A user-friendly, visual explanation guide for JYSE, the Finnish terms and conditions for the public procurement of services (version 2009)
Between 2011–2013, researchers from Aalto University collaborated with the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto) in a project aimed at studying and improving public procurement practices in Finland. During this project it transpired that often the meaning and influence of the JYSE 2009 terms (Finnish public procurement terms & conditions, v.2009) was not fully understood. This leads to misunderstandings and ineffective procurement of public services – resulting in stressed civil servants, a waste of public money, and dissatisfied citizens.
Kuntaliitto decided to address the problem by asking the researchers to develop and test a guide to the terms that civil servants could more easily understand, read, and consult – making their work easier.
The JYSE Visual Guide was developed in collaboration with Kuntaliitto’s legal experts, who had a privileged perspective on the most common problems of JYSE 2009. They could easily empathize with the target group, since part of their job was to train, support and advise local civil servants. This collaborative approach ensured that all design and language choices were approved step-by-step by those responsible for releasing the Visual Guide. The experts were asked to comment and suggest improvements as soon as a sketch was ready, since they had to ensure that the Guide included exactly the same content of the official JYSE. They also participated to several full-day workshops with the researchers, collaboratively sketching alternative versions of diagrams and icons icons, and experimenting with different wordings and document structures.
Civil servants also provided early feedback to the prototype, which was in the end tested with 76 civil servants to verify that the information was better understood in this format.
The JYSE Visual Guide featured one diagram per page each explaining a specific contractual topic at a time. Three design patterns were used: flowcharts, timelines and swimlanes.
The diagrams provided visual structures to collect and present together, on the same page, all thematically related clauses. Often, in the original JYSE 2009 terms, such clauses were found in different sections, on different pages. Icons were also used next to the text chunks, to further cue their theme. The new approach aimed at helping readers in finding and integrating all the relevant information more easily – without the need to skim and browse through the whole document.
The Guide was freely available as a PDF online, for civil servants and potential suppliers to download.