Senate Properties is the Finnish government's work environment partner and specialist, which, together with its customers, creates work environments that support its operations and is responsible for maintenance. State agencies lacked a centralized system to support collaboration. In the processes run by the Senate Properties, external partners are also often involved, in which case even the state's internal systems would not be sufficient for joint communication.
Senate Properties started using Howspace widely to enhance collaboration and digitize work. The Howspace platform is utilized for leadership coaching, facility renovations, executive management meetings and management information events provided by Senate Properties. Moreover, Howspace supports shared workplace and office space strategy. HR has also adopted the tool and uses it for internal training.
Out of the 65,000 Finnish government employees, 25% use the Howspace platform. Designed to enhance collaboration and support engagement, Howspace is used for leadership coaching, facility renovations, and management information events provided by Senate Properties. Out of the government employees who do specialist work, as many as one third use Howspace.
As the work environment partner to the Finnish government, Senate Properties helps to ensure that state employees have the best possible working conditions. The organization works with its clients to create smarter, more modern work environments suited to their activities and is also responsible for maintaining workspaces. When the goal is to provide the best possible environment for doing the work that makes Finland the world’s safest and most functional country to live in, it is vital that every professional engages in the co-creation, bringing in their valuable skills and input.
“Through Howspace, we can reach a large number of people and make a remarkable impact. A huge proportion of government employees are affected by pressures that come with change and being a frontrunner, so it really helps us when we have a way of bringing everyone together to share insights on important topics. Howspace gives everyone visibility on all the information, dialogue, and the big picture at the same time,” says Pertti Siekkinen, Specialist in Change Management at Senate Properties.
According to Siekkinen, state agencies had no centralized system to support collaboration prior to using Howspace. The processes run by Senate Properties often also involve partners from outside central government and individual public-sector agencies, so even the state's own internal systems would not be sufficient for joint communication.
“Our projects last for three years at minimum, sometimes with long breaks in between. Howspace is great for engaging people, so we can invite them to participate whenever new results have been obtained, decisions have been made, or the next workshops are approaching,” Siekkinen explains.
Siekkinen and his associate, Change Management Specialist Santeri Paakko, originally started using Howspace because they wanted to move more of their day-to-day work online. Howspace seemed like a “convenient choice” for that need. Now they believe that they’ve gained far more value than expected in deploying the tool.
“This new way of doing things has definitely made our work smoother. Now, we can easily bring all the participants together in one single environment where maintaining the discussion and collaboration happens in a simple and engaging way," Paakko describes.
Currently, Howspace is used by Senate Properties to support leadership coaching, facility renovations, workshops, management information events, customer-facing work, senior management meetings, and the shared workplace and office space strategy. HR has also adopted the tool and uses it for internal training.
According to Siekkinen and Paakko, one of the reasons for the widespread use is that the platform saves time and money. Many costs incurred by traveling, facility bookings, and accommodation are avoided, and time is saved when people no longer have to travel to meet each other in the same physical space.
“We have seen clear financial benefits from using Howspace. When looking at the past few years, the costs would have been substantially higher if we had assembled all 170 of our managers from around Finland in the same location for an event, compared to now that we have a streaming service on site and Howspace supporting collaboration. Organized this way, the event comes in at well under a tenth of the price compared to the original face-to-face version," say Siekkinen and Paakko.
Siekkinen applies the same calculation for all other customer events, which have traditionally involved bringing together all personnel from a certain region plus experts working elsewhere. With virtual collaboration, it is now possible to assemble experts from various sectors and tap into the best know-how from the entire country.
“I wouldn't run a face-to-face event without Howspace any longer, either. We have the structure of the entire process, workshop and project ready and available on the platform, and everything can be facilitated using Howspace from start to finish.”
As an example of a big, successful, asynchronous change, Siekkinen highlights the recent merger of Senate Properties and the Finnish Defense Forces’ Construction Establishment. This large-scale reform really stress-tested the organization’s ability to foster collaboration and engagement.
“The change communication for our new organization and our first joint strategy process was successfully implemented using Howspace. Above all, a merger of this size would not have been possible during the pandemic without appropriate digital tools. Managing it just by sharing documents with Yammer and SharePoint simply wouldn’t have cut it,” says Siekkinen.
“When it comes to communication, Howspace is very different from other tools, because it provides a place and time for people to join forces and collaborate instead of one-way messaging. Working together in Howspace always serves a defined purpose; it’s clear to everyone why they have gathered together.”
Furthermore, Siekkinen and Paakko highlight that when a strategy is created by digital collaboration, it is much more likely to immediately take root in the everyday culture of the organization.
“With Howspace, we can also support one-to-one discussions and build the entire strategy and its priorities step by step in small groups. Everyone’s thoughts can be heard, and with the help of various surveys and AI features it’s quick and easy to summarize the shared input in a way that makes sense.”
Prior to the pandemic, Paakko and Siekkinen could not have predicted that the value of digitally supported collaboration—and thus the number of Howspace users—would rise to the current, staggering numbers. But the tool was becoming extremely popular at Senate Properties even before the pandemic.
“We instantly discovered how much more effective this makes our job and how we can engage everyone in our work environment projects when we do them online,” Paakko recalls.
“Now we are always running a large number of projects, and particularly after the pandemic, this new way of doing things has been a real lifesaver. It was mind-blowing to see that while people were more or less isolated at home for a good two years, the number of people attending our events just kept growing!”
At Senate Properties, as much as 75% of all personnel participate in the organization's internal, monthly management information events. Before the pandemic, no more than half of employees took part in the on-site workshops.
“Try to name any other way that you could reach the same audience, or make people as engaged and excited as they are now! An information event with a recording done in advance for everyone to view and find answers to their questions is our way of ensuring that all personnel have access to all current information. Leaders can upload their own videos to Howspace at any time, lowering the threshold to sharing information and starting discussions.”
For almost every collaborative process, people at Senate Properties will get together in Howspace workspaces. According to Paakko, the underlying reason for this is that everyone gets a feeling of success when working in Howspace. Using the tool is easy for facilitators and participants alike, and each person is invited to join the platform every time their contribution is needed.
“The structure of the dialogue is very unique in Howspace. What is impressive in Howspace is that participants are invited to join in the ongoing parts of the process to do the very thing that is important at that moment. Everything is accessible to the participant, and the entire process is broken down into manageable pieces," Siekkinen continues.
Paakko also praises the fact that for an organization of around 1,200 people, two main users are enough to manage the tool.
“I've never before come across a program that's so simple to use and where everyone can immediately create their own workshop and use it to support their work. The biggest difference to other software is that with, for instance, Teams or PowerPoint, I can't work asynchronously or support asynchronous work. Many additional tools would be required to achieve the same benefits, such as Webropol for surveys, and SharePoint for document management... A convenient tool does exist for each single part that is needed, but for building and supporting the entire process end to end, Howspace is superior."
Security has also risen in importance within the government. Siekkinen points out that it is important to remember that all platforms and activities within an organization must have their own agreed context.
“Hopefully in the future, there will be guidelines for the government on how cloud services could be used for handling classified material. Currently, using cloud services for classified material is not possible. That’s why we don’t add any sensitive material to Howspace. Instead, we use it to focus on collaboration and dialogue among all participants. We rarely have to deal with classified material, and when we do, as of now, we use other tools," Siekkinen concludes.