Digitalisation and customer orientation are partially achieved in the case of services directed to new entrepreneurs. However, more attention should be paid to ensuring that the services genuinely consider the customer’s needs.
The starting of a business involves many statutory processes, such as the processing of permits, licences and notifications, as well as support, advice and funding services for new entrepreneurs. Digitalisation of these statutory processes has an indirect impact on central government finances. Fluent administrative procedures can be considered to make people more willing to become entrepreneurs, which will make the economy more active and may reduce the unemployment rate. From the viewpoint of public authorities, digitalisation can improve profitability, provided that the development and automation of tasks boosts the effectiveness of the work processes.
The National Audit Office of Finland examined how successfully digitalisation has been used in the public sector processes required for starting business activities. The audit used the establishment of a restaurant as an example. The purpose with the example case was to get an idea of the practical impact of digitalisation in a specific sector and in some actual permit processes. The audit focused on customer orientation of the services and digitalisation of the work processes of the authorities.
It is not always easy for a new entrepreneur to get an overall idea of what becoming an entrepreneur would require from them. Information searches and services for those considering the establishment of a business have been centralised in the For companies section of the Suomi.fi website. At present, the website does not genuinely offer all services under one roof, however. When developing the website, compliance with the users’ needs must be ensured.
The degree of digitalisation of the processes connected to the starting of a business varies: some actions can be fully completed online, while paper forms are still used for others. Customer orientation in the digitalisation of services varies as well, although government agencies have identified customer orientation as an important starting point.
The development of customer-oriented services could be supported by creating operating models which increase the focus on understanding the customers and considering the customer perspective in development work. Meanwhile, public authorities must be encouraged to develop services in cooperation, in a cross-administrative manner, to ensure that the services are smooth from the viewpoint of the customer. Similarly, the starting point in the case of centralised digitalisation support services directed to government agencies should be the problems and needs of the customer agencies. Investment funding models must support the completion of development areas which are considered sensible.
The audit is part of a Nordic parallel audit. The participants included Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.