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Fostering User-Centric Energy Flexibility Solutions: GLocalFlex's Service Design Approach

Niall Shakeshaft

15 Dec 2023

Service design is an approach that has become widely used across both the public and private sectors in recent years. It is an innovation methodology that helps companies create new services and products in a human-centric manner – that is to say, the real needs of users, customers and other stakeholders drive development right from the outset. We have been employing service design methods within GLocalFlex to ensure that the energy flexibility services we develop will be both useful and useable for end users and other stakeholders.

In June 2023, we began the service design process by conducting a short qualitative study of potential GLocalFlex users in the town of Wunsiedel, one of the project’s pilot sites. Two VTT designers, Ada Peiretti and Nicolas Kristovic, together with our local partner Gerhard Meindl from SWW, interviewed a number of potential users and other stakeholders. Based on these interviews, we created a report documenting our insights.

Read the Wunsiedel Study here.

In September 2023, we brought together partners from across the GLocalFlex project to co-create together in a two-day workshop at VTT premises. We used personas (characters) based on the user archetypes defined in the qualitative study to seed ideation sessions, leading to the co-creation of a wide variety of possible solutions, features and concepts.

Figure 1. Co-creation workshop at VTT.

After the workshop, we synthesized the insights from these workshops into ‘to be’ user journeys that describe the possible future GLocalFlex user experience.

Figure 2. Example user journey from GLocalFlex project showing different phases (x-axis) and swimlanes (y-axis).

We are currently using these journey maps to construct ‘to be’ service blueprints that will also describe the back-stage processes and platforms. These can then become tools for the GLocalFlex project to use to identify and test key hypotheses related to both the front-stage user experience and back-stage processes and platforms.

Figure 3. A work-in progress visual prototype or mock-up of an example future GLocalFlex digital service experience.

We are also currently creating visual mock-ups that represent the possible future service. In 2024, we will use these visuals to create interactive prototypes that we can use to test our assumptions with users.

In 2024, we will also use the insight from this work to inform the design and implementation of real pilot services that will be developed for GLocalFlex. We hope that by employing this approach, these services will be more likely to serve real user needs and help the project achieve its ambitious goals.

Niall Shakeshaft is Vice President/Head of Design at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

For more information, please contact him directly at