Tag Archive | digital services

Engaging customers in developing digital services

Event: Kuinka osallistat asiakkaat digipalveluidesi kehittämiseen? (How to engage your customers in developing your digital services?)

Time: 10.12.2018, 8.30 – 11.30

Place: Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce


Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce has organized a series of events related to digitalisation, out of which this was the 6th one. I haven’t participated the previous events but will definitely keep my eyes open for the next ones now that I got to enjoy this free event where we were served with inspiring presentations as well as both breakfast and brunch. Perfect!


The event was opened by Maarit Heikkilä from Digital Discovery. She gave us insights about why service design has become so popular lately and shared her experiences in the industry.

According to Maarit, we live in a time where the customer has finally been brought in the centre of all processes. This has happened mainly due to three reasons:

  1. Unlimited supply of products and services from all over the world
  2. Recommendations and transparency through social media
  3. Customer experience as a relevant competitive factor

Maarit also went through the service design process and the importance of its steps. Some key points from her were that if we don’t define the problem, we won’t get proper solutions, and that we should bravely put even the wildest ideas to test with customers as soon as possible in order to receive feedback and fix things based on that.

Service design at Kesko

The first keynote presentation was held by Kesko’s Lead Service Designer, Harri M. Nieminen. Even though the event focused on digital services, Harri wanted to point out that digitality is not a value in itself but rather a means of doing things. We should take advantage of the digital possibilities but not let digitality restrict us. It is also important to align the experiences in digital and physical channels as the customer won’t separate those two but will choose the channel that serves their current needs in the best possible way.

A project often starts with a request for an application. However, according to Harri, you should first create brilliant content and only then decide a suitable channel for it. A reponsive webpage can actually be a lot better option than an app – you don’t need to download anything or make room for another app in your already full phone. Especially when some content is needed only for a certain time period, you can do like Slush did and go for a webpage instead of an application.

The key factor in service design is a customer-centric way of thinking. The world is full of tools and methods but it doesn’t make sense to utilize them unless you sincerely want to make things better for the customer. If you are able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer you’ll also design the services more objectively. Often it also requires reading between the lines: if the customer requests a fix for a symptom X, it might actually be better to solve Y that is causing the symptom. Harri also presented us with the holy trinity of creating successful services: business for viability, technology for feasibility and design for desirability. If one of these viewpoints is missing, it will be difficult to succeed.

Like Maarit, also Harri brought up that solving problems is hard (and often takes a lot of money and resources), so you’d better be sure that you’re solving the right problem. It is important to empathize before defining anything, and you shouldn’t be scared of half-baked assignments – the assignment can and maybe even should change during the process. It is sometimes hard to prove the value of discovery to a non-designer, and it can be more difficult to get a 50k budget for investigating if something is worth investing into than the actual investment of 500k or more.

According to Harri, trying things out even just out of curiousity is always worth it. You will always learn something during the process.

Transformation at Yle

Mirette Kangas from Yle talked about their transformation towards a customer-centric, agile culture. Three key insights from her presentation were as follows:

  1. It is not enough to learn methods, tools and customs but you need to change yourself
  2. It is not enough for a leader to enable change but they need to promote it and lead from the front
  3. Culture of experimentation is not about senseless experiments but systematic doing


All in all the event was inspiring, and especially Harri’s presentation was a good overview of current trends and considerations in service design. I was also happy to notice that there wasn’t really anything totally new to me but I could feel myself as an equal expert in the audience, listening to a colleague.

More information and ideas:


Kesko’s customer community Kylä: https://k-kyla.fi/

Yle Lean Culture Toolkit: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NkGRe-YACIcxextpkZLD-HTydZ1ifPyY/view

Well-being services at Summerschool

I spent two inspiring weeks in Professional Summerschool. I can only adore the prework of the organizers – there were so many interesting truelife projects available for students to design and innovate. And – as we saw in the pitching session of the last day – all the groups had created great service concepts just in two weeks!

My team was working with project Kertomalla paranee. The target is to create solutions that help cancer patients and their families to live their ilves with best possible quality dispite of a serious disease. The patients recover better when we can reduce their stress level. The close ones can better support the patient when they can get the appropriate information and help in everyday tasks.

The first phase of the process is to observe. Get the insights of the users and stakeholders. We were so lucky to get a huge amount of insights provided through the www.kertomallaparanee.fi web-page. In addition to analyzing that data we interviewed Anne Palin from Novartis to get more information about the project’s drivers and targets. We also interviewed a nurse and a doctor at HUS and got basic understanding of this solution’s strategic position and their expectations for the project. After those interviews it was clear that the solution has management’s support and some investors already in place.

The most touching interview was with Tiina Aaltonen from breastcancer network www.siskot.info. She is also a recovering breastcancer patient and she told us the naked trueth about the disease and surviving with it. Strugling with “simple” everyday tasks, without proper and sufficient information and looking brave for their close ones. Feeling unsafe, alone and scared inside. It was clear that this is what we want to change. Our team was determined that digitalisation can provide elements to solve at least some of these issues.

Next phase of the process is the ideation. So we started brainstorming. Two key themes raised from the ideas: matchmaking and personalized data. Matchmaking for patients with others in the same situation, with the ones who can provide help in simple everyday tasks and with the ones who can provide tailored services. Matchmaking for the close ones with others in the same situation. Matchmaking for close ones and volunteers with the ones to whom they can provide help in simple everyday task. Personalized health and treatment data for patients – and to their close ones if the patient permits. A channel for patients to record questions and provide frequent data of their feelings and self-measurements to professionals between appointmens.

