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Human-centric approach for a humane cause

How user-centricity enabled TietoEVRY to help Startup Refugees plan for their future

Aleksi Kärkkäinen / September 13, 2021

How can you build a welcoming digital platform?

Organisations both big and small often overlook this question. Instead, they build the platform around the team’s internal needs and slowly get carried away from the customer. The digital development becomes a guessing game and the patchwork result only faintly answers customer needs. 

Startup Refugees evaded this common pitfall by placing the user first from the start. The organisation, founded in 2015, is a social innovation group that aims to connect immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees with employers. These job seekers upload their professional history and network with employers on the digital platform “Match”. And Startup Refugees even offers resume workshops for job seekers to succeed on their platform. This standout catering to customer needs is no accident, as from the beginning, Startup Refugees involved users in the design and development process. In other words, they kept the user central.

In 2018 TietoEVRY embarked on a joint journey with Startup Refugees to fight against digital inequality and to help in building more equal societies. In the spring 2021 the collaboration continued by planning the future of Match tool. In the span of two months, TietoEVRY conducted a series of stakeholder interviews, co-design sessions, and UX/code analyses. This deep dive into “Match” culminated with the creation of a step-by-step guide for the future user-centred development of the platform. The report gave a new direction for the development team and a review of future user experience features. We were driven by understanding the users and their needs, so instead of resorting to guessing, the team worked through an empathetic approach to build understanding and provide useful recommendations.

Elisa Vepsäläinen, CEO of Startup Refugees, appreciated how “The work with TietoEVRY enabled Startup Refugees to get clarification where we are and how to develop Match further.” 



Our tips for better user understanding to enhance user experience:

  1. Get close to the customer

Many organisations avoid going to the customers for advice. They fear burdening their clients or coming across as unprofessional. But this could not be further from the truth. Customers want to feel valued and heard, enabling them to directly impact the products and services they buy. Additionally, organisations gain an opportunity to gather feedback on their assumptions and even accumulate new user innovations.

The quick pace of the project with Startup Refugees prevented us from interviewing direct users. Instead, the team approached the frontline experts who frequently interacted with and helped the users. Their insights illuminated the needed digital platform improvements and enabled agile design work.

  1. Don’t give homework

No one likes homework. It is tempting for the design team to use questionnaires and other fillable materials to gather insights. But surveys often go unanswered. They are often half-heartedly filled an hour before the deadline or in five minutes before leaving work for home.

Instead, focus on in-person (or online) interviews, where conversations are agile, easy, and responsive. This proved to be extremely effective with Startup Refugees. Participants showed up full of excitement and energy to co-design sessions. Everyone took their turn to talk, share, and ideate on the spot. And so, the TietoEVRY team got the undivided attention of numerous participants with a wealth of user insight.

  1. Prep to succeed

We all love to ideate solutions, swiftly passing thoughts back and forth until a key idea springs up. But in service design, this process can easily carry us away from the root issues. It is critical to simultaneously ensure the foundations of the project are up to date and will support new user-centred ideas.

For Startup Refugees, this meant early attention to the code of the “Match” platform. In fact, our user-centred guideline for its future development heavily emphasised fixing and strengthening the code bedrock before building new user features on it.

Ideation alone can fall apart at the technicalities, so a well-wrought and prepared pathway is the surest road to success.

In sum, the accomplishments of digital design depend on the organisations’ ability to look beyond itself. Shift your sight away from internal pushes and pulls and turn it towards the customer. Address the customer needs first. How? Speak to the customer and to those who know the customer. Gather insight from stakeholders through eye-opening engagements like interviews– and not through boring, repetitive tasks. Strong user insight, coupled with a solid technical foundation, will create a sharp compass for success.

These lines guided TietoEVRY in its partnership with Startup Refugees, further championing their human-centric and humane digital design.


Are you interested in knowing more? Read how our experts can help you to deliver unique customer experience.

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You can also read more about our collaboration with Startup Refugees in the latest blog.

Aleksi Kärkkäinen
Head of Advisory, Design & Innovation


Aleksi Kärkkäinen

Head of Advisory, Design & Innovation

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