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Sustainability is an important part of digital housing services

In a business project for Alma Media, students mapped out digital housing services from the perspective of sustainable development
Alma Median projektitiimi, Aalto BIZ
Jukka Rintamäki (left) and students in the front. Marjaana Lehtimäki (Alma Media) in the middle, Elina Kukkonen behind her. Next to Elina, Founder and Business Owner of Urakkamaailma.fi Kalle Koivuniemi. Tommi Vihervaara (Aalto) in the back row (left).

Aalto University School of Business students Maisa Ruonamaa (in the International Business (IB) programme) and Joonas Heininen (majoring for a Master of Information and Service Management (ISM) degree) carried out a business project for Alma Media between February and April 2023. The project thesis advisor from the School of Business was researcher and Assistant Professor Jukka Rintamäki. The project was done in collaboration with Alma Media’s housing services department. 

The purpose of the student project was to map out and analyse the current market of digital housing services and its opportunities from a sustainability perspective. In addition, the students developed new service concepts in the project to produce added value for Alma Media’s existing services. To implement the service concepts and utilise business potential, the students prepared practical recommendations for measures.

Alma Media’s housing services include the largest housing marketplaces in Finland, Etuovi.com and Vuokraovi.com. Another service is Urakkamaailma.fi, a marketplace for renovations that reaches consumers, decision-makers at housing companies, construction companies and property managers. Real estate and apartment information services provide necessary and up-to-date information for home sales and the evaluation of real estate and buildings. OviPro is a first-of-a-kind service that revolutionises digital real estate services by offering all estate agents’ tools with a single login. 

Self-motivated and independent work

During the project, the students used benchmarking to map existing digital housing services. The analysis produced an international overview of how digital housing service platforms such as Etuovi.com and Vuokraovi.com have included sustainable development and responsibility in their service models. In addition, the project group developed new digital service concepts for Alma Media to integrate in their existing service platform. The project had a wide scope, and the students had to take a strong independent approach to the process, for example when specifying and limiting the scope of the topic.

The final result of the project received much praise from the client. ‘The proposal for the new service concepts even included a comprehensive roadmap for service development, which is something you need to really wrap your mind around such a wide-ranging matter, and not having one could discourage you from taking up the project,’ says Marjaana Lehtimäki, who develops the digital customer experience of housing services at Alma Media. 

Jukka Rintamäki says that Maisa and Joonas were self-motivated and effective employees from the start. ‘The students did great with specifying the research topic and demonstrated their ability to familiarise themselves with the topic independently. This made it possible for them to take initiative when working with the project employer to set a sensible scope for the research. The students’ competence profiles seemed to complement each other nicely. They clearly had some differences in their backgrounds that gave them their unique strengths, but they also had enough things in common for effective collaboration.’

Revolving around sustainability

Sustainability is an important and topical part of Alma Media’s business operations, and it is promoted at Alma by various means. Solutions can vary from small service development elements to larger ideas that, at best, generate new business. ‘You always need to ground development work on research and mapping out a situation, and the fact that Maisa and Joonas were able to focus on the sustainability perspective in their market research gives us very valuable information to support development work,’ says Marjaana Lehtimäki.

‘The project was about a topic that was clearly important for the client, but it also had a societal dimension: sustainable digital housing services can promote the implementation of sustainability policies at the consumer level,’ says Jukka Rintamäki.

The housing services at Alma Media intend to make use of the results in their own conceptualisation work. ‘This report helps us parse the brainstorming and surveys that have already been done by housing services, but it also brings new perspectives. It gives us tools to move forward from certain challenges, and it outlines an attractive concept of sustainable choices for people on the housing market towards a concrete service offering,’ summarises Marjaana Lehtimäki.

Opiskelijoita Kauppakorkeakoululla. Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto / Unto Rautio

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