A-Insinöörit Oy is a Finnish construction consulting company. Established in 1959, the company has specialised in construction contracting, structural design, civil and environmental engineering, infrastructure design, and rock and environmental design. Risto Tulenheimo, Chief Information Officer at A-Insinöörit, says that the need to exploit various data sources in the business's internal operations and customer projects really took off in 2020. 

"We concluded in no uncertain terms that resolving this issue was a matter of urgency from the technical and strategic standpoints. We also noticed that we had begun working in isolated silos, and this level of detachment was undesirable from a Group perspective." 

The aim was to build a common data platform that would stream data for the business to use and potentially also for its customers. In addition to the platform itself, the company needed a data strategy and ground rules for working with data. A-Insinöörit has major ambitions specifically to provide and sell digital services to customers, but the company also needed a data platform to enhance its operational efficiency through an internal digital transformation.  

"We concluded that the people here were good, and the company seemed like a flexible, efficient and cooperative partner."

A competitive tendering process was carried out in autumn 2020 with the aim of identifying the best partner – and not necessarily the cheapest one. Future team members were met in advance. 

"We concluded that the people here were good, and the company seemed like a flexible, efficient and cooperative partner," says Tulenheimo.  

In addition to the actual technical data platform, known as Datahub, the company immediately decided to implement two use case applications for production use, leaning on the new platform. The first use case application is the Cost Forecasting Tool, which is used to systematically and efficiently forecast the final costs of projects while they are underway, giving project managers more leverage to ensure good project execution. As far as Tulenheimo is aware, no one else has a similar tool yet.  

The second use case application was a Target Cost Data Repository, which makes it possible to analyse the Group's cost calculations in a consolidated way using the same user interface. This had previously been carried out using individual files. 

When the cooperation began in January 2021, several paths were followed in parallel. The use case applications were launched right away while Datahub was under construction. The company also thought about the future data architecture model and planned its data strategy. 

Azure, Snowflake, Power BI and people working together

Datahub was built on Azure, a natural choice for an engineering company that relies on the Microsoft ecosystem. The platform uses Azure's own technologies, but it also includes Snowflake, which is currently used for purposes such as retrieving file-based cost calculations. 

"In principle, everything could have been done on Azure, but Snowflake has more mature, built-in functionality for purposes such as selling digital services. There are already plenty of practical examples of how to sell data. Power BI plays a crucial role among the other elements. It makes no difference to centralise the data somewhere unless it can be presented as information for users to exploit. Power BI is currently the most important tool for user adaptation. It provides people in different roles with the opportunity to drill down into different data content," says Jani Ojala, Advisory Consultant at Knowit. 

For the time being, a lot of data is still being imported to the cloud platform in a human-centric way. At a later stage, an ERP interface will be added to transfer data from the ERP to Snowflake via Azure. A further goal is for system integrations to start producing data in a common repository, which can then be used to enrich the previous data. A-Insinöörit has several system projects in the pipeline. 

"The primary objective is to have the available data broken down in a standard format and easily accessible, taking into account the necessary access rights. The Group's personnel, from experts to senior managers, are committed to the project, which is important for a cultural transformation like this," says Tulenheimo.   

Change management is required, even in an enthusiastic organisation

A-Insinöörit is clearly enthusiastic about the data platform project, and enquiries are sent every day about the completion of the use case applications and entirely new data products. The executive management is also enthusiastic about the data work. The strategy work, which went on at the same time, has provided insights into the need for cultural change.  

"We need to create roles for data ownership, creation and maintenance. We now understand what it takes to make better use of data sources. We have also decided that we want to make more business intelligence tools available to employees in the future, allowing them to combine data and create analyses without coding. In our sector, it is a necessary skill, but it is still a new skill," says Tulenheimo. 

"In the future, it should be second nature for employees to ask first what data sources are available and how to build views of them," Ojala continues. 

Of course, in an organisation with 900 people, there will always be some who are used to working very independently and are reluctant to share their knowledge. Change management will be required to get the most conservative employees to believe in the benefits of data exploitation and agree to spend the extra few moments required to save data. The tool almost forces the user to see the benefits of doing things together.  

"Often, you have to start with the tool first, but the tool is not the main thing in this case – it is the culture of working together. It is up to everyone – not just managers – to think about how to transfer expertise from more experienced people to more junior personnel. In the future, the tool will be developed based on their insights," Ojala says.  

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Markku Haukijärvi
Senior Sales Executive, Knowit Solutions Oy
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