The public sector digitalizes with the speed of a bullet train – how to keep up with the usability requirements from both consumers and legislation?

The quality demands for public sector’s digital services are high, with regulations and laws changing weekly. Is it even worth trying to keep up with the intense pace?

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an endless race of creating new digital service channels quickly. Many public entities received entirely new responsibilities with minimal warning, and software, information, and communication organizations worked tirelessly.

Results ensued. Now, almost all public services are offered as self-service options in digital form. Whether it's booking appointments, applying for benefits, or obtaining vaccination certificates, the most widely used services have been digitized.

When building new channels, it's crucial to make them easily scalable or adaptable to continue fitting into the evolving operational environment. For example, we quickly launched new electronic service channels with many stakeholders or added features to existing services. Agility and expertise in platforms, tools, publishing pipelines, and applications meant that many authorities and organizations gained much-needed resilience from new digital services during a hectic situation.

The COVID-19 pandemic taught people to use and rely on electronic services. That's good – if the service usability is in order.

Business Director, public sector

Sami Pippuri

There is much room for growth in enhancing digital operations

Enhancing digital operations is an essential survival strategy for agencies and organizations. This way, resources can be allocated where they are most needed, and digital measuring has much to offer in this regard.

We do monitor the time users spend on pages, but otherwise, we proceed like an old commuter train. Instead, we should examine the overall picture and measure actual, realized benefits. When developing a digital service, for example, we should consider the resource and time savings generated by the new service. This applies not only to the service provider's organization but also to the service users.

Enhancing digital operations is an essential survival strategy for agencies and organizations.

Business Director, public sector

Sami Pippuri

The automation of public service process chains is often modest, as not all background operations are digitalized and automated. By digitalizing the exchange of information between background systems, efficiency can be significantly increased.

International names as usability benchmarks – Can Finland keep up?

I often hear that Finland is at the top level in digitalization globally. It's a nice thought, and partly true. However, we must consider the criteria against which we compare our skills. When looking at digitalization globally, the benchmark is quite modest.

The rising demands for public services have been influenced by users' growing needs and expectations. The COVID-19 pandemic taught people to use and rely on electronic services. That's good because electronic channels enable service access 24/7 regardless of time and place, making them very equitable – if the service usability is in order.

There are nine mandatory points for electronic services in the digitalization regulations of the state and various ministries. Most of them concern the usability of the digital service: it must be good enough that the electronic service channel is equivalent to traditional channels, such as phone service and face-to-face meetings.

Additionally, usability must meet the level users are accustomed to in services from international players like Facebook and Spotify. Besides official regulations, this top-notch usability serves as a benchmark for us too.

Agility and expertise in platforms, tools, publishing pipelines, and applications meant that many authorities and organizations gained much-needed resilience from new digital services during a hectic situation.

Business Director, public sector

Sami Pippuri

National security is more regulated – and that's a good thing

Although we haven't quite reached bullet train speed, staying on track is often more important: citizens must be able to use services securely. Our clients, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Defense Forces, Kela, and many large cities, do not compromise on security even in the tightest turns.

Public services handle citizens' personal, private information, so it's crucial to know how to store data, how to encrypt it, and how it should communicate with other systems.

Therefore, we have several security guidelines for digital operations. Katakri, the National Security Audit Criteria, and the Digital and Population Data Services Agency's VAHTI provide excellent guidelines. They detail how to build security, where services can be hosted, and how data can be handled.

The regulation of digital operations in public services has become increasingly stringent in recent years. At the same time, the guidelines have become more concrete. Slight ambiguity has been eliminated, and clear instructions include illustrative examples.

Writer: Sami Pippuri, Business Director, public sector

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Sami Pippuri
Business Director, HiQ Publicsami.pippuri@hiq.fi+358 41 430 4128