workshop.

Framing, challenging and reframing the problem is the first step in objectively describing the existing situation. This can be is fairly straightforward, e.g. if the experience is a simple one-to-one transaction. But if the experience is a series of integrated transactions, it can be helpful to carry out a touchpoint analysis. This is an overview of:

  • Each transaction between the service provider and user
  • The sequence of transactions
  • Whether the user easily understands and adopts the transactions
  • The order in of the sequence of transactions
  • What happens in between the transactions

Mapping (identifying and noting in sequence) all transactions makes it much easier to identify strengths and weaknesses in an approach, and specify initiatives or actions to make overall or targeted improvements.

Success indicators

Having clearly identified your objectives using the framing and scoping process you can define what successful result looks like.

To do this you must agree upon a defined a set of success indicators that your project can measured against in terms of qualitative or quantitative improvement. These can be a variety of features that are measured in different ways, for example:

  • Financial (e.g. savings, improved financial performance)
  • User satisfaction/reduced negative impacts (e.g. complaints, waiting lists)
  • Changed behaviour (e.g. shift from physical to web-based interactions)
  • A new service, product or interaction that addresses a need
  • A change in approach that benefits a wider audience

This is the time to develop a metric and measuring format to ensure that your assessment in the Test stage is consistent with your original success indicators.


At the start of your project it is crucial to measure the current situation using your agreed success indicators.

This data will provide the starting value when reporting on your completed project at the Report stage. Most stakeholders will want to see justification for the project’s budget based on its results. Without measuring the current situation properly, you will not be able to draw any valuable conclusions about your project outcomes.


Edward de Bono. Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management. (Little, Brown & Company, 1985)


”Project stakeholders are any group or individual who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of the project’s objectives.”

– R. Edward Freeman, 2010

Top tip: Contracting a supplier for stakeholder mapping
Depending on your project’s scale and budget, you can contract a supplier to carry out your stakeholder mapping.


Most projects have a range of stakeholders, two of which are always the user and the service provider (the service provider refers to the organisation and the individuals interacting with the user).

Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you need to map, group and analyse your stakeholders, before developing engagement strategies for them.

Large Scale Projects: Specialist consultancies have the advanced expertise to support you with this process. You still need to allocate your own personnel to work with them, since the knowledge within your organisation is fundamental to the project, especially when developing stakeholder engagement strategies.

Be careful not to underestimate the resources required for stakeholder mapping, grouping, analysis and strategies as this in itself could be a large-scale project.


Detailed stakeholder will help you identify:

  1. Everyone who could be affected by the project process and outcomes
  2. People or groups that can contribute valuable insights
  3. Potential regional variations that could influence how the service is received

Depending on the scope of your project, it could attract some or all the following stakeholders:

  • Expected service-users (potentially sampled from at least three regions with different demographics)
  • Central and Local service providers
  • Community or neighbourhood initiatives
  • Local or regional authorities and providers of affiliated services
  • National authorities and providers of affiliated services
  • Lobbying organisations
  • Non governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • Local, regional and national politicians
  • Representatives of the media and public relations

Other government bodies that have met similar challenges or conducted relevant research are also stakeholders.

If your service is dependent on products or technology, you may also want to include relevant manufacturers and distributors in the stakeholder mapping.

Large-scale projects: Projects with national or supra-national reach have complex stakeholder processes that need advanced tools to carry out the stakeholder mapping:

  • Each stakeholder group can consist of a range of different demographic characteristics, cultural and legislative bodies
  • Terminologies can vary
  • When working across languages ensure that your mapping criteria, or even entire stakeholder groups, are not lost in translation. Eg. A simple word like “family” can change meaning across European languages:
    “Cross‐sectional demographic indicators tend to be well covered and easily available for most of the European countries. However, data on families and family forms is more difficult to obtain via existing statistical data sources. There are several problems. For example, definition of families/families with children varies across European countries, and data collection on national level is not done systematically. Some forms of families (cohabiting unions, even if with children, same‐sex couples, multigenerational families) may even not exist in statistical data sources, as is also acknowledged in the expert report” (Family Platform, 2010).

