Aalto ITP, Strategy & Experience Design – Business Project
- Strategic Design
- User Experience Design
- Prototyping and Implementation
- ITP Business Project
What is ITP?
Aalto University Information Technology Program (ITP) is a summer minor study module which brings together students of business, design and technological backgrounds from all over the world to solve digital business problems. The program includes three specialization tracks with the business project course being the core for all of them.
The objective of the business project is for students to apply the theory learned during the conceptual courses, develop the skills of project management, research methods, and create concepts that solve a real-life challenge given by companies. During the summer, students plan and conduct the project while developing a variety of work-life and personal teamworking skills such as client relations management, meeting practices, reporting, and visual and oral presentation (Aalto School of Business, 2019).
Strategy & Experience Design (SED) track consists of workshops, group work, lectures and other events. It is designed to provide students with an understanding of basic methods for producing and designing digital media products and services, concept and design processes, and strategic decisions related to digital media. SED courses and business projects are focused on strategic design processes, user experience design and visual prototyping in digital services.
Business Project Overview
Aalto Advancement and Corporate Engagement (ADCO) department wanted to carry out a study to better understand their donors and Alumni audience and find ways to improve engagement with them. ADCO recognized that they face some design problems and wanted us to find out how we can improve the experience of their donors.
We identified key alumni segments and designed user personas and user journeys with actionable touchpoints, proposed communication guidelines, as well as gave workshops and presented to the entire ADCO department valuable insights, future recommendations, and provided a full report to the commissioner.
Understanding Alumni – Advancement and Corporate Engagement
The funding for Finnish higher education has decreased. One approach to tackle part of the issue is to aim to increase the number of donors. To help Aalto University to address the challenge of the Finnish giving culture in higher education still being in its infancy, and to help the organisation to meet the graduates needs’ better, the ITP student team created design-based insights and tools to form a basis for further development.
During the three-month-long program, the project was done in an intercultural and multidisciplinary team of four students. The project was done in collaboration with Aalto University’s Advancement and Corporate Engagement department (ADCO) with the aim to increase their understanding of the Aalto alumni as an audience, and to develop tools that they could use to improve the alumni engagement in Aalto University. We conducted over 20 interviews with various key stakeholders and created a survey that received 400 responses. Based on the analysis of the survey results, the team created a segmentation of the different alumni groups. The concept includes also communication guidelines, customer journeys, user personas, possible actionable touchpoints to improve on, and workshop templates, which are created to support the work in Aalto University, especially in Donor Relationships team.
With the outcome results of the project, Aalto University can provide the alumni with more tailored content and various participation possibilities, and create eventually a culture where giving time and donations to one’s alma mater is considered to be a common practice among the alumni.
Key deliverables included:
- Gathering data on alumni
- Defining segments
- Creating personas
- Creating donor communication guidelines
- Mapping out the current alumni journey
- Identifying potential new touchpoint concepts
- Mapping out an ideal alumni journey
In-depth interviews and surveys were conducted with the aim to understand real-life stakeholders backgrounds and develop data-driven insights for our deliverables of personas, customer journeys, communication guidelines, touchpoint concepts and actionable recommendations for future fixes. Alongside interviewing internal stakeholders within the ADCO organization, a survey was sent to 4 000 alumni with equal distribution of people from all different age groups to get a representative set of responses. We received 400 responses to the survey, which were then connected to CRM data on the respondents based on their email address.
The alumni survey focused on four main areas:
1. Previous participation in different types of alumni engagement.
2. Interest in participating in different types of alumni engagement.
3. What the alumni see as important regarding alumni engagement.
4. What should be improved to make them more interested.
The segmentation was done based on both the survey results as well as the insights we got from the interviews conducted with alumni and other stakeholders.
To create effective alumni segments for ADCO, two key factors were kept in mind: general requirements of good segments, and the current way of working in ADCO. The general requirements for an effective segment are that it has to be measurable, accessible, substantial, differentiable, and actionable.
Based on the survey data we developed two tentative factors that we think define the behaviors of the three segments: group-orientation vs. individual orientation and supporting the community vs. benefiting from the community. The positioning of the different segments on these two axes is depicted in the following figure.
- Alumni with ARTS study background
- Alumni with TECH study background
- Alumni with BIZ study background
Combined with age-based segmentation for different types of engagement:
4. All ages for social alumni activities
5. Alumni below the age of 65 for career related engagement
6. Alumni over 65 for senior specific activities
7. Alumni under 50 for student and young alumni related engagement
Ideation – Using a Design Thinking Approach
While using was what tought to us in other courses in the ITP programme, such as design thinking principals, we began to ideate our customer journey map and user personas, based on our findings discovered, followed by possible touchpoints where engagement can take place.
We went through different possible visual representations and contributing many different ideas and conclusions e.g for touchpoints.
With our research learnings, we created 3 personas that embodied the archetypes of our user group. We then mapped out the user journey of our persona profiles, including his thoughts and feelings as an alumni. From this, we were able to visualize areas of pains and gains and create a focal point on the problem space.
We found that most of the alumni value opportunities for professional development, but the alumni from different Aalto schools have otherwise different types of interests, needs and ways they want to engage with the university.
To answer the different needs of the graduates we identified different alumni segments. On top of the segmentation, the solution we presented (both in a written report and formal presentation given in front of over 20 staff members from the ADCO department) consisted of communication guidelines, possible actional touchpoints, customer journeys, user personas, and workshop templates. Through the project outcome, Aalto can serve different Alumni groups better and therefore enhance the giving culture and donations in the long run.
In regards to this project (alongside our other courses), I learned that strategic design is not so much an individual skill, but as an organizational capability. Before going into this programme, my assumption of what design was a whole lot different. I was able to take from this experience the basic understanding of methods for producing and designing products and services, concept and design processes, user experience design, and strategic decisions related to digital media.
Working on a real-life project like this, based on the needs of collaborating companies helped me develop a variety of work-life and personal teamworking skills such as client relations management, meeting practices, reporting, and visual and oral presentation. I’m confident my experienced gained from this is transferable and I’m grateful for this opportunity. I especially got to make great close connections with my diverse team, other classmates, and amazing lecturers.
Acknowledgment: The project was made possible by Aalto ITP, our project commissioner organization, and most importantly, our hard-working team; Onni for his leadership and analytical skills, Lien for her can-do spirit and gluing the team together, and Eva for her energy and amazing graphic design skills (Unfortunately Eva was not able to be present in the photo).
Other Cases and Projects
Google Online Marketing Challenge
(GOMC) an experiential ‘DMCC’ student project for a Non-Profit organization.