The membership register is the most important information system of Suomen Yrittäjät, an organisation serving more than 115,000 companies. To ensure the system's ability to serve the organisation and its members well into the future, Suomen Yrittäjät decided to purchase the continuous development of the system as a service from Digia. In terms of technology, the solution is based on the products of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 family and on Power Platform. Now they have a system that works, with its usability and functionality improving on a weekly basis.
Suomen Yrittäjät is the largest central organisation in the business life. Its nearly 400 local associations, 20 regional organisations and 58 trade associations have in total more than 115,000 member companies. The membership register plays a key role in all of the organisation's operations.
The CRM system that was used for the membership register was replaced through another supplier in 2015, but it was discovered very soon after the delivery that the end result did not meet the organisation's long-term needs. Therefore, a decision was made to abandon that solution after a relatively short period of use.
Janne Pärnänen, CIO of Suomen Yrittäjät, says that a lot was nevertheless learned from the first project, and a different approach was applied to the new system project. Instead of a traditional project delivery, continuous system development was seen as a better way of guaranteeing the functionality of the system, as it was believed to provide more leeway to find ways to improve the efficiency of the organisation's operations in the long and short term.
Because Suomen Yrittäjät was already using Microsoft solutions to a large extent, Dynamics 365 was ultimately a clear choice.
“We wanted a solution that will serve us for a long time and enables further development into the distant future. From the supplier, we require experience in system deliveries to organisations and the ability to commit to the continuous development of the system. We also wanted to cover our own back by choosing a technology the development of which could be transferred to another partner if necessary,” Pärnänen says.
What we did
- Continuous Services
What we used
- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales
- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service
- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing
- Microsoft Power Platform
It has been a relief to see that we got all our choices right. In Digia, we have a partner who has been able to support us throughout our journey. Users have actively come up with improvement ideas, and our roadmap also includes larger reporting-related development targets.
Janne Pärnänen, CIO, Suomen Yrittäjät
Internal organisation as a precondition for success
Suomen Yrittäjät decided to implement the system purchase with an agile sprint model and realised that their own organisation was a prerequisite for the project’s success. A project team with sufficient personnel resources allocated to it was established for the project.
In addition, internal channels were established to provide information to local associations and regional and trade associations. The intention was that feedback and wishes concerning further development would also be collected through the same channels.
Digia was selected as the partner, as its references concerning system deliveries made to organisations and the company’s Dynamics 365 and Power Platform expertise were convincing.
“Our goal was to build a system that would genuinely serve our entire organisation in the best possible way. For this reason, internal organisation and the allocation of sufficient resources were necessary,” Pärnänen says.
Plenty of time was reserved for the project phase
The project phase of the system delivery started in early 2019 and the ready-to-use solution was fully deployed for production use in spring 2020. The reason for the relatively long delivery time was the comprehensive nature of the solution and the decision to take all the functions into production use at the same time.
In the early stages of the cooperation, it was agreed that Digia’s team would operate in the premises of Suomen Yrittäjät. This enabled efficient work and communication between Digia’s technical experts and the project team of Suomen Yrittäjät.
“The project phase was intensive, but it produced the desired results. The system that was taken into production use was very much in line with what was planned, and the transition from the project to continuous development happened very naturally,” Pärnänen says.
The solution consists of Dynamics 365 product family solutions and customisations implemented with Power Platform
The CRM, which acts as a membership register, is the most important information system for Suomen Yrittäjät, with almost all of the organisation's tasks from customer service to communications and invoicing being handled through it.
Therefore, Dynamics 365 Sales, which is intended for more traditional business use, was not directly suitable for the organisation’s use. The solution was expanded with other Dynamics 365 modules, such as Customer Service and Marketing.
However, Power Platform developed by Microsoft and the Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Apps functions included in it played a crucial role, as they can be used for customizing Dynamics 365 solutions almost indefinitely without tampering with the system’s functional logic.
“Power Platform enables no-code/low-code customisations to Microsoft systems efficiently and without the problems related to traditional customisations. It plays a key role in system deliveries based on continuous development, as it can be used to safely do almost anything the customer wants,” says Digia’s solution architect Anders Eronen.
Continuous development ensures the system’s compliance with requirements
Requirements for information systems are changing at an increasingly rapid pace. This has also changed the way systems are delivered and procured. Cloud-based technology allows technology manufacturers, such as Microsoft, to continuously ensure the security and compliance of the systems’ core functions.
As for system development carried out as a continuous service, it allows customer-specific functions also to be improved and added in an efficient manner. Unlike development projects carried out as project deliveries, continuous development work is not slowed down by bureaucracy, and development even accelerates as cooperation deepens.
“The popularity of the delivery model based on continuous development has grown enormously, as this model ensures that the same information system can also meet future needs. In addition, it enables quick responses to user feedback,” says Henri Lähteenmäki, Service Manager at Digia.
It was also clear to Suomen Yrittäjät from the very beginning that this would be the model they wanted to use for system procurement.
“Experience has shown that agile and continuous development is well suited for system projects, as many development areas are only revealed through use. In addition, the users’ requirements for the system are increasing further. Because we wanted to take into account the development proposals we receive from the associations and ensure rapid system development, we decided to purchase the maintenance and development of the platform as a continuous service,” Pärnänen says.
Cooperation with Digia has worked exceptionally well
Working in an agile model sets a wide range of requirements for both parties involved in the system delivery.
The supplier must be able to understand the customer's industry-related and unique needs and respond to them at the technical level, whereas the customer must commit to close cooperation and the testing of functions, while also being able to prioritise development areas.
In terms of success, creating a good spirit of cooperation between the teams is also important. In the cooperation between Suomen Yrittäjät and Digia, all these requirements were met extremely well.
“Common ground with Digia employees was found quickly, and work has been carried out efficiently during the entire project. Turnover and its effects on the work are always a concern in such projects, but although some changes did take place during our cooperation, their impact has been minimal,” Pärnänen says.
The choices made at the beginning have proved to be correct
Suomen Yrittäjät had to start their system reform in a situation where the failure of the previous delivery was still fresh in their minds. The new project was carefully prepared and the organisation was ready to commit to making it a success.
The technology, delivery model and partner choices made at the beginning have now proved to be correct. The membership register used by Suomen Yrittäjät meets the organisation’s current needs, and the development work obtained from Digia as a continuous service ensures that this will continue to be the case in the future.
“It has been a relief to see that we got all our choices right. In Digia, we have a partner who has been able to support us throughout our journey. Users have actively come up with improvement ideas, and our roadmap also includes larger reporting-related development targets. One of the reasons for choosing Microsoft's solutions was that we would not be tied to one supplier, but we have no reason to even consider replacing Digia with another partner,” Pärnänen concludes.