If your project has cross-national or multi-national significance you must consider:

  • Potential political and bureaucratic structural variations in different geographical areas which can influence the mapping or findings (e.g. municipalities, boroughs, counties, regions, cantons, departments, etc)
  • Variations or interpretations of terminology
  • Cultural or language differences which could influence the feedback from, or engagement of stakeholders
  • International variations in statistical methods and metrics


Once you have identified and mapped the project stakeholders, group them by the ways they contribute to, or are affected by the project (e.g. local residents, business owners, NGO’s, etc.). This activity will simplify and guide you in developing meaningful stakeholder engagement strategy.

> Have a look at the ‘stakeholder grouping tool’, in the tools menu, for more information.

Large-scale projects: Stakeholder analysis in a multi-cultural/national context is a complex process. We recommend that you procure a specialist consultancy with the experience to capture accurate and valid data.


Working strategically with stakeholders has four main benefits:

  1. Developing new knowledge
  2. Building new capabilities
  3. Building new relationships
  4. Reducing risk

Stakeholders are a crucial and valuable resource for your project. The findings from your stakeholder mapping and analysis will help you develop an engagement strategy which will allow you to fully understand and make the most of them. It can also help you manage your relationships with different stakeholder groups in proportion to your project’s scope, time and resources.

Your stakeholder engagement strategy should be based on a list of benefits prioritised in order of importance to the project. It should include:

  • Communications: who needs to be informed about what, and when
  • Specific stakeholder engagement: approaches to engaging stakeholders (who, how, when and why)
  • Responsibility and influence: who has a direct influence on decisions during the project and who is prepared to share responsibility for its outcome.

> Have a look at the ‘Stakeholder Engagement Strategy Pyramid’, in the tools menu, for more information.

Large-scale projects: you may need to consult with external specialists to ensure that the resources needed to engage stakeholder communities nationally or internationally are used as effectively as possible.

Conflicts of interest

All projects can attract potential conflicts of interest, especially large scale ones that are influential to organisational stakeholders such as city councils, government bodies and NGOs. These can change the project fundamentally, from its objectives to its success indicators.

Your stakeholder analysis can reveal these potentially far-reaching conflicts of interest early on, helping to reduce the risk of negative influences, damage and costly solutions they can incur.


  • R. Edward Freeman, Strategic management: A Stakeholder Approach (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • Family Platform. Critical Review on Research on Families and Family Policies in Europe. Last modified September 2010. http://europa.eu/epic/docs/wp2_critical_review_conference_report.pdf


Your project will need a balance of resources depending on its scope, size and character. These usually fall within the following categories, which we will explore in this step:

  • Human resources (competences/skills)
  • Financial resources (budget)
  • Technological resources

Human resources

The decision to embark on a design project often comes down to the availability of human and financial resources. Before starting a new project you need to analyse whether you have internal access to all the skills required, and whether the team or organisation has the capacity to take it on.

If you have internal designers but their skills are in a different discipline, you can consider procuring external resources. In general, for the best results a project should include a combination of the two:

  • Internal staff have in-depth knowledge of the organisational context and issues related to public service delivery
  • External experts can offer a fresh perspective and contribute valuable expertise from their experience of different sectors or similar projects.

The most common skills needed for a design project are:

  • Project management, planning and coordination
  • Budget management
  • Creativity, problem solving, idea generation and design skills specific to your project
  • Human factors, user engagement or ethnographic skills
  • Visualisation, prototyping and modelling
  • Interpersonal, presentation and communication skills

Sometimes a single person or supplier can provide two or more of these, but it’s often a good idea to consider a mix of people with different skills.

During this stage you should identify:

  • Human resources needed for your project
  • Which of these will be procured externally
  • Which of these are available in your organisation

If you need to procure external human resources the Procurement step of the Plan stage will guide you through the process.

> Have a look at the ‘Types of design specialities tool’, in the tools menu, for more information.

Financial resources (budget)

You need to gain specific knowledge of all costs involved in your project in order to:

  • Assess its feasibility
  • Allocate sufficient budget for costs you might otherwise be unaware of
  • Run your project efficiently
  • Achieve the best possible return on investment (ROI).

