On paper, customer-centric design and agile software development are a perfect match: agile teams thrive on creating customer and business value, and designers offer concrete methods for understanding customers and facilitating change. But even though dozens of frameworks and methodologies have been created to organize teamwork and streamline processes, the reality is far from a honeymoon. Teams are constantly facing the same challenges and people feel things could be better.

When we talked to 60 people in 30 different projects, we found that often:

  • Designers feel burdened by the number of mixed tasks. Too little resources combined with poor coordination turns design into a bottleneck that threatens the agility of the whole team.
  • Too little up-front design work causes hot fixes which stress everyone, break the flow of work, and lead to case-specific solutions that do not support the bigger picture.
  • Business goals miss clarity and focus, leading to a constantly shifting direction which frustrates teams. They deliver features instead of value, which reduces autonomy, motivation, and commitment of the team.
  • Customer-centricity is not embedded in the team culture. The responsibility for customer value is not shared amongst the whole team but falling on the shoulders of already exhausted product managers and designers.
  • Agile is not deeply understood but just “acted out”. Teams try to adopt existing agile frameworks straight off-the-shelf even if they seldom fit for them. Following a framework without evolving together is not agile, really.

We can make design and agile work better together

There’s a lot of value to be grabbed here. People and teams could be happier and more committed (which by the way is the key to success). Organisations could create better products faster and get more value for their investment to design and development overall.

Instead of being on the outskirts of development teams, designers could facilitate the team and the surrounding organisation to improve. Better armed, they could create disproportionate impact. But just adding a designer in the team doesn’t guarantee you all the benefits: there needs to be both depth and width in design capability and customer centricity. And most importantly, design and development need to work toward the same goals and share processes, methodologies, tools, and team culture.

Free relationship therapy (in a book form)

We asked designers, developers, product managers and other agile folk about challenges in design collaboration in agile teams. Now we’ve collected the findings into a workbook. Through examples and tips, the workbook helps teams to understand their challenges and to improve their ways of working together. Hopefully it inspires you to develop the best approach for your team, so that you can create world-class products and services for your customers and stay happy and healthy doing so!

We’d also love to have a chat with you to share, care & learn more together. ?

Download the workbook here

Ville Koistinen

Ville helps organisations to frame and clarify problem spaces, and design the right services, operational models and processes to reach their goals. At Gofore, Ville works as a design thinker, leader and doer.

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The role of a People Leader (which is what we at Gofore call our ‘people managers’) is one of the most demanding roles there is. They are the magic-makers juggling between the demands of their own work, that of their team’s and the needs of the business. They are the – sometimes stressed-out – heroes who provide the everyday employee experience for our employees. And we all know from personal experience what an effect a great People Leader has. You feel that you can be yourself. You’re not afraid to try something new because you know you have someone in your corner to support you. When you make mistakes, it doesn’t feel like the end of the world but rather a learning opportunity.

Last autumn, we asked Goforeans to nominate Grand Masters of any area of expertise, and this is what one Goforean wanted to share:

‘She is simply the best superior, People Person, I´ve met in my over 35 years of ICT-career. She is humane, kind, understanding, she listens to you, she takes you seriously, she helps and “kicks you to go the way” you want to develop your own career, she has a coaching attitude as her style, but she is also demanding, meticulous, and prudent when needed. – Simply The Best, real Grand Master Flash!’

Quite amazing, right? Based on our recent well-being survey, 81,5 % of respondents said that their People Leader supports and helps them in their everyday work. And in our October 2021 engagement survey 73 % of respondents agreed with the sentence ‘My supervisor genuinely cares for my well-being’. A big hats off! Even with these kinds of results, we know that being a great People Leader isn’t easy. And we, as a company, need to ensure that our People Leaders stay well and healthy in their demanding job of supporting others. Many of whom work in customer projects themselves at the same time.

Last year we started developing the next version of our leadership model which, over time, will define the role and expectations for a People Leader. From the people development perspective that means, in addition to defining our leadership principles, also creating structures that support our People Leaders’ well-being. For this we decided to utilise the self-determination theory and people’s basic psychological needs. Therefore, our primary focus has been on the competence, autonomy and the support network of our People Leaders. For competence, we built a series of trainings for people manager skills. For the support network, we started the People Leaders Circle.

What are trainings good for?

As separate events, not much. Anyone can go to the internet to find basic tips and training programs for their self development. But our approach was built on two factors:

Firstly: we have both junior and experienced People Leaders, and we need to find a way to secure a basic skills level for everyone in the most important areas.

