The life of a consultant is volatile. When they enter a company as an external advisor and start asking how the personnel carry out their tasks, and question the accustomed operations models, the situation can get quite inflammable on the operative level. Being questioned often causes a defensive reaction and reformation is often met with resistance. Mika Ropponen from Innoman is used to receiving critique, and he is not bothered by it.
The two-and-half-year collaboration between Innoman and Rejlers was recently finished. Successfully.
– There is always resistance to changes in projects of this scale, but the company’s management was successful in transforming the resistance into momentum and made the personnel enthusiastic about the reformation, Ropponen states.
Rejlers CEO Seppo Sorri commends Ropponen on his attitude, which Sorri considers receptive and suggestive, rather than didactic.
– This was not an easy project for anyone. Our business operations are very versatile, and putting them all in the same system and environment was challenging. Many strong people from our organisation participated in the process, and I’m sure that Mika has received his fair share of the organisation’s “praise”. However, he has taken it in an excellent manner, Sorri says and laughs.
The necessity of change
In 2015, Rejlers had come to a point in which the company’s financial administration system had reached the end of the road. It had to be renewed, and help was requested from Innoman.
– The old systems had started to restrict the business facilities to develop. The situation was as bad as it gets, as we could have moved forward, but the system didn’t allow us to do so, explains Joni Pursiainen, Chief Financial Officer at Rejlers, who was in charge of the project on Rejler’s side.
At first, Innoman was hired to put the financial administration system up for a competitive tender. Even though the organisation had the know-how that would have allowed performing the tender, the resources did not allow interrupting the employees’ tasks. The daily operation had to go on without interruption.
Rejlers is a Nordic exchange-listed company that offers engineering services and has its head office in Sweden. In Finland, the company employs 600 people. Rejlers operates in the fields of industry, energy, infrastructure and construction.
Over the years, the company has acquired several engineering offices and merged them. This has contributed to the emergence of several varying operation models within the company.
– When I begin consulting with a customer, we always start from examining the company’s vision and strategy together. Process development cannot be made if we do not know where we are heading, explains Mika Ropponen from Innoman.
Rejlers has a clear vision. The objectives are planned on a long-term basis, in five-year cycles.
– Mika helped us a lot by sparring and challenging us. He asked us whether or not our operations serve the purposes of our five-year objective, Joni Pursiainen explains.
The project was extended
At first, Ropponen was involved in the project to investigate the development of Rejlers’ financial administration. However, he soon noticed that the financial administration was not the only cause of the problems. Instead, they were caused by all the processes that generated data for the financial administration. The need for a more extensive reformation was noted jointly.
– We decided to extend the project, such that I examined all of the company’s processes, the number of which is 74 if I remember correctly, Ropponen says.
This resulted in the decision to renew nearly all of the company’s systems — from the financial administration to HR administration and from project management to customer relationship management.
The reformation’s central objective was to provide the company’s business more room for growth without growing the administration in the same proportion. Making the process description required some time, but people at Rejlers considered it well worth it.
– We seldom have time to make process descriptions as thorough as these. We really worked on them and discussed them for a very long time. In an environment as complex as this, we could not have found the right solutions without doing so, Pursiainen says.
Collaboration depends on people
Innoman’s Mika Ropponen has solid experience with various systems and their suppliers.
– For us, Innoman has acted as an interpreter who explains what the system suppliers offer, what the systems are capable of and what could be of use to us. Previously, we haven’t had systems in the same extent as we acquired now. In a sense, we’ve taken a step into the unknown, Sorri says.
The company has its own way of operation, which requires flexibility of the systems. Ropponen told Rejlers how the different systems are connected to each other. He explained the risks and benefits of having five separate software suppliers and integrating the software. He also explained the risks associated with acquiring all systems from a single supplier.
In the end, Rejlers chose the model with several suppliers. The systems were acquired from a few separate suppliers.
– Mika’s earlier experience in various suppliers was a great help. He knew which systems have been integrated such that the end result always feels functional. On the other hand, he also knew which systems can’t be integrated very effectively. He has knowledge brought by experience, Pursiainen says.
People at Rejlers also commend Innoman on the ease of collaboration. The courses of action were suitable for Rejlers, something they could easily work with.
– Mika didn’t come here in a tuxedo to show us fancy theories with ready-made PowerPoint presentations. Instead, he had a hands-on approach, Pursiainen says.
– He asked us the “stupid questions” and engaged people in discussions. He didn’t lead the discussions, rather, he listened, Sorri adds.
They considered the collaboration with Ropponen flexible and down to earth.
– What strikes me about the collaboration is that Mika continuously challenged us, and especially me, in the innovation process. It was really difficult to explain, because it didn’t exist. The need to develop the innovation process is a fine example of the way Mika challenged us. Now we have it, Sorri states.
Results of the change
People at Rejlers were pleasantly surprised by the fact that the deployment of the new systems led to an invoicing delay of only a couple of weeks.
– The performance is excellent. From our point of view, Innoman and Mika carried out their work very well. Now we have the ball, Sorri says.
In practice, the new systems have already demonstrated their effectiveness in comparison to the old operation models. A great deal of manual work has been eliminated, reporting times have shortened and information on projects is more transparent and more easily measurable within the company.
Now people in the departments of Rejlers learn how to make the most of the new systems. The development work still continues.
– We’ve taken a great leap forward. One of the project’s objectives was to ensure that everything will function in the future when we grow and the world around us changes. The systems must be able to support growth and future changes, Pursiainen explains.