Behind the digital curtains

Authors: Marko Riimala and Minna Vänskä

Have you ever thought why you still have to fill in a paper form and sign it by hand here in Aalto University? Replacing the paper with a digital solution should be a piece of cake, right?

Let’s take the idea of digitalization of the paper form X and try to sell it to someone.

So your idea gets support and then what? At first, the idea has to be sold to people who decide which ideas are worth of developing. After getting green light to the aim, work can start.

We start scratching the surface of the idea. It is found out in the first discussions that the piece of paper is a part of a process where several things are interlinked. In other words, getting all the needed information into a digitalized form turns out to be more complicated than initially thought. Well, the idea seems to grow into a project: let’s start by naming a coordinator for the project X in order to get appropriate plans.

Six schools get involved with their different processes and traditions, legal counsels give their assessments, ITS evaluates the technical aspects.

After some workshops we have a proposal for a common process X for Aalto and the technical requirements.

Now the true scope of this small improvement starts to show. We’re working with several agents, systems and administrators. Some integrations will be needed. The project is idling in a queue waiting for the appropriate expertise. A procurement process and several agreements may also be needed to be completed before the realisation can start.

Several months later

A test environment is running, and tests can be started. If we’re lucky, the pilots can soon follow the testing. Small adjustments are needed which can be done while the pilots are being run. Instructions are written and trainings are held. Pilots are assessed and again some adjustments made.

Eventually, a few more months later, the new digitalized process is put into production. People might get irritated by the new routine but gradually they notice that the new way of doing saves time and nerves, and the quality of the process has improved. You can breathe freely again until the next piece of the digitalization puzzle reveals itself.

In the course of time a great deal of patience, working hours and co-operation put into this digitalized process X is forgotten and one day we might think: why didn’t we think this sooner?

Some things may seem simple to digitalize, but the true scope of the task is rarely apparent from the start.

What needs to be digitalized next?


Authors: Marko Riimala and Minna Vänskä