Knocking on your shoulder

Knock knock… Hi, could we ask some questions from you? This is how we started to gather customer data.

Picture by Satu Pakkala

I have the pleasure to be a part of a service design project that aims to improve Laurea´s student services. The head of the project is a design agency Kuudes Kerros. Other team members are Laurea´s staff members and a group of students including me.

In a first meeting we made a plan how and where we could gather data from customers. Customers are in this case students. The environment should be natural and neutral from the student’s point of view. To get good insights it is important to make observation and interviews in a place and situation that are authentic and comfortable. We decided to make the interviews at Laurea building´s lobbies, cafeterias, libraries and corridors.

It was easy to start a conversation with students. Almost everyone agreed to answer to our questions. We gathered data from different campuses for example at Otaniemi, Leppävaara and Hyvinkää.

Especially one method was effective in every campus. Answering to questions while you are eating might sound disturbing but it was not. We had great chats with students at lunchtime. Another effective way to get good answers was to first observe different kind of situations and later on ask about the situations from students. We used structured questionnaires and also more open and informal ways to start the conversation.

One thing that disturbed conversations was hurry. You could see this through people’s body language and short answers. I noticed that at the beginning the answers were quite cursory. But after few conversations it was more natural to dive deeper in subjects and get more relevant insights. It was also nice to see different kind of styles to reach and make the conversation among our team members. The project continues so you can read more blog posts of the subject later on.

Text by Laura Rinta-Jouppi SID student 2014

Are we speaking the same language?


In many of the projects that I have been a part of, the process begins right away. In the kickoff meeting you introduce yourself to a number of people, some of them who you have possibly never met before. You usually go over the projects goals and after that you’re off to the races. Even in service design projects, and again this is viewed through my own experience, the common language of the project is often overlooked.

This revelation came to me through participation in a service design project that aims to improve the student services in Laurea. The project is done in collaboration with Laurea staff and students and design agency Kuudes Kerros of Helsinki. There are seven of us students helping in the project. The kickoff meeting began the normal way, but after the introductions we were familiarized to the project’s common language. By agreeing on certain terms that are used in the process, it has been easy during the discovery phase to understand and categorize the gathered insights. We were able to quickly focus on the right things.

I feel that in a lot of projects the team that is gathered for it doesn’t necessarily speak the same language. This might not seem like a major issue but let’s look at it through two scenarios. First, you can outsource the project and then your role becomes that of a participant and source of information. During the project work the facilitators talk about certain topics in ways obvious to themselves. Can you follow and be productive? Is your participation affected by a pounding thought in your head “what are they talking about”? And in the end are you then getting your money’s worth?
On the other hand what if the project is an in-house one? Everyone speaks the same language, right? Possibly, if the company is a smaller one or there has been significant work done to bring down the traditional silos. But in most company, there still are silos and within the silos there are different ways of communicating. And in this case everyone will not speak the same language.

The lesson I’ve learned through the Laurea project is to have a common language set up in the future projects. It doesn’t mean that you have to have a plethora of terms and definitions. Just set up a few common phrases and their meaning and go over them in the first meeting. This will help everyone define themselves and understand how the work proceeds. Possibly this way the outputs of the participants are more coherent and to the point. As an example, in this project there were three phrases set and this helped out tremendously. It pays off having a common language.

Picture and text by Jukka Kaartinen, SID ’14 student

The Evolution of a Service Concept – Case FORGE

The course New Service Development and Innovative Business Models brought us first real life experience in service innovation and design by working in groups on an existing service concept offered by FORGE Service Lab. FORGE, mothered by Digile, is a non-profit accelerator for digital service creation with the ultimate goal to assist boosting the internationalization of Finnish companies. Being still a young business, FORGE asked for our ideas to validate or challenge their value proposition and how to strengthen the role of Service Design in their offering.


At first, our team struggled with what seemed to be a very vague service idea and to fully understand what FORGE actually wants to offer to what kind of customers. A lot of time was spent trying to shed more light onto this by discussions within our group and together with a FORGE representative. None of this seemed to move us forward. In retrospect this was a good thing – working in service design, this will be a standard situation one should embrace in order to let creativity run free without getting caught up in trying to figure out everything in the very beginning of the process.

In conjunction with the course Deep Customer Insights through Ethnographic Research our team set out to conduct interviews with potential FORGE customers or organizations that could help bring more clarity to the needs of Finnish companies when it comes to developing digital services. We individually interviewed a technology company, the City of Helsinki, a luxury watch manufacturer, a representative from hospitality management, and a co-housing company. Even though the interviews mainly brought us insights speaking against the need for a service like FORGE’s, we took this as a great starting point to find ideas on how to improve the offering, starting from the value proposition.

A great help in this was working with CoCo Cosmos and simultaneously with the service logic business model canvas. Through CoCo we managed to create a clear service flow from a company’s idea for a new digital service, their need to validate this idea and to find the right partners to develop it further, until commercializing the now existing new digital service. The service logic business model canvas help us to figure out the “what’s really in it for me” part from customer perspective.