Secondly: it’s not only trainings that we provide but also each training starts a stream that consists of a small group of People Leaders. This group continues to collaborate on the topic with the goal of co-creating our philosophy and tools for that specific area.

The topics that were selected into this set of trainings were: feedback, difficult conversations, learning facilitation, recruitment & employer branding, well-being, employment law & Gofore’s practices, and Gofore’s strategy, vision and leadership. These were selected due to their heavy impact on employee experience.

In the trainings, we try to find new approaches to or tools for familiar topics that serve as discussion-starters. There’s also as much hands-on practicing as possible. For example, in the feedback training we didn’t practice giving feedback but wanted to focus on strengthening one of Gofore’s building blocks, namely self-management. This happened by introducing a tool that People Leaders can use when their team members come to them with the feedback they have received, but are not sure of how to utilise it for their own development.

Next, our feedback stream is discussing if and how the aforementioned approaches could be utilised as a part of our leadership model. We also gather a ‘Start, Stop, Continue and Unanswered questions’ type of a feedback on Mural after the trainings, which gives good input for the stream’s work. For transparency, we have an open kanban board and open documentation for any People Leader to check the latest stream developments and topics.

People Leaders Circle – what’s that?

The Circle is our internal, group-wide support network for our People Leaders. It’s a Slack channel and it’s a Teams platform. The above-mentioned trainings are directed towards the Circlers. It’s the group of people who have the most impact on Goforeans’ everyday lives so their input and well-being is immensely important for Gofore.

Already previously we’ve had an active Slack channel, for example, for Finland’s People Leaders for the purpose of discussing and checking employment-related matters. The new thing with Circle is that this is a group-wide network. There’s a lot of wisdom in networking and sharing with colleagues from different countries and cultures, and that’s what we want to increase with the Circle. In addition, co-creating group-wide practices requires involvement from all parts of our organisation, and the Circle supports and celebrates this aspect.

Naturally, when we have around 100 People Leaders, most of whom also work in projects on a daily basis, there’s a limited amount of time they can allocate for activities such as the Circle. Therefore, the concept of the Circle is built to be more of an enabler and a resource for the People Leaders when they need support or information. For example, we’ve created and updated some of our onboarding tools to make their work with recruitment and onboarding smoother.

To better understand the needs and wishes of this large group, we also offer a possibility for facilitated small group discussions called ‘My People Leadership’. These discussions are intended to bring the Circlers closer together but also to be a way of discussing one’s own pain points and wishes towards People Leadership and our leadership model. In a group of 100 it’s difficult to create a feeling of togetherness and sharing but in a group of eight it’s easier.

So where does all of this lead?

To tell the truth, there have been times when we have questioned the need for ‘people managers’, just to then realise that there’s no way around it: it is in everyone’s interest that we all have someone to turn to. The fact that we don’t yet know where all of this leads us and what our leadership model will look like in the future is where we are right now.

What we know is that we want to clarify the role of our People Leaders and offer them the support mechanisms and tools that help them feel confident and driven in their work. We want to emphasize that this is a learning path for us all and we’re together trying to find our way. Like it was mentioned in one of our internal blog posts last year: if you notice your own People Leader testing a new approach or way of doing things, be open to that and go with the flow (and give feedback)! That’s our way to do it.

Are you interested to join us? Our strength at Gofore is the diverse team of experts in multiple fields for whom we want to provide the best opportunities to develop and thrive, both at work and beyond. Read more!

Salla Niemelä

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Our customer’s operating environments and needs are constantly changing. As a result, we also need to update our customer understanding to be able to deliver value without falling behind. The customer satisfaction survey we conducted at the end of the year once again provided us with valuable information about our customers ’opinions, wishes, experiences and values. 

Your ally in digitalization and change 

Our customers’ answers draw a picture of their digital transformation as endless journeys full of both opportunities and challenges. There are multiple projects waiting for progression, but the resources are limited. Thus, an important question arises – How to allocate the resources and identify the most urgent and relevant projects? Does this sound familiar?  

The solution our customers want is simple: Instead of quick wins our customers want long-term cooperation. They want strategic partnerships, in which we at Gofore also offer our expertise beyond individual projects, for the long run. So, through discussions already during the projects, we can agilely offer the help of our wide-ranging experts to plan the next steps and new destinations. And when you want to move from planning and design to actual implementation, our services also provide support for change management. 

Read more: Our capabilities


Responsibility in mind, now also in partner selection 

In this year’s survey, we also asked our customers about their attitudes towards corporate social responsibility. As expected, both socially and environmentally sustainable development goals are reflected in the operations of most of our customers, in one way or another. However, the survey revealed something new about our customers and their requirementsIn 2022, our customers will increasingly expect responsibility from their partners as well – More and more of our customers evaluate the responsibility of their partner companies, and use that as criteria in their partner choices. 

