Agile service development is built into company culture.
Poro Puolitaival is a reindeer safari company located in Luosu village, just a stone's throw away from Ylläs fell. Like all travel companies in March of 2020, Puolitaival lost all of their guests almost overnight when Covid19 arrived in Europe. Sanna Puolitaival and Mika Pakarinen, owners of Poro Puolitaival, were left facing a new challenge - how to make Finnish skiing tourists interested in reindeers and reindeer herding. Like so many other micro companies in the travel industry, Poro Puolitaival is run mainly by the owners. Sanna and Mika had ideas for new products, but found it hard to move from just thinking about things to taking action. Instead of offering a one-time solution, we decided to build an agile culture into the company, and make product testing a routine operation. The work was undertaken as part of a student project through the University of Lapland service design master studies. Students involved in the project were Kirsti Ikonen, Antti Hurskainen, Katri Roininen, and Siina Laurinsilta.
At the start of the project, we wrote down a product idea that Sanna had been pondering for a long time, but had been unable to turn into action. Next, we outlined the product’s key customer profiles. Once we had a rough idea of both the product we wished to create and its main clientele, it was time to set up a small test group. We easily found willing product testers via different social media platforms. Service testing was built to be as simple as possible. Only part of the planned service was offered to the test group. The rest of the service was explained verbally to the group. After the service testing, we presented the test group with questions. They could choose to either write down their answers into the supplied notebooks, or discuss the answers with us around a campfire. After the initial service test, we refined the feedback to a few main points. With agile development, one should always be willing to start from the beginning if the outcome is not positive. Therefore, after each step the entrepreneurs were asked if they were still excited to continue the development process. We next continued to explore the test findings by building an empathy map, developing core values, and making price calculations, all of which were discussed with the test group. After reviewing and considering all the information, we made an evaluation if continuing the process was a smart move. With a positive answer, it was time to create an agile prototype. In this case, we made a short film that was tested with the same test group. Following this, we had enough information from potential customers that we were able to build a customer journey and product description to suit the company’s website. Additionally, we made a marketing plan that catered to the entire sales funnel.
Through the project, Poro Puolitaival’s owner, Sanna, learned the value of agile testing and the importance of feedback. She understood how her ideas can be tested and developed in an agile way. As an additional outcome of the project, we created a test booklet, in the form of a PDF document. It contains easy, step-by-step instructions on how to test new ideas in an agile way.
“Through the project we understood the importance of testing. We tend to consider and refine any new service ideas in our heads for ages. This project showed how easy testing can be.”