Image: CoCo Cosmos – Evolution of FORGE’s service idea

Visualizing the digital service development journey via CoCo enabled us to realize that there are different building blocks and the thought arose that customers should be able to pick the blocks they need and drop others. In addition, we realized that a FORGE customer does not just want to develop a digital service. The customer wants to find out if this digital service will bring profit in the end. We took this point as one of the main items used to develop FORGE’s offering and value proposition further.

After presenting our enhanced service concept and value propositions, we received additional feedback from FORGE and based on that finalized our proposal for them. This concluded our journey through a real life service design project from an fuzzy starting point to conducting interviews over to using service design tools to bring order to the still fuzzy chaos and to finally uncover a service flow with room for improvements. What studying service innovation and design has taught us so far was confirmed during this hands-on experience with FORGE: There is always room for improvement and service companies should welcome this fact to keep evolving and growing.


Image: FORGE in a visual nutshell, according to us 

By Corina Maiwald, SID student


Ojasalo, K. & Ojasalo, J. 2014. Adapting Business Model Thinking to Service Logic: An Empirical Study on Developing a Service Design Tool. In Gummerus, J. & von Koskull, C. (eds.) The Nordic School – Alternative Perspectives on Marketing and Service Management. Helsinki, Finland: Publications of Hanken School of Economics. (in print).

Value Proposition & Service design for FORGE

How will you solve a service design challenge which asks us to derive a value proposition for a company whose business logic is fuzzy? One will naturally assume that talking to the representatives of the company, probing them more questions will lead to a lucid understanding of the problem set. But that move proved to be disastrous, failing to produce any meaningful framework for the service design challenge. Interestingly, the answer to this question lies not with the service provider company, not with the service design researcher, not with any other stakeholders but the answer lies right at the center of the customers. Though there are several books that talk about customer-centric innovation, customer driven development and customer oriented business, the revelation or knowledge that comes with empirical study is paramount to one’s service design career.

 All About FORGE

The revelation comes through first-hand experience while working for a case assignment for FORGE service lab. FORGE service lab is a place for creating digital services whose aim is to promote the growth of Internet economy in Finland. It is a joint effort of DIGILE, CSC – IT Center for Science and Kainuun Etu Ltd. As per the DIGILE FORGE Service Lab Video, anyone who has an idea of developing digital service with right skills, expertise and the funds for development can approach FORGE for designing, developing, testing and implementing digital services. Co-creation is the mantra adopted by FORGE to develop services along with experts from several other fields and provides tools like cloud infrastructure. “Enter with an idea and exit with a scalable implementation for commercialization” is their slogan.

Case Assignment and Challenges with FORGE

Our task is to develop value proposition and service design concept for FORGE that helps them to produce novel, innovative solutions for digital service businesses. As simple as it sounds, it has its own challenges:

  • Spectrum of customer profiles is wide ranging from start-ups, b2c, b2b, etc. to big companies
  • Designing value proposition maps for each customer profile is tedious in a short time frame
  • FORGE doesn’t want to do consultancy, but the essence of their work is consultancy oriented service which is contradictory
  • FORGE’s contradictory concept is very fuzzy for potential customers and competitors to understand
  • FORGE digital service lab doesn’t differentiate itself from any IT service providers and it gives a vision that they are all one and the same

Attacking the tough Problem

With these challenges in mind, we – a team of 5, decided to act upon by perusing at length the interview sessions that we conducted with potential customers. I interviewed the CEO of a software company who sells solutions to construction industry. The interview session included key questions that would help us eventually to connect the dots and provide a possible set of value offerings. However, I must confess that though the interview sessions helped us to connect the dots, it still resulted in a blurry image. We listened to each other’s interview session to gain understanding from other possible clients. We also had taken a brief look in using the CoCo tool kit before developing the Service Logic Business Model Canvas. We sat together to map the Service Logic Business Model Canvas based upon the insights of potential customers.

Service Logic Business Model Canvas for FORGE

Service Logic Business Model Canvas for FORGE

Designing a solution

For further refinement of the business model canvas, I used the reverse engineering concept to build the service design process for FORGE and the associated value proposition map. During reverse engineering process, I envisioned an imaginary customer who is interested in developing a digital service. I plotted a customer journey map as an example and worked backwards from what the customer would like to have as service offerings and traced back eventually to each of the steps in service design process. This resulted in the following value proposition map. This significant step has helped us to transform the blurry image into a clear picture.

Value Proposition Design for FORGE

Value Proposition Design for FORGE


The practical case assignment has helped me immensely to gain thorough knowledge and wisdom of designing, developing and deploying service design process. Cracking the code of a fuzzy business logic has provided enormous confidence in me to tackle any future service design challenges.

By Lavanya Prakash, SID student


Ojasalo, K & Ojasalo, J. forthcoming 2014. Adapting Business Model Thinking to Service Logic: An Empirical Study on Developing a Service Design Tool. In Viitanen, J. & von Koskull, C. (eds.) The Nordic School – Alternative Perspectives on Marketing and Service Management. Helsinki, Finland: Publications of Hanken School of Economics.

Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Bernarda, G., Smith, A., 2014. Value Proposition Design – How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. John Wiley and Sons.