Read more: Gofore is building an ethical digital world


Continuity is ensured by the Customer Team Model  

In addition to high-quality experts and successful projects, our customers praised the smoothness of our day-to-day cooperation. Despite our growth, we have managed to retain the experience of cozy homeliness. On the other hand, the clearest pain points of our customers are related to the occasional changes in the composition of the teams. To solve this challenge, among other things, we have built a Customer Team Model. 

More and more of our customers have chosen the Customer Team Model, piloted and proven since the spring of 2021. In this model, one of the most experienced experts in a Customer Team can be appointed to the role of Customer Lead. The most important task of this role is to develop cooperation as a trusted key person, to manage the “big picture”, and to act as an easily accessible first contact, to both our customers and our experts.  

At the heart of Customer Lead’s mission is to take care of the wishes and well-being of both the customer and our experts. That is why our Customer Leads keep an ongoing continuous discussion with their team members about the operational smoothness of the customer project and the tasks involved, as well as their personal learning goals and career development. As a result, staff changes in teams remain predictable, planned and managed. Thanks to our model, the a personnel change in the team does not mean turbulence and slowdown, but fresh ideas and motivated development-minded experts instead.  

We thank our customers for their responses 

The customers who responded to the customer satisfaction survey represented various industries, companies both small and large, from Finland and abroad. Feedback has been processed internally within our organization as well as with our customers, and the findings are already well under way into development and concrete actions. The open-ended answers offered us many new and interesting angles to our clients’ businesses, and the quantitative metrics gave our experts many reasons to be proud of. Our customers ’overall satisfaction on a scale of 1-5 was 4.3, and our Net Promoted Score was 54 (on a scale of -100 to 100, our industry partner’s industry benchmark of 37). Warmest thanks to our customers for their feedback, survey responses and, above all, for the trust and the past year. 

Henrik Vuoksenmaa

Henrik understands customer experience research as a combination of many fascinating concepts: uncompromising customer orientation, data as a friend, and philosophical considerations of intangible and human factors. At Gofore, Henrik works as a customer experience specialist and as a self-declared espresso machine tutor at the Helsinki office

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Gofore’s high level of cloud expertise was officially recognised when Gofore was awarded the AWS DevOps Competency by one of the world’s best-known cloud players, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Gofore is the fourth Finnish company to be awarded a certificate.

AWS DevOps competency means that Gofore provides its customers proven technical expertise in AWS technology as well as measurable customer value by leveraging DevOps best practices. DevOps is a continuous development operating model in which agile system development meets customer-friendly operating methods, enabling, for example, a tight software release cycle and the development of services with the least possible downtime. DevOps is characterized by the utilization of automation technologies and the continuous improvement of processes. The DevOps culture is built on strong trust and open dialogue.

Especially customers who are transitioning to a DevOps culture or are already using DevOps methods will benefit from Gofore’s AWS DevOps expertise. It enables customers to focus effectively on their core business by using reliable and modern tools, tracking and logging solutions to gather feedback, continuously learn, and improve operations.
“Our goal is to be one of the best-known partners in the Nordic countries and Europe for customers who need support for their cloud journey. This recognition is a logical step in this direction. Our proven expertise in creating innovative digital services with DevOps thinking is renewing its business, ”says Jussi Puustinen, Director of Cloud Services at Gofore.

AWS DevOps competency was awarded to Gofore based on a third-party audit and extensive evaluation of DevOps policies.

Gofore offers expertise in all the technologies of market leaders providing cloud services. Gofore’s staff currently holds over a 100 cloud certificates.
Read more about Gofore’s AWS DevOps expertise.

Contact us:
Jussi Puustinen, Head of Cloud

+358 40 6744 748

Jussi Puustinen

Jussi Puustinen runs the Cloud & DevOps unit at Gofore and he is an IT professional who loves the outdoors. Creating continuous customer value is close to Jussi’s heart. He has solid experience within the entire life cycle of IT services for more than 10 years - from strategic planning to implementations. He thrives on helping customers take advantage of new technologies effectively.

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Tiia Hietala

Tiia Hietala is responsible for cloud partnerships at Gofore with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud and develops Gofore's cloud business. AWS certified Tiia also takes care of cloud trainings, plans and executes marketing and produces events. Tiia is passionate about technologies of future and she believes that everyone should get to know the possibilities of cloud services.

