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Case Alko

ERP system takeover and dozens of integrations – providing Alko with a solid foundation for business and the development of digitalisation

Digia took over Alko’s ERP system and rebuilt dozens of business-critical integrations with other systems. The project also created a solid foundation for the future development of the company’s financial administration and digitalisation. The cooperation with Digia went extremely well, Alko CFO Anton Westermarck says

Owned by the Finnish State, Alko Inc. is one of the country’s largest companies in the trade sector. The company has approximately 370 shops that serve around 50 million customers throughout Finland every year. Annual turnover amounts to approximately EUR 1.2 billion. Alko’s mission is to sell alcohol responsibly and to serve society as best they can. The company invests heavily in customer service and wants to lead the way in that area. Such goals and large transaction volumes place high demands on information systems.

Alko has been using Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 ERP system for years. However, further development of the system and, in particular, integration with other IT systems became a challenge. “We felt that we needed to shift to a new gear with regard to the development of the Dynamics 365 environment and business support”, says Anton Westermarck, CFO of Alko.

The company decided to change the supplier of their ERP system and its integrations, and a round of tenders was organised to this end. According to Westermarck, Digia’s tender stood out from the crowd. The company was well acquainted with Alko’s needs and the project’s requirements, and the tender reflected Digia’s long-standing experience with integrations and Microsoft solutions. “The project as a whole has highlighted the fact that Digia has sufficient hard skills for the job. That is crucial in a project like this. With Digia’s service offering and customer orientation, we believe that we will achieve our business goals”, Westermarck says.

What we did

  • ERP system takeover
  • ERP system extensions for e.g. accounting and sales invoice processing
  • dozens of system integrations
  • continuous services

What we used

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations
  • Digia Dynamics 365 added-value solutions

The project as a whole has highlighted the fact that Digia has sufficient hard skills for the job. That is crucial in a project like this. With Digia’s service offering and customer orientation, we believe that we will achieve our business goals.

Anton Westermarck, CFO, Alko

Demanding project was carried out in two parts.

The implementation of the project began in late 2022 with a fairly large project team, whose participants included up to around twenty people from Digia and Alko. It was decided to divide the demanding project into two parts. 

First, Digia had to take over Alko’s current cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 environment. This kind of takeover can have its own unique challenges, as it is not possible to know in advance the exact level of the application code or documentation, for example, from the previous supplier. The level of challenge was increased by the need to complete the transfer quickly, by the end of 2022.

The first part of the project was a success, and Digia took over responsibility for the maintenance of Alko’s Dynamics 365 system on schedule. Some new functionalities were also implemented in the ERP system. For example, invoicing switched to the Digia Dynamics 365 Finvoice added-value solution.

“The project progressed very systematically. The whole time there was a feeling that things were well under control”, Westermarck praises.

At the beginning of 2023, the team moved on to the more challenging part of the project, where the integration layer of the ERP system had to be completely dismantled and replaced with new solutions. Alko uses the ERP system for accounting, purchase and sales invoicing and inventory management processes, for example. There are dozens of connections to other systems, and the transaction volumes are high.

Westermarck says that renewing the integrations was one of the biggest concerns of the project, as their previous implementation was not transparent and there was no sure knowledge of the exact implementation method. However, the whole package working was critical for Alko’s business. Despite the challenges, the replacement of the integrations progressed well and the project was completed at the end of April 2023.

“The team’s expertise was one of the cornerstones of our success, as the role of architecture and integration design is emphasised in a project like this. Deployment into production was smooth and painless, which also speaks to the right things being done in the project”, Westermarck says.

After the completion of the project, the ERP system and its integrations were transferred to Digia’s continuous services. Already at the tendering stage, Alko appreciated Digia’s own Service Center, which provides maintenance services in Finnish. The continuous services include, for example, service management, maintenance, updates and continuous development of the ERP system and integrations. Such services keep the system up-to-date and in good condition.

Surprised by the lack of surprises

Westermarck notes that surprises in IT projects are familiar to Alko as well, and they come up almost as a rule both during the implementation phase of projects and during deployment. “The surprise in this project was that there were no surprises. The project involved some more demanding parts as well as personnel changes on our side, but those were foreseen and handled so well that I have no memory of any problems”, Westermarck says.

He also praises the smooth cooperation. “There was a sense that this is a shared project with one joint project team. That may sound obvious, but it is not always so.” “In addition, we got the feeling that Digia genuinely wants to carry out a good project. This attitude is not always conveyed to the customer in projects. With Digia, however, we had a project with a very good atmosphere”, Westermarck praises.

One additional challenge was that Alko had previously acquired an integration platform from another supplier, and the project therefore involved multi-supplier cooperation. However, the cooperation went perfectly.  

“When a project involves many parties, the importance of communication cannot be overemphasised. The Digia Channel for communication received a lot of praise from us”, says Westermarck.

Alko is already looking to the future with regard to the system. Westermarck considers it important that the project enables digitalisation to be developed further in an effective manner.

“Now we have a stable and secure platform on which we can start developing new things and functionalities”, says Westermarck. “Later this year, we will start drawing up a development roadmap together with Digia, and we will be considering how the system can be expanded.”