"Both Employees and Local Residents Deserve Better Digital Services" – Riihimäki DigiJoko Seeks a Common Language for Service Providers

"The big question is how to change the operating models. At the heart of the matter are municipal-based models." This is how Kari Ora, financial and administrative director of Riihimäki, sums up the output of the DigiJoko pilot program.

Heidi Hammarsten, 20.05.2021

Read this article in Finnish

What kind of training is created when the participants themselves are involved in designing it from the very beginning? This has been tested in Riihimäki in the DigiJoko pilot program, which ends in May. The idea originated from discussions between the management of the City of Riihimäki and Kuntien Tiera.

“Tiera supports municipalities in developing customer-oriented approaches and digitizing services. We have often considered how to respond to the challenges of change in municipalities with a new kind of training program. The idea was born of training carried out together with Aalto EE,” says Jyrki Halttunen, CEO of Kuntien Tiera.

There are indeed many of these challenges to change – municipalities are bombarded with them from the right and left. There is health and social services reform, longer compulsory education, a tightening economy, and an aging population.

We have often considered how to respond to the challenges of change in municipalities with a new kind of training program."

“It is hoped that municipalities and companies will be able to digitize services regardless of time and place. Within municipalities, on the other hand, 150,000 to 200,000 workers will retire over the next ten years, and fewer people will be hired to replace them. This requires more efficient work and automation. Future municipal employees will want to do their work in a modern way,” Halttunen states.

During the coming council term, Riihimäki has pushed through a change program and worked on a new strategy. According to the chairman of the city board, Miia Nahkuri, the main challenges for the city are related to the change in the age structure of the population.

"It has been estimated that, in ten years, Riihimäki will have about 30 percent fewer children than now. Municipalities are increasingly competing for residents," Nahkuri says.

The challenge is inclusion and community

According to Nahkuri, if there is provincial health and social services, this presents an opportunity for the municipality to develop in a new direction.

"DigiJoko also aims to have efficient services in the future that are produced in a customer-oriented manner. This also involves the inclusion of local residents and the challenge of communality. It is important that we bring about visible changes for the residents. Both employees and residents deserve better digital services,” says Nahkuri.

The tight economic situation of municipalities is also a challenge. Nahkuri hopes to see more cooperation between companies, communities, and local residents in the area.

Kuntien Tiera offers municipalities both IT outsourcing services and new types of digital solutions and applications for various industries, such as social services, education and training, as well as land use and construction management. Riihimäki is one of Tiera's outsourcing customers, and broader cooperation is also planned.

"Tiera has a view of what is going on in the municipalities. The goal has been for us to develop good practices here as well,” says Kari Ora, financial and administrative director of Riihimäki, who has been involved in DigiJoko already in the planning phase of the program.

A broader change in thinking is needed

According to Ora, the customers' perspective has been actively represented in the planning of the training program.

“We wanted to advance a broader change in thinking and culture, and the goal of this training package was to support it. The themes are structured in such a way that the program includes cultural change, changes in operations and processes, and a look into the future,” lists Ora.

The training modules deal with both the impact of job change on municipalities and the changing role of the manager. Consideration will also be given to how digitalization and the platform economy should be reflected in the city's strategy and how the city's financial management could be better linked to services. The last module deals with building an industry-free organization.

“This is a diverse program where we are brought up to date both on big and small matters. It offers a 360-degree view of the development of municipal operations,” describes Halttunen.

According to Halttunen, the DigiJoko pilot, which has proven to work, is to be continued in different versions. It can be used as Riihimäki has, tailored to one municipality, as well as a program offering different modules, such as building a digital strategy in open versions.

The program has served as the creator of a common language. It is a good joint exercise, where both parties have learned from both the coaches and each other."

The city management team from Riihimäki, experts in development roles and the chairman of the city board, Miia Nahkuri, have participated in the DigiJoko program. A dozen Kuntien Tiera employees are involved, including CEO Jyrki Halttunen. According to him, the people from Tiera are studying in the same way as the participants from Riihimäki.

"The program has also served as the creator of a common language. It is a good joint exercise, where both parties have learned from both the coaches and each other,” describes Halttunen.

According to Nahkuri, it is important for organizations to participate in training together, because it will create common thinking. She appreciates the exchange of ideas that arises through research and discussion.

Expertise in different fields excites

“I get excited by combining expertise from different fields. That’s when new ideas and thinking emerge from outside the box. Kuntien Tiera offers technological and other know-how, Aalto EE's strength is theoretical thinking and concrete examples from different organizations," says Nahkuri.

In DigiJoko, projects are carried out in groups that have a direct connection to Riihimäki's needs and the ongoing transformation program. The work of Nahkuri’s team is related to updating the strategy.

“The goal is to clarify the strategy and prioritize what is chosen as the strategic point because not everything can be done. Riihimäki has invested in robotics and circular economy. Those are big things that can be built around; I believe they will bring us work and entrepreneurship. We can now study robotics from early childhood to university – it ensures that there will be enough experts in the area for the future.”

According to Nahkuri, an efficient digital service solution is always a better option than cutting services.

“Together with Tiera, we are creating resident-oriented digital services and transforming the organization into a modern and efficient one. These change management issues are by no means separate from our daily lives when the municipal field is constantly changing.”

Learn what technology can do

According to Ora, everyday operational work is so hectic that it is sometimes important to get above everyday life to consider things more broadly and also to get a theoretical perspective.

“In collaboration with Tiera, we use case-type reflection as our working method. We ourselves understand technology a little less, but we will learn what it can accomplish. The theoretical side of Aalto EE brings in new kinds of thinking that you do not have time to consider in your own daily life,” says Ora.

In Riihimäki, change is being taken forward one piece at a time, creating technological solutions and changing the operating culture side by side.

"The big question is how to change the operating models. At the heart of the matter are resident-based models, technology is just a tool,” Ora reminds.

Ora cites a concrete example of how technology enables the involvement of local residents: the robot call experiment asked local residents' experiences of issues related to the coronavirus.

“The robot call reaches the residents very quickly, and analytics work in the background. While participation is typically quite low in municipal surveys, here we reached 5,000 municipal residents who responded."

According to Ora, there is sometimes too much fear in the municipal world that not everything will go as planned.

"We cannot think that everything is ready right away. We need to experiment and see how things work. On the technology side, it is also important to know what kind of projects are underway nationally, and how these solutions should be taken into account at the municipal level.”

As the way we work is changing, leaders need to adapt to increasingly diverse situations. The AaltoJOKO® program equips you with concrete tools for change management and strategy implementation. Read more

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