For the fifth time already, Aalto University will hold a multidisciplinary course with Accenture and selected public sector organisations. The Digitalism Challenge course launched on 28 October in an event held in Dipoli, Otaniemi, where the challenges of the organisations were explored through presentations and service design exercises.
The themes of the challenges to be solved this autumn include facilitating business operations and new services that can be built by making use of real-time structured financial data. The challenge assignments of the course focus on the objectives of the Nordic Smart Government (NSG). The chosen viewpoint is on the challenges of SMEs operating in the food chain, such as the digital implementation of the value added tax reporting process and self-monitoring to meet food safety requirements.
In Finland, the NSG project is led by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office in collaboration with the State Treasury and the Tax Administration. The State Treasury has been developing e-invoicing and electronic receipts, or e-receipts, and now the work continues at a Nordic level through the NSG project. The Finnish Tax Administration is actively involved in the development work, as the automation of financial administration would also simplify corporate taxation and significantly reduce errors caused by manual data entry in connection with value-added tax reporting, for example.
‘This information is already provided on purchase receipts but it is not yet transferred directly to the buyer’s own systems. Instead, manual labour is required’, explained Vuokko Mäkinen, NSG Advisor, and Pasi Sinervo, Expert at Tax Administration, at a lecture of the course. The automation of this area alone would free the time of SME entrepreneurs to much more relevant work.
One of this year’s milestone challenges relates to the digitalisation of primary production in agriculture. It is expected to improve, among other things, the traceability of product information as the demand for product information is constantly increasing also among consumers.
‘One of the tasks of the food authorities is to help improve the operating conditions of food chain operators. For example, including the lot number of products in purchase receipts would be a step in the right direction’, stated Jussi Peusa, Senior Inspector at the Finnish Food Authority.
In the future-proofing sub-challenge, teams consider how the e-receipt, for example, could help SME entrepreneurs to obtain valuable information about regular customers and their consumption patterns.
19 multidisciplinary student teams, three case organisations and three sub-challenges
Aalto’s academic advisors formed 19 multidisciplinary student teams in advance. After seeing the presentations of all three sub-challenges, the student teams had the opportunity to choose which one they were most interested in solving. The sub-challenges are advanced efficiency, optimized growth and future-proofing. Twelve teams focus on the challenges of either the Finnish Organic Association or the Tapola Camphill Farm and seven on the challenges of Fat Lizard Brewing Co.
The Finnish Organic Association promotes Finnish organic production as well as business and consumer activities. Its objective is to make the benefits of organic farming more efficiently available to the society and rural areas. The Orimattila-based Tapola Farm is part of the Camphill movement and provides housing and employment as well as cultural and other activities for disabled people in need of special support. In addition to traditional farming, Tapola Farm has its own cheese dairy, among other facilities. Fat lizard Brewing Co. is an Espoo-based small brewery established in 2014. After moving to larger facilities in Otaniemi in 2017, the company has been able to provide its craft beer products to retailers throughout Finland.
Support for students’ work from case organisation representatives and Aalto teachers
The majority of the Master’s degree students who participate in the Digitalism challenge course major in the various subjects of the School of Business, but there are also numerous students from Aalto’s three schools of technology and its School of Arts, Design and Architecture. This year, the course organisers were delighted by the particularly high interest towards the course and its challenges among accounting students.
‘Our students can prove that the digital transformation does not always require projects with hundred thousand or million euro budgets. What is essential is to understand the users’ needs and, jointly with experts of various fields, to develop functional solutions based on them’, says Johanna Bragge, Senior University Lecturer at Aalto University.
The School of Business has been developing the Hackathon course concept with experts from Accenture and its service design unit Fjord since 2016. In addition to Bragge, Professor of Practice Esko Penttinen, Researcher Juha Eskelinen and University Lecturer Tapani Kykkänen from the School of Business as well as digital developer Taru Rastas and University Lecturer Annukka Svanda from the School of Arts, Design and Architecture participate in implementing the course. The participants from the SMEs providing the challenges include the executive manager of the Finnish Organic Association, the farm manager of Tapola Farm and the CEO of Fat Lizard Brewing Co. In addition, more than 10 experts from NSG’s public organisations, Accenture and Fjord are involved.
The hackathon event will take place in Dipoli on 11–12 November. The teams will be given the freedom to develop concepts and solutions for the case organisations’ challenges in any manner they wish over a period of two days. Their work will, however, be facilitated through several service design methods and experts from all of the course’s participatory organisations will spar the teams during the intensive days. In addition to the 20-hour hackathon, the Digitalism Challenge course includes preparatory lectures, written group assignments and excursions. The winning team will be selected in the final of 25 November, where teams get to present their solutions to the jury with 4-minute pitch presentations.
Senior University Lecturer
School of Business
Department of Information and Service Management
+358 40 530 1032
+358 40 576 9957
Nordic Smart Government project:
Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH)
+358 29 509 5300
Finnish Tax Administration
+358 29 512 4409
The Twitter hashtag PS stands for Public Sector, because Digitalism Challenge focuses on solving the challenges of the public sector, thus facilitating everyday life for small businesses and consumers.