About the Project
What are Service Advisor Applications?
Service Advisor Applications are step-by-step guides to help one understand the immigration process. They also explain which public authorities one needs to contact before and/or upon arrival and how to find the right services. The solution is used as part of the two services published as a result of the project: Welcome Guide and the Service Advisor App of the International House Helsinki (IHH).
In a nutshell: fewer repetitive questions to customer services, smoother services for customers, and of course happier people on both ends.
The Challenge: Information for individual needs
Immigration requires dealing with many different authorities and state agencies. It’s often challenging to get a clear idea of the actions needed for the immigration process – e.g. in which order to deal with different authorities. Service Designer Talvikki Heike from Wunder explains:
This was the challenge faced by the City of Helsinki when we started cooperation in September 2017. The City wanted to offer a service that helps immigrants to find information for their individual needs. The service would also support the people working in the immigration advice services.
From Whom to Whom and how?
The members of the project in addition to Wunder
- Helsinki immigration services
- Local Register Office of Uusimaa
- In To Finland service of Finnish Tax Administration and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland
- TE Services of Uusimaa
- Finnish Center for Pensions
- Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce
- The project start was coordinated by the City of Helsinki
The nationwide Welcome Guide serves individuals and families with foreign background who are relocating or planning to relocate to Finland for work or study purposes. IHH, on the other hand, helps immigrants who are already living in the Helsinki area. In addition to private individuals, IHH’s service also helps companies and employers in foreign labour matters. Wunder’s Heike describes:
In practice, the user of our solution answers questions about their situation, such as purpose for immigrating and future plans for studies and work. Based on the answers, the user will then get specific instructions on which documents to bring along and in which order to deal with the different authorities and agencies in their individual situation.
Wunder's solution became a part of the Welcome Guide and Service Advisory App – communication channels used by seven different authorities, who were also part of the project development team.
Finding the Wunder Way: Building an intuitive and easy-to-use service
Advisor service solution is easy to use to anyone who visits the websites – as it should. However, reaching this level of usability has required much work. Senior Frontend Developer Teemu Pärssinen from Wunder describes:
Simplicity like this is often challenging to create from the technological point of view. It takes a lot of work to get something to be as simple as possible for the user. For example, the question-answer logic of this service requires a lot of information storage and retrieval during different stages. All the different options lead to different paths, which finally results in a customized instruction page for the user. The fact that users can return to any point of the question path also required a lot planning.
The Power of Cooperation
The visual identity and illustrations were done by Kati Närhi from Napa Agency. The Wunder team was responsible for the application and website design and construction. In addition to Heike and Pärssinen, the Wunder team included UX Designer Anne Luotonen and Senior Developer Timo Kirkkala. Wunder's Talvikki Heike describes the large project as a demonstration of the power of cooperation:
This was a multi-vendor project and we worked tightly with many different parties. The solution was designed keeping both the needs of the staff and the end user in mind. We worked together with the city staff and tested the service with real users to serve both groups. The public administration is often thought to be slow and formal, which is why it was great to see how the project team worked in an agile way. Together, we reached the set project goals.
Race against time
Project Manager of IHH, Elina Nurmi from the City of Helsinki, describes the project schedule as ambitious. The launch was in two months from the project start:
We wanted the International House Helsinki website and the Service Advisor App that supports it to be published as quickly as possible. Because service like this didn’t exist in Finland, there was a great need for it. For us the priority was, in spite of the tight schedule, to make the content genuinely user-friendly – light and easy to use. We wanted to bring the services closer to people and away from the very formal government communications.
Senior Developer Pärssinen agrees that the schedule was ambitious:
Two months is a very short time for a project like this, but fortunately we were able to base the technical implementation on a similar solution we created for the University of Helsinki. The solution helps students coming from abroad to find information on degree requirements. Of course, there were a lot of enhancements to be done. We have developed the solution for immigration purposes, for example by making the information paths more straightforward.
The Results: Saved work hours and happy customers
Wunder's solution has been used in the immigration information search since December 2017. According to the Chief of Advice Services, Anne Nissinen from the City of Helsinki, the feedback has been positive. Elina Nurmi from the City of Helsinki also notes that optimizing resources has become more efficient:
This solution has reduced the time we spend working on some of the basic tasks. For example, it seems the number of phone calls has decreased. Among other things, the great combination of information and visuals has been praised… The service plays an important role in advice services. We’ve been able to allocate more resources to value-added work. User feedback from both immigrants and employers has been very positive.
Nissinen and Nurmi agree that the cooperation with Wunder was smooth and the project team was a pleasure to work with – and that this really matters.
We are really happy. The schedule was tight but Wunder got the hang of what we needed quickly, and the deadline was met.
Replicating the solution to more services
The solution has gotten a lot of praises as part of the immigration services – not only from Finland but also from, for example, Estonia. This encourages Wunder to think about replicating the solution to other services as well. According to Wunder’s experts, they would be happy to modify the solution to serve the needs of other organizations too. Talvikki Heike explains:
This solution would work with almost any service that involves searching for information. It would also work well for commercial purposes. Think about something like purchasing a car – this tool would help you find a suitable car quickly and efficiently via a question-answer path.
There are vast possibilities for similar solutions: In projects like these one has to remember how important it is to make a thorough plan and spend time testing prototypes. Both the technical solution and the content of the service must be just right for people to find the information they are looking for. For Wunder, creating a smoother and more efficient way for searching information is a very real way of serving people. Heike concludes:
The best part about this solution is that it genuinely helps both the users as well as the service providers. The staff gets more time to serve the customers according to their individual needs and life gets easier for the people looking for information. Practical, well-functioning public services benefit us all.