Following a change of ownership, Hankkija, Finland’s leading agricultural store chain, needed a partner to overhaul its financial systems. This project aimed to ensure the continuity of financial administration functions both during and after the transition period. Digia has long served as Hankkija’s ERP provider. Hankkija selected Digia as its partner for the transition phase. The process and system changes had to be carried out within two years. The project was successful and Hankkija now uses Microsoft Dynamics AX.
Right from the start, we got the feeling that Digia was prepared to invest in our cooperation. We considered Digia an agile supplier that can react rapidly to the needs of its customers.
Rainer Karjalainen, CFO, Hankkija
“This was the third financial system project in which I’ve been involved – and the best to date,” says Rainer Karjalainen, Hankkija’s CFO. That’s quite a statement, considering the challenging framework in which the project was implemented.
Danish Agro acquired a majority holding in Hankkija Oy in January 2013. Due to this change of ownership, Hankkija had to think about how it should reorganise functions that it had previously shared with SOK, such as finance, HR and IT services.
The new owner Danish Agro gave Hankkija relatively free hands to organise its operations.
“The ownership base changed in phases. During the transition phase, we created in-house processes for Hankkija’s finance, HR and other administration: we had to recruit employees, specify processes and acquire systems to support them,” says Karjalainen. With respect to IT infrastructure, the company had to transfer all of its systems from SOK and start managing them in-house.
“This changeover was challenging for us, but also wonderful. It’s not often that you can start building from a blank slate and define our way of doing things. Even though we worked very well with SOK, this was a great opportunity to further develop our operations,” says Karjalainen.
As CFO, Rainer Karjalainen headed up the creation of the new financial administration system and served as the chairman of the steering group in the procurement project for the new system.
The new system was required to be as feature-complete as possible. Hankkija sought to minimise customisation.
”Customisation leads to costs and poses difficulties down the line when updating to new versions,” says Karjalainen.
Hankkija’s extensive and diverse field of business was a challenge. The company is the largest buyer and exporter of grain in Finland. Its operations include, for instance, the retail and wholesale of agricultural products and equipment. It also runs four feed factories and two seed processing plants. In addition, it serves consumers through its Hankkija stores. This meant that the system had to be very flexible.
The company also wanted the new system to be a touch more cutting-edge.
“Our financial staff must have more time to support business operations or analyse results instead of wasting precious time on digging out data from the systems,” says Karjalainen.
Having examined the system architecture alternatives, Hankkija opted for Microsoft Dynamics AX. The company selected Digia as its system supplier and partner for the tight transition period.
Digia has served as Hankkija’s ERP supplier since 1991. However, familiarity did not give Digia an edge in the competitive tender.
“It’s a plus that we know you and you know us. You know our business and that means it’s easier for us to be on the same wavelength. And, of course, we also took the success of earlier projects into consideration – after all, we’ve been quite pleased with our ERP cooperation,” says Karjalainen.
“But every tender is a separate competition.”
According to Karjalainen, Hankkija was looking for a “suitable package” in the tender, emphasising not only cost-competiveness, of course, but also the credibility of the supplier.
“Right from the start, we got the feeling that Digia was prepared to invest in our cooperation. We considered Digia an agile supplier that can react rapidly to the needs of its customers,” he says.
“Expertise in integration was also highly significant. At a company like Hankkija, systems are extensively integrated, and it is tremendously important for them to run smoothly.”
The close location of the supplier was also an advantage.
The two-year transition period from SOK’s systems to in-house administration set a tight schedule for the project. The company could not afford to fall behind. A year and a half could be spent on setting up the financial systems.
”Keeping to the agreed schedule was vital. It was set in stone,” says Karjalainen.
The project schedule was planned to ensure that any delays or surprises would not jeopardise the final deadline. In practice, this meant rock-solid project management and building buffers into the schedule, for instance. It was also important to test the system in an authentic environment so that errors could be detected before launch.
“Both Digia and Hankkija’s project managers succeeded admirably. The rest of the team members also deserve praise. Hankkija’s personnel performed excellently and formed an expert and high-performing team together with Digia’s employees,” says Karjalainen.
Tight-knit teamwork was essential. As people were recruited for Hankkija’s new financial administration, they also came on board the system project – and thus the system project and specification of financial administration processes went hand in hand.
Karjalainen says that during the entire project everyone felt things were on track. Cooperation was open and effective both in the steering group and at the operational level.
“It’s easy for the steering group to do its job when the project is hitting all its milestones.”
“Our meetings were positive, even when we had to review problems or deficiencies. That’s when the supplier’s worth is truly weighed – when love is imperfect. We value the supplier’s reaction to problems: how quickly and credibly the supplier provides information and reacts even in the toughest situations. Digia’s response was swift,” says Karjalainen.
Hankkija set up its new in-house functions within the two-year transition period. As from the beginning of 2016, Microsoft Dynamics AX has served as the company’s financial steering solution. Digia serves as Hankkija’s partner in system upkeep and development.
“The project remained on track in terms of both budget and schedule. We had a good supplier. We were pleased with our cooperation. Digia kept all its promises. This was an excellent IT project,” says Karjalainen.
After completing this transition phase, Hankkija has no intention of resting on its laurels.
“We always have do things smarter, more agilely and with better quality. IT system solutions should help us in this effort. Hankkija seeks to continuously develop its services and systems,” says Karjalainen.