Helen.fi is the external website for Helsingin Energia, an electricity company owned by the city of Helsinki with around 400k customers. The project seeks a significant user experience (UX) improvement. The budget for external suppliers is 200-300k euros. The technical execution begins in April 2013 and is set to take around half a year.
North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.
“The planning started from defining who our customers are and what are their needs,” explains Jukka Helin who acts as the project manager for the relaunch.
Summary: Why was website relaunch wanted
- A better platform required for building new online services
- Updating the old website was very cumbersome
- In general, the old website did not meet the content or operational requirements
Two customer workshops made it very clear that users arriving on the site want to accomplish some specific tasks.
“What online services are offered?”, “how to access electricity bills?”, “at which point are the users identified?” were among questions seeking answers.
Also internal stakeholders within Helsingin Energia were interviewed to find out their demands for the website.
The results were pooled in and analysed. The conclusion was that automation and speeding up of simple customer services processes need to be achieved.
Setting-up project and selecting partners
Tendering for the UX concept maker and strategic planning agency kicked off the project in June 2012. The chosen provider Idean finalised their work by November 2012.
“They highlighted that the needs of our business and customers needed to be aligned at the interface where they meet: our website. It is not necessarily easy to be very passionate about a large utility company. But Idean’s planning work, including a couple of iterations along the way, was top quality,” says Helin.
Only then Idean drew up a blueprint for the website including the final layouts.
North Patrol was taken onboard the project in August 2012. Their job has been to evaluate the technical feasibility and implementation.
“North Patrol’s guys helped to make sense of several competing CMSs and pricing models. This saved us a lot of time and money. We chose Episerver 7 as the CMS: our IT infrastructure is mostly built on Microsoft products and it was important that the CMS is available locally. Then a tendering process involving seven companies was set up for choosing the CMS supplier,” explains Helin.
At Helsingin Energia, the project also employs both a full-time coder, responsible for the technical architecture, and a co-ordinating content person from April 2013. The CMS provider should be chosen in April. The relaunch is set to go live by the end of this year.
Content as a key player
“In my experience the biggest challenges lie in controlling and updating web content. You also have to consider how easy is it to accomplish small, iterative upgrades after the relaunch,” says Helin.
“An external partner can support, challenge and bring in ideas. But at the end of the day you need to have your own vision. You need to be able to map out the tasks in order to accomplish the project.”
Being in charge of the content necessitates setting up KPIs and analysing website performance. Snoobi is set to continue providing most of the web analytics services for helen.fi. The volume of customer purchases and number of customer contacts are among variables monitored.
The new CMS streamlines content production and makes any need to edit HTML-code or CSS-style sheets largely defunct. It will be easier to co-ordinate content production responsibilities, and the number of content producers can be increased.
“I’m happy that we have been able to put content at the centre of this project. It can often happen that the design is fixed before thought is given to the required content. This easily delays projects,” Helin points out.
He is not a believer in outsourcing of all coding expertise: “Our own coder can build software interfaces and exploit our content. Knowing what is possible is of great help. We are not solely dependent on external suppliers. Discussions with the coder also help me to make better business decisions.”
Long process of procurement
The long timespan of the project slightly annoys Helin. The downside of competition laws that public sector establishments fall under is that the timeframe of projects may be stretched.
“At times we have been forced to wait around,” he admits.
“It would be nice to be able to shorten the time between different stages of the project. If we started afresh, we could do this based on the agile model. But this time around we had to clearly define what we were buying.”
What lies in the future?
It would be a mistake to think that the project will end after the relaunch has gone live.
“It will be important for us to find out suitable maintenance partners that enables quick, interactive development of the website,” concludes Helin.