Service Design and Digital Transformation

Closing the gaps on a heavily regulated environment


Service Design and Digital Transformation

The project
01. Strategy
02. Service Blueprint | Roadmapping
03. Facilitation
04. UX Roadmapping | Facilitation
05. Conclusion
CompanyMerck Sharp and Dohme
Overall Design MaturityDedicated UX Budget. Learn more
Duration18 months
Teams InvolvedMarcomm, Scientific Reviewers, Design, IT Consultants
ROLE PLAYEDStrategy and Service Blueprint creation, Roadmapping, Workshop Facilitation
ProjectLATAM Digital Transformation Initiative


Merck and Co. is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies with more than 69,000 employees worldwide. Their Human Health division has developed several vaccines, widely used prescription drugs and oncology immunotherapy products.

In 2012 MSD US started a customer centricity initiative that included the Latin America Marcomm operations.

With 12 marketers and 4 visual designers, their initial efforts resulted in unarticulated, inconsistent and poorly integrated attempts, that sharpened the need of a collaborative ecosystem to navigate the digital transformation endeavour.


MSD LatinAmerica Marcomm was constituted by a Center of Excellence to serve the region. A large number of collaborators with strategic understanding were enforcing consistency on every aspect over the decentralized teams located in every country.

Nevertheless, the team was not prepared to switch to platforms with greater digital capabilities. The main challenge was to close the technical and digital gap, following the structure and ecosystem prepared by the corporate office.

The Service Design team was in charge of exploring and simplifying the infrastructure to be used, aligning the internal processes, assisting the LATAM roadmap, and enabling a skill development plan.

Given that the CoE was localized in a single office in Mexico City, the best operating model seemed to be a University schema.

This dedicated operations-alignment and training program approached the CoE experts at first, and the country leaders as a secondary step.

Without knowing it at the moment, this project was my first approach to service design; while I deeply enjoyed it, my understanding of a ‘service’ grew extensively by being an active piece on the definition of the hows - as how we work together and how we get work done as an organization.
My life lesson was to experience the impact of embracing our collective vulnerability, and to see how this strengthens the sense of purpose, engagement and collaboration among the team.


Following the objectives defined by the corporate office, the LATAM Marcomm CoE defined the strategic goals for the region and the team objectives.

The overall process, owners and responsibilities were still ambiguous and undefined, but one of the outcomes was clear: the need to transition from print to digital media. Since this was visualized as a design assignment, the Design team took the leadership on the task, and eventually of the project.

While the corporate office developed the infrastructure to enable our team bringing digital assets within the compliance and data regulations, our job was to prepare the regional leaders for the change.

As a first step, we needed the understand and document the current process; since this was an in-house initiative, was a straightforward assignment. However, a series of interviews were needed to confirm if there were variations at a country level, and to highlight the gaps between the CoE goals and each country leader goals.

02.Service Blueprint |

The next step was to visualize the underlying structure of the region with a service blueprint; we were particularly interested in mapping all the interactions stakeholder by stakeholder, action by action, and to expose the places to innovate.

Meanwhile, the first stage of the digital platforms were released and, with a clear view of the ecosystem, an unified scalable process was finally defined by the marcomm stakeholders.

Our team was able to prepare the regional operating model, establishing workflows and procedures, ownerships, definitions and rules, considering flexible aspects as country budget and the life-cycle of each product; the model also contemplated a staged transition as we were expecting a digital landscape in constant evolution - at least - for the next four years.

By showing the broad process of Succession Planning (everything above the dashed line), in comparison to the areas where the system was currently supporting those actions (everything below the dashed line), exposed the opportunity to support criteria and definitions to align the system to our users’ needs and values.


The next phase was to concentrate in the in-house production of digital assets.

Two core subjects needed training and coaching: the creation of digital content through compelling visual storytelling, and the understanding of the tools’ capabilities - considering the CRM specifications and data collecting for decision making.

Taking a directive approach, I conducted a series of workshops for different audiences. Marketing coordinators and scientific reviewers seminars were focused on defining the objectives (the what, to whom, why), storytelling (how much info, when), storyboarding (how to use a newly provided template to document the information).

04.UX Roadmapping |

For the design team a greater effort and support was needed to implement the in-house digital publishing, fortunately we could collaborate with other regions (Europe in particular) for this initiative.

To start, I conducted a technical and cost-benefit analysis of tools (in5 plug-in for Adobe inDesign and Oracle on Demand CRM), assessing, comparing and tracking their performance; after defining the tools to be used and its technical capabilities, I prepared a collection of assets (HTML templates, step by step guides), and run a series of introductory courses and mentoring sessions for designers not fluent in user interface, interaction and user experience.

The results included an effective cost saving of more than 75% on digital publish rates.


The implementation of this first stage took 18 months; the results included a newly gain digital expertise and an internal strategic understanding in all CoE team members, ready to train and enforce consistency over the decentralized team located on every country.


Facilitating the unlearning-and-relearning path for our team mates, trying to smooth the journey towards a blurry destination while acquiring and maintaining the team’s confidence on iterative solutions, was a first-time painful but valuable experience.

What’s interesting is that, even when at the time we were not calling this “Service Design” nor using the now standard vocabulary, all the processes and methodologies were in essence human-centered design - research, define, ideate, prototype, test.