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I think design has never been more in fashion than it is today. Did you know that over 80% of the environmental impacts of a product are determined during the design phase? Although both the environmental benefits and harms of the ICT sector as a whole are in discussion, there is a lot that we can do in designing digital services.  

As a teen in the 1990s (almost 30 years ago), I had read about climate change in the newspapers. The scientists were saying our actions might cause the rising temperatures in the atmosphere… Later, I applied and studied sustainable development. At that time, it felt like us students were a small group of “activists” wondering how come “no one else” cared for the environment. My grandpa even dared to call me “kettutyttö”, Google that. But because or despite the anxiety of young people, our society has evolved and a number of things within ecological sustainability have progressed. For example, “the fart-gas” became an alternative fuel in traffic, and plastic packages are collected and recycled (not yet efficiently, but still). And maybe the most remarkable change since the 1990s has been digitalization. I grew up learning the concept of email. Little did I know about my life today. 

Sustainable development means (Brundtland Commission 1987) “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Unfortunately, in many ways, we are still compromising these abilities. As we begin the year 2022, we should remember that every year we are exceeding the World Overshoot Day, and for example, growing attention has been given to biodiversity loss, which means that we are losing nature’s ability to provide us the services we ultimately rely on.  

Before joining the Gofore Crew I worked in the energy industry as a designer and environmental specialist and latest as an environmental consultant providing climate and circular economy services for the industry and public sector. Switching from sustainability consulting to service design seemed maybe a little bit strange to most people. But sustainable design and “design for the planet” are the talk of the day. Like sustainable solutions, also service design is not an intrinsic value. It is connected to business, to the surrounding environment and other design disciplines. For organizations, it requires an ability to think in the long-term and now after working almost 6 months at Gofore, it seems that many industry sectors have embraced the value of service design. Service design is not about organizing nice workshops or co-creating “cool stuff”. What we do serves for purpose. My own inspiration for design originates to maintaining customer experience and relations as an account manager and developing tools and practices for reducing environmental impacts as well as considering different stakeholder groups. 

Today many sectors have taken huge leaps for example in climate action and there is a growing demand for sustainable technologies and solutions, but there is still a lot to do. The number one sustainability challenge companies are facing today is related to managing and utilizing data and developing the sustainability of diverse supply chains. When you buy a product or use a service, you can be certain it has required many steps before getting to you. Also, since IPCC released their latest climate report, it has become clearer that reducing climate impacts outside the company premises is needed and fast. When I imagine the next 10 years or less, reaching carbon neutrality without the role of digitalization or design seems almost like a “mission impossible” (yes, Finland is targeting carbon neutrality by 2035 and it is needed for staying below the 1.5°C climate target). Tackling the climate crisis or biodiversity loss will require many steps and probably re-designing along the way, but we can start by imagining what the world would look like in the circular, climate-neutral economy in 2035: 

  • Sustainability has been taken in the core of management principles and decision making 
  • Sustainable decision making considers a different kind of impacts and also life cycle 
  • The values of sustainable design have been identified and new ways for prevailing our lifestyles have been emerged 
  • The products and services actually reflect our sustainability policies
  • There are procedures and tools by which we can determine and analyze our own impacts and be motivated in sustainable behavioral change 

Together with our customers, we are working in the heart of sustainable opportunities

Together with our customers, we are working in the heart of sustainable opportunities. Although many changes are being realized by increasing resource efficiency, modernization of production facilities, or decarbonizing energy, there will still be challenges that are not met by technology. We will need new services to give us new information and new information will lead to more efficient, more sustainable, or even circular “business as usual”. But none of it will be realized without the help of us humans. As your ally in digitalization and change, we are not only providing digital solutions or practices for sharing data and information but contributing by helping you to understand the transformation and making the most of it. In addition, many of the low-hanging fruits might have already been done and soon before 2035, we are left with challenges that require designing more cooperation, more sharing of information, and more understanding of the complex ecosystems and their impacts, in a digital way.  

Yep, service design is not just for designing services. Do you want to know more about how Gofore’s service designer can help your organisation to solve different challenges? Read more.

Minna Tontti

Minna works at Gofore as a Service Designer focused on sustainability. Her main goal is to help companies and organizations seize the opportunities of circular economy and create solutions that will help us reach the 1.5°C climate target. Minna has a strong 16 years of experience in the energy sector, traditional engineering, and consulting for various industry sectors. Her inspiration for design originates to developing tools and practices for reducing environmental impacts and considering different stakeholder groups there. In her free time, she’s an active participant in her community and volunteers for child welfare.

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