You can find a guide on balancing your budget between different phases of your project development in the Budget step of the Plan stage.

Your project budget should include the following design costs:

  • Paid pitches / conceptual proposals (if required)
  • External suppliers (e.g. design agencies, user interaction specialists, web coders etc.)
  • Internal staff expenditure
  • Mid/end-of-project reviews

Unless they are included in the overall delivery from an external supplier, your budget should also include:

  • Involvement of multiple stakeholder groups
  • Materials for presentation/visualisation of potential solutions
  • Generating and testing/reviewing ‘just good enough’ prototypes
  • Establishing prototype environments (for services)
  • Final prototypes
  • Design iterations

You may also need to consider:

  • Licenses (fonts, software etc.)
  • Intellectual property rights (patents, design registrations, trademarks, copyright, etc.)

You also need to assess the long-term consequences of taking on a design project, such as annual budgets for maintenance or management. Savings made as a result of the new solution could balance those costs, but both these factors should be assessed and presented as part of the decision-making process.

Technological resources

When you carry out any aspect of your design development internally, you need to have access to the right technology, for example:

  • Specialist software (Illustration, desktop publishing, editing, rendering etc.)
  • Project management tools
  • 3D modelling, engineering, testing and visualisation tools
  • 2D or 3D printers

If you procure external design services, access to these resources is usually part of the contract – but it’s a good idea check.

You should also decide on how digital information and files will be shared between the project team. For example:

  • File-sharing websites such as Dropbox or WeTransfer
  • Google+ or other open-source/collaborative software
  • Can you view/read/edit files with your existing software and computers or do you need to budget for equipment updates?

> Have a look at the ‘Software/file types tool’ in the tools menu for more information on design tools commonly used by design professionals to develop, visualise and model design propositions.


In this step we will cover:
Contextual analysis
Factors to consider


No project exists in isolation – the success of your design project depends on its ability to acknowledge:

  • Political agendas
  • Other internal activities/initiatives
  • Trends
  • Megatrends
  • Current media and public domain topics

Contextual analysis (contributors and influencers)

A contextual analysis will help you to understand the context and all other factors that can influence the success or failure of your design project. If you have already carried out your stakeholder mapping and analysis, you have a perfect starting point. These are also called contributors – the people involved – and influencers – attitudes, trends and themes in the social context of your project.

Unlike a stakeholder analysis a contextual analysis includes elements such as:

  • Time and timing
  • Knowledge of other projects in progress or planned for the future
  • Legislation
  • Knowledge of the environment in which your project will be implemented (in addition to the stakeholder analysis)
  • Opinions, agendas and themes current or expected in the context of your project

Factors to consider

There is no one-size-fits-all list of contextual factors. The list below may not relate to your project, but carefully consider any relevant items in terms of their potential influence and how the results of your project will be received:

  • Timing – will the project coincide with expected changes in the organisation (e.g. reforms, elections etc.)?
  • Are there ongoing projects in your, or other, organisations that could have positive or negative influences on your project planning?
  • Could your project benefit from similarities with existing projects in your organisation?
  • Does your project fall within an area of political awareness? Could this have an affect?
  • Does your project fall within an area of media/press interest? Have you developed contingency plans in case of early media coverage?
  • Does your project either support or oppose current topics in the public domain? Could this attention have a positive or negative affect?
  • Could legislative issues, permissions or other formalities influence your project’s progress?
  • Are there potential environmental or social issues that could influence your project’s development?

Top tip: Contracting a supplier
Depending on your project’s scale and budget you could contract a supplier to analyse the environmental factors.

Case Study

Project Title

Cost Reduction of Lewisham's Housing Service


Lewisham Borough, London, UK

Design Suppliers

Sean Miller, Design Associate, thinkpublic and Cartoonists Cognitive Media

Launch Date

Varying, Unknown

Design Council’s Design Associate Sean Miller, worked with Lewisham’s Housing Service over the course of a year to help them improve their service through design. The changes implemented within Lewisham’s Housing Options Centre were aimed at improving services and reducing costs.

View all Case Studies and Tools
Read More
Not sure how to use Shape? Use our tutorial
Co-funded by the European Commission