Service Union United PAM set out to modernise its member information system due to the usability problems, outdated technology and integration challenges of its old system. PAM also decided to overhaul its operations. The new system was created in cooperation with PAM’s long-term partner, Digia.
Digia’s experts from all over the company have participated in the project. We’ve been able to tap into all of Digia’s expertise.
Jukka Mattila, CFO, PAM
The familiar metaphor of fresh winds aptly describes the situation at Service Union United PAM, which has its offices in the Ympyrätalo Building in Hakaniemi, close to the sea. The modernisation of the member information system has ushered in welcome changes. The union launched the first parts in spring 2016.
The last parts of the new system will be operational by the end of 2017. The new member information system has already enhanced the efficiency of the union’s operations thanks to the development of automation and workflows, and freed up employees’ time for other tasks.
PAM’s old member information system dated back to the 90s. Usability problems, outdated technology and integration challenges provided the impetus for modernisation at PAM. In addition to the problems of the old system, PAM also had a need to overhaul its operations.
“Our intent was to automate certain functions and, for instance, simplify the processing of membership applications, thereby freeing up our employees’ resources for other work,” says Mattila.
“And, of course, automation also reduces errors,” says Tarja Rönkkö, CIO of PAM.
This was not just any old project, as the member information system is the foundation of all of PAM’s operations.
“The system includes the basic information on our members, their addresses and membership fee payments. Among other functions, we use it to keep track of payment transactions, on the basis of which we distribute the membership payments to the unemployment fund and union branches,” says Jukka Mattila, CFO of PAM.
When you set out to build a new system, you have the opportunity to overhaul the organisation and change old ways of thinking. PAM seized this opportunity and made the most of it. Design and work have been based on one recurring question: why?
“As the project progressed, we thought about issues such as how we process information in the system and how we go about working. Not everything was always done the way we asked as a client. Instead, Digia’s people cast a critical eye and asked us why we did certain things in a certain way. This ‘why’ was a very welcome question,” says Rönkkö.
Asking questions and rethinking workflows boosted the efficiency of membership application processing, for instance. In addition to the modernisation of the system, PAM also ushered in changes inside the union.
“We carried out an organisation overhaul at the same time, introducing new structures in our member services. Tasks were redistributed and existing employees changed their working methods. It’s hard to say whether the system modernisation resulted in changes in ways of working or whether the reorganisation of employees also influenced the outcome of the modernisation,” says Rönkkö.
That said, there’s no doubt about the results. The most significant of the improvements made to date is faster processing of membership applications thanks to automation and process modernisation.
“We receive more than 20,000 membership applications every year. Earlier, the queue could be several days long, but now applications are processed in real time and go straight through the system, provided no additional information is required on them. Our membership application processing has never been in as good a shape as it is now,” says Rönkkö.
“We’re quite an exceptional union in that our annual member turnover, about 20,000-25,000, corresponds to the size of a medium-sized union. That’s why everything that we can automate, thereby facilitating our operations, frees up plenty of resources,” adds Mattila.
For the time being, over and above the processing of applications, the system modernisation has had only a slight visible impact on the members. However, PAM will also modernise its payment traffic in 2017, enabling the union to more easily monitor membership fee payments, for instance.
“Unfortunately, we have to collect late fees from our members. Sometimes these payments may have been left unpaid for as long as half a year. Thanks to payment processing in the new system, we can send advance reminders of membership fee payments, also in different situations and for specific target groups,” says Rönkkö.
The overhaul of payment processing has financial significance to both PAM and its members.
“If one hasn’t paid membership fees for half a year, the threshold to pay these forgotten fees is much greater than if the late payment is only for one month. It’s also advantageous to our members, as their benefits don’t get cut off due to non-payment, and thus they won’t have problems when they need us,” says Mattila.
The biggest treats for members are yet to come. According to Mattila, the setting up of the new system will open up a variety of opportunities in the future.
“We will develop e-services and other functions that serve our members directly on top of the new system. That said, I can’t emphasise enough that automation has already freed up resources for other work. Now we have more time for taking care of member services, too.”
Although PAM and Digia have been working together for years, the modernisation of the member register took their partnership to the next level.
“Digia’s experts from all over the company have participated in the project. We’ve been able to tap into all of Digia’s expertise,” says Mattila.
The project is driven by many kinds of changes in operating methods. In addition to questioning processes, the development has been handled agilely.
“Earlier, our projects involved ordering a package that would then be delivered a year later. Now we’ve proceeded agilely, piece by piece, and achieved visible and complete results,” says Mattila.
“The work has been done with great professionalism. Digia has really listened to us and provided us with the best resources to carry out the modernisation,” says Rönkkö.
The agile operating model has enabled this large-scale project to avoid the greatest challenges. The work has stayed on schedule because the project has been divided into smaller parts that are completed one by one. Flexibility and prioritisation by both parties has also facilitated progress.
“The adequacy of resources has posed challenges. We have many projects and launches ongoing at the same time. Some of the same employees are working on these different projects. They’ve occasionally had to prioritise their tasks to ensure progress. But we’ve tackled everything well,” says Rönkkö.
Committed employees comprise one of the most important factors behind successful system modernisation. PAM has this aspect well in hand, too.
“Our employees have been very enthusiastic and they’ve been excited to adopt the new system,” says Rönkkö.
Digia’s service design played an important role in motivating employees. Right from the start, the actual users of the system were able to influence the functionalities and features of the system UI.
“Users were listened to during the pilots and their suggestions for changes were taken into consideration. Even small issues, like the UI colours, facilitate work. This has helped personnel to commit themselves to the project and modernisation,” says Rönkkö.