Case study

Defining the Value of A Municipal Service


the challenge

The City of Salmon Arm recently moved to a service-based budgeting strategy and were looking to better understand how this approach translates to effective service investment and delivery for its residents. They partnered with (n)Design to explore this opportunity through the lens of their Stormwater service.
Determining how to allocate limited resources effectively presents a significant challenge for municipalities striving to improve and protect the lives of their residents. The core of the challenge lies in prioritizing a diverse range of needs against a backdrop of finite financial and logistical capabilities.
Municipal leaders must make tough decisions that balance immediate demands with long-term community development goals, all while navigating political pressures, regulatory constraints, and the diverse preferences and needs of their constituents.
This complexity is heightened by the need to anticipate future challenges and opportunities, such as demographic shifts, technological advancements, and environmental changes.
Effective resource allocation requires a strategic approach that employs data-driven decision-making, community engagement, and transparent communication to ensure that the limited resources are directed towards initiatives that deliver the greatest benefit to the community as a whole.
"How do we know that we are making a difference in the lives of our residents?"

solving the right problem

Accurately identifying and framing the problem to be solved prevents wasting time and resources on solving the wrong problems, enhances the effectiveness of the design solutions, and increases the likelihood of meeting or exceeding user expectations.

Guiding Questions

  1. What value does the service provide?
  2. How successful is the service in providing this value? 
  3. How should we make it better?

The Asset View tells the story of the “things” involved in the service, but leaves out the people.

Salmon Arm had already invested in a comprehensive modeling of the assets associated with Stormwater and had a pretty clear picture about all the things, their worth, and associated maintenance and investment costs.

What was missing, however, was the people who use and deliver the service beyond these things. It was clear to the team that we needed to expand the view of Stormwater from just the assets to include the people that deliver and use the service.


The Service View tells the story of the people that deliver the service and the people who use it.

Taking a service view of stormwater allowed the team to understand the service not just as a collection of assets, but as a vital service that impacts and involves multiple stakeholders and users, each with their unique needs and perspectives.

This approach identified the core stakeholders and their specific interests, concerns, and expectations regarding stormwater management. Understanding these diverse needs is crucial for developing effective, equitable, and sustainable stormwater investments that mitigate flood risks, protect water quality, and support community well-being. But these values extend beyond the boundaries of a single service. We needed to look at the system of services as a whole to understand the broader implications.


The System View tells the story of the complex system in which the service operates and is experienced, now and into the future.

Finally, the team employed a systems lens to examine the entire relationship between the City and these stakeholder groups to reveal and explore the complex interdependencies and dynamics at play.

This broader perspective revealed the core value of stormwater services in terms of environmental protection, public health, and fostering trust, among others.

Key Insight

Integrating asset, service, and system views of a service enables municipalities to make fully informed decisions that enhance service value, promote sustainability, and meet the community's evolving needs effectively.

solving the problem RIGHT

Incorporating both the service and system views with the asset management perspective offers a comprehensive and holistic understanding of the true value of a municipal service, such as stormwater management.

The true value of stormwater as a service

The asset management view integrates the physical and financial aspects of the service's infrastructure, providing insights into the condition, performance, and lifecycle costs of assets.

The service design view focuses on identifying the core stakeholders and understanding their unique needs, ensuring that the service is user-centric and responsive to those it aims to serve.

The system view examines the broader interactions between municipalities and these stakeholder groups, capturing the complexities and interdependencies within the municipal ecosystem.

 The Intended Change
That Was Achieved
The Salmon Arm team was able to accurately define the true value of Stormwater, visually convey the complexity of the service to decision-makers and the public, define and evaluate Stormwater’s level of service, and plan their future needs accordingly.

Tools & Methods

System Mapping
Service Mapping
Stakeholder Mapping
Service Blueprinting
Value Proposition Canvas
User Research
Asset Management
Data Collection
Data Analysis
Causal Loop Diagrams
Service Design
Systemic Design
Synthesis Maps
Information Design
Video Animation

Contact Us

We're always looking for great partners who want to make things better. If you have something specific in mind or just want to learn more about what we do, we'd love to hear from you!

We acknowledge that we reside and operate on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Sqilx’w/Syilx (Okanagan) peoples. We are grateful to all Indigenous communities for their stewardship of this land and for sharing it with us.