The University of Eastern Finland's first service design coaching was carried out in September–December. Altogether 17 members of the university’s management participated in the coaching and they learnt about the process and methods of service design in six joint virtual workshops and independent training courses.
The aim of the service design project was to find out how different users could find information produced by UEF more easily and how the information could be made more understandable.
According to Director of Administration Tuomo Meriläinen, the university's goal is to continuously improve the common working environment so that it is more fluent and easier.
"It requires continuous dialogue and understanding of the needs of service users. Service design is a great tool for this."
The methods of service design have also been included in UEF's strategy action programmes. According to Meriläinen, this training pilot was a starting point for a wider range of offerings.
"The aim is that anyone in our university who is interested in the topic will be able to participate in service design training."
Remote training was also a success
In the first service design project, the starting point for development was the needs of users. The project focused on the theme that had been chosen as a design challenge, gathered user understanding, brainstormed solutions for improving the service, and created prototypes on the service with the help of scenarios.
The training was carried out completely remotely, which meant turning the project workshops into virtual ones. The training was led by Sanna Soppela, a digital skills coach, who says that adapting the methods used in the workshops to remote work and common virtual platforms required quite a lot of creative processing. Soppela is responsible for UEF's own service design coaching and she has been involved in increasing the university's service design expertise.
"The great advantage of face-to-face workshops is direct interaction and being able to use concrete operational methods. In the case of virtual implementation, we must pay particular attention to interaction, and when we choose methods, we must take into account the fact that we are not physically in the same space."
On the other hand, the remote implementation made it possible to learn how to use new applications and electronic collaboration platforms, which will certainly be useful in the multi-location work of the future. Time was also saved as no time was spent travelling between campuses.
"Remote implementation is therefore possible – it has now been confirmed – but hopefully, we will have the opportunity to develop, brainstorm, create prototypes and test face-to-face, as presence and interaction play a major role in cooperation between people."
From organisational needs to customer needs
As a result of the service design project, a concept was completed from which four items were identified for further development: 1.Support for searching for information, 2.Clarification of content, 3. Users’ needs and feedback 4. Ownership and clear roles.
According to Soppela, the best services and operating models genuinely meet the needs of their users.
"In my opinion, the internal and external services provided by UEF would be improved by including students, staff as well as external customers and stakeholders in the development. This would give service providers valuable user experience, which would help them to produce solutions that deliver value to all user groups."
Service design offers opportunities for user involvement at different stages of service development, from design to conceptualisation, testing and implementation of the final service.
"With service design, we can access the needs of service users and the user experience when the service is used. Services and service processes built on genuine user understanding help develop services that make life easier for all service users."
According to Soppela, utilising the methods of service design also helps to develop services extensively in cooperation with the various units of the university, as service design examines services as service packages from the user’s point of view.
"Service design shifts the focus from the needs of the organisation to the needs of users and customers, which is why it is great that UEF also sees the use of service design as an important factor in the development of UEF's operation."