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Digital services

Helsinki wants to be the city that makes the best use of digitalization in the world. The City of Helsinki improves both its digital services for customers and its internal systems.

One example of the City’s digital services development is Ahjo, the City’s electronic case-management and decision-making system.

The Ahjo system, introduced in 2011, allows the City’s administrative decisions to be viewed in one place. Ahjo has unified and accelerated the processing of cases, and it has boosted transparency in decision-making.

The usability of Ahjo has been improved in cooperation with designers and users.

Eyes turned from processes to users

Ahjo was hard to use at first, because the approach to the user interface development was process-based, and not enough attention was paid to the user. The user interface didn’t guide the user adequately, so users learned by experience – through trial and error.

User-friendliness is key to all digital development in the City.

Because of negative feedback from users, it was decided in 2018 to develop Ahjo together with users. A service design project was launched to improve Ahjo. The project was to be led by Futurice, a company specializing in the development of digital services.

From survey to solutions

The improvement of the usability of Ahjo was launched with a survey intended to recognize the root causes of problems. Ahjo users were sent a questionnaire. The responses numbered 500 and represented all divisions and user groups. In addition, there were 18 user interviews, which were also occasions to observe the use of Ahjo.

Ideas for improvements and solutions were brainstormed in workshops. The software company Tieto was invited to join the work.

The proposals for improvements placed on the roadmap to be implemented first were the most effective ones, that is, the ones with a reasonable cost but a big impact.

Helsingin kaupunginvaltuusto. Kuva: Veeti Hautanen
Ahjo is also used by City of Helsinki decision-making bodies including the City Council. Photo: Veeti Hautanen

Digital services development is continuous and user-oriented

The final report of the Ahjo service design project was completed in March 2019. The report outlines a vision for the further development of Ahjo, the roadmap and evaluation tools.

The benefits of the design process

  • A large amount of feedback from users, which is utilized in the further development of Ahjo.
  • The voices of infrequent users of Ahjo became better heard.

The City of Helsinki is also making extensive improvements in other digital services. A major project is underway to improve the City of Helsinki website hel.fi, involving all City operations. The City aims at user-friendliness in all digital development.

Edited from an article by Johanna Lemola
Photos: Jussi Hellsten, Veeti Hautanen