We ended up with a concept where the patient has full control of data and his/her connections. It provides a unique and easy way of asking and providing help, a social media platform for communities to connect, discuss and share, data analysis platform for matcmaking and personalized data. It also has a simple channel to record health related data that is provided to professionals.


At the end we created a prototype of the key features and tested it with breastcancer patients community siskot.net. The concept was presented to siskot.net’s cabinet and they just can’t wait to have it availble as soon as possible. In the he final pitching it was clear that this solution is needed but it will be provided as a add-on service.

The summerschool is over, but we hope that we can still be further developing the concept and providing solutions to help cancer patients’ everydaylife.


Bringing big data back to the customers

The amount of digital trace we leave behind us every day is no doubt already large, growing and increasingly unstructured. In other words, it is big, as Big Data term proponents like to say. At the same time humans have a need to create information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom out of any data (Ackoff 1989, Rowley 2007, Bellinger et al 2015), big or small. Luckily, technology which enables us to do it at scale is there. So things seem to be all right and a lot of value seems to be generated on a daily basis. But is it really so? In search for fresh answers I attended the Aalto Digital breakfast on Big Data in the Industry where data experts from Yle, Smartly, M-Brain, Supercell and Tieto presented their uses of Big Data to create value for their customers.

It is everywhere, and the companies benefit from it

Based on Rossi et al (2015) big data has found its applications in nearly every field of business (see Figure 1) through digitalization of services. An example is gaming industry which remains the frontrunner with using the data to figure out who, when, where and how is playing their games. Another example are media and retail industry which are finding out which content the customers are likely to like and purchase next based on their earlier preferences. Further example is market and media intelligence which uses massive datasets to identify trends and assist and simplify decision making within companies.

Big data in business and society

Big data in business and society (Vakkuri 2015, Digi Breakfast on Big Data in the Industry)

It therefore appears that both businesses and end-user customers benefit and realize value from Big Data, big time. Business users mostly benefit by being able to more precisely target their offers to customers that are most likely to (dis)engage, or validate whether the existing offer has sufficient engagement. End customers eventually benefit from the offer that might best fit their own aspirations and needs. Most use cases are, however, still largely business driven. It is still not that often that end customers fully consciously give up their digital-trace in order to be offered tailored data products and services. The general feeling is still that of companies being in the driver position and end customers merely following them. This does not look like co-creating value with the customer but still very much trading goods for money. Humans’ behavior is considered to be mere sequence of numbers, and a lot of them. The general focus is on quantity of data since it gives sufficient statistical significance. The assumption is thereby that humans are statistically predictable creatures, which will behave the same in the future as they have behaved in the past. But is that really true? It is almost commonly accepted that most of the human decisions are based on emotions at least as much as on facts and numbers.

But how to really bring it back to the customer?

While being powerful, Big Data analytics technologies still seem to mostly generate information and at best knowledge, at least based on definitions of Ackof (1989). They seldom stretch to answer the question of “why (does the customer behave like she behaves)“, based on pure numerical data. The data which, when brought together, could eventually answer these questions is locked into corporate silos. As suggested by Vakkuri (2015) efforts similar to data.gov and Helsinki Region Infoshare could be extended nationwide to bridge this gap. Even if available, in order to answer the “why” question a lot depends on the domain knowledge and intuition of a data scientist. As summarized by Valtonen et al (2015), the huge amounts of data can be analyzed automatically to generate information and knowledge which gets outdated fast, but it is still human touch that is needed to make sense of it and turn it into longer lasting wisdom.

Some of the key skills to reach to level of information and knowledge mentioned by Rossi et al (2015) are statistics, scripting, software development, parallel computation platforms, presentation skills and last, but not least, domain knowledge. While these may be sufficient to communicate with the customer indirectly, i.e. through data, one has to remember that the gained insights are thereby bound to be “thin”. In order to collect “thick” data and get to the level of wisdom one requires ethnographic research methods as well (Madsbjerg & Rasmussen, M.B. 2014). This still seems to remain out of the big data scientist toolkit, without obvious reason.

The customers nowadays offer their digital existence to businesses, and pretty much for free. But is their story understood by the businesses? Are customers getting in return what they really value? We might be just a conversation away from finding out.


Rossi A., Ojala M., Kärkäs P., Valtonen K., Vakkuri M. Digi Breakfast on Big Data in the Industry, http://digi.aalto.fi/en/aalto_digi_strenghts/data_science/, Accessed on 14.Dec.2015

Ackoff, R. L. 1989. “From Data to Wisdom”, Journal of Applies Systems Analysis, Volume 16, 1989 p 3-9.

Rowley J. 2007. The wisdom hierarchy: representations of the DIKW hierarchy, Journal of Information Science, 2007, 33(2), p 163-180

Bellinger G, Castro D., Mills A. 2015. Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom, http://www.systems-thinking.org/dikw/dikw.htm, Accessed on 14. Dec. 2015

Madsbjerg, C., Rasmussen, M.B. 2014, The Power Of “Thick” Data, http://www.redassociates.com/press-1/2015/8/18/wall-street-journal-the-power-of-thick-data, Accessed on 11.Dec.2015