#Snapshots and Service Design

Browsing through a mountain of photos.

Browsing through a mountain of photos.

“I’m walking over a pile of 900 000 photos representing an amount of photos loaded daily to Flickr, image hosting website. It feels weird to step on photos, on someone’s face, on a cute baby, a guitar… I don’t think I have ever done this before, not in a photography exhibition at least”.

That was part of my customer journey through The Finnish Museum of Photography’s #snapshot exhibition that was co-designed with Futurice, and with help of Tampere University and Aalto University. Risto Sarvas from Futurice and Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger from the museum presented their case for the Service Design Achievements 2015. This was also the last Service Design Breakfast of this year, and what a great way it was to end it at the Finnish Museum of Photography.

Service design challenge

The service design challenge with #snapshot exhibition was to turn culture into something that people can walk into and have an interactive physical experience. The #snapshot exhibition’s objective is to explore how the Internet and digitalization has changed contemporary photographic culture. As you all probably know there’s a large amount of photo sharing websites and applications, and everybody’s basically carrying a camera with them in their smartphones.

Futurice was really up to this challenge, as they wanted to design for public good purposes and make a social impact. And of course it was also a very interesting design challenge. It was different from their typical project as there’s no technical platform, no clear organizational structure in museum, no existing solutions, no business drivers, and no ready brand.

Anna-Kaisa and Risto presenting #snapshot.

Anna-Kaisa and Risto presenting #snapshot.

Walking on a photomountain.

Walking on a photomountain.

How to tackle the challenge?

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Creating a Service Design Concept for FORGE Service Lab

(c) FORGE Service Lab

(c) FORGE Service Lab

A couple of months ago our SID 2014 group started the courses New Service Development and Innovative Business Models, as well as Deep Customer Insights Through Ethnographic Research. As learning by developing is the key in this Master degree program we were about to get hands on with a real life research and service development process. The case company we got an assignment from was DIGILE, more specifically their FORGE Service Lab.

What are DIGILE and FORGE Service Lab?

DIGILE is the Center for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOK) focusing on Internet economy and related technologies and business. You can learn more about DIGILE from their website.

FORGE Service Lab has been created to accelerate the digitalization of services in Finland. It is a development laboratory, where digital services can be created. The video below shows an illustration of the journey that FORGE Service Lab can offer to the world of digitalized services.

Working on the assignment

We were divided into teams of five and the task was to create a customer value proposition and service design support concept for FORGE Lab. We started our assignment in October’s contact session by staring to analyze the current state of FORGE Service Lab, and we also had the opportunity to discuss with DIGILE’s two representatives. After the classes each of us was to conduct an interview with a current or potential FORGE Service Lab customer.

After the interviews we continued our work in teams in November’s contact session. Based on our customer insight findings it was time to have an interactive workshop using the CoCo Tool Kit, which is a collection of tools and a workbook designed to support service businesses in adapting co-creation activities. I actually wish we had had more time exploring with the CoCo Tool Kit. If you would like to know more about the tool kit please check these pages.

In November’s workshop we also worked on creating a Service-Logic Based Business Model Canvas for FORGE Service Lab. Service-Logic Business Model Canvas is a modification of the most popular business model framework and takes into account the service logic principles (Ojasalo & Ojasalo 2014). The purpose was to clarify the value proposition and redesign the service concept. We were to reflect on what could be the valuable service design support that FORGE offers to its customers. It was challenging I must say, as we also had to consider a systematic and efficient approach that enables creation of innovative, global services and raises the Finnish competence level towards leading position. Below is a picture of how our canvas looked after the workshop, so we still had a lot be accomplished and refined.

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Develop fast – use Lean method!

I wrote in my earlier blog that innovation processes take time. If you want to develop a really innovative – and a radical – new service, you need time. According to FORTH innovation method an average time for an innovation development process is 16-20 weeks.

However, definition of innovation is tricky. This we learned during the Design Thinking course at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Our lecturer showed us pictures of products and asked us to tell if they were innovations or not. Some pictures got equal amount of “yes” and “no” votes. A very common definition is that an innovation is a new product, process, service or an invention. But, an innovation can also be something that is already been used somewhere for some time; if it is a new process, a new way of doing something for a specific target group, then it can be an innovation for that specific group!

So the difference between an innovation and a new service or a product is small. And marketers take a full advantage of this and call almost every new product or a service an innovation.

As stated earlier, innovation processes take time – and so does the traditional product or service development processes. There is however a faster way to create new products and services as we learned in “New Service Development and Innovative Business Models” course at Laurea. That is called the Lean method.

Lean canvas.


The Lean method has its origins in the 90s and in Toyota’s manufacturing system called “Lean manufacturing”. The word “Lean” suggest that elements that do not create value should be decreased or eliminated in the business process.

Instead of traditional business plans the Lean method highlights making hypothesis -> summarizing the hypothesis in a business model canvas -> creating a minimum viable product -> asking feedback from the customers -> failing fast -> starting the development cycle all over again. In addition to the business model canvas, a particular lean canvas was developed.

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