When VVO corporation started to plan a unique self-service platform for renting directly privately financed apartments, it was clear from the beginning that out-of-the-box software solutions could not be used.
North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.
It is typical for the web stores that even valuable purchases can be made directly, no matter what the time and place is. VVO corporation took this concept to apartment renting: kotinyt.fi service lets the user rent the selected apartment immediately without applications, deposits, or tenant selection.
The new service was implemented in record time: the idea was invented in the end of March 2015, and the system was up and running in little over six months. To ensure the competitive advantage of quick implementation, the project group needed sturdy decisions, good partnerships, and uncompromised dedication to the objectives, tells the IM Service Manager Piia Hyvärinen.
Start with a risk analysis
The new service concept idea was based on the CEO’s question: why couldn’t there be a direct apartment rental service on the internet? Only in one week the project group had preformed process for direct rental service, the KPIs for the process and a list of risks regarding implementing the service.
When creating a totally new service concept, one essential project member (among the business, ICT and communications & marketing people) was a lawyer, states Network Manager Eveliina Heinonen. The goal was to make the renting process straight forward and easy to use, so first, it had to be figured out if it is even possible to realize a system that could handle credit ratings and strong identifications according to the requirements.
Tailor made technical solutions
The implementation project was to be launched quickly, but VVO suspected that there is no way to find a “rental agreements system” as a product, for example as an e-commerce platform. With North Patrol, all possible system options were evaluated, and the need for a custom-made system application was identified. Then the potential partner field was scanned and invitations to tender were sent.
Offbeat Solutions had been successful in co-operation with VVO before, and through the tendering, it was selected to implement the system. Selecting a small software company was a risk which was worth taking: “The commitment and flexibility of a small, entrepreneur lead company is in its own class”, says Eveliina. “The project was so agile that it surprised even us with its speed and snappiness.”
Piia praises also the technical skills of Offbeat, because kotinyt.fi is a pioneering Finnish implementation using ASP.NET 5 technology in Microsoft Azure cloud environment. “For the fluency of the project, it was essential that the implementation partner was Offbeat, that had implemented our support service layer before. Using a multi-vendor model, the compatibility of the components of the system would have been risky, and probably we would not have been able to keep our schedule”, Piia thanks.
When a cloud solution is implemented by a competent partner, even the data security questions are not a reason for worries. The data security of the service was tested by Nixu, as a standard mode of operation for VVO.
The text content management for Kotinyt.fi is done with Contentful system, a still relatively rare system that is designed to manage modular UI elements. The content managers are very happy with their tool: “Contentful has proved to be a well working and reliable tool. Well named modules help finding elements from a system where they are fragmented”, Eveliina tells.
Test users participating in the service design
Digital agency Buena Creative was responsible for the user experience design of Kotinyt.fi service. User stories were created in the concept building phase for designing the user paths of the new service: the customers and their needs were precisely profiled. Thanks to this, none of the questions answered in the VVO customer service has dealt with usability problems.
Buena carried out user testing with the models it created, which gave very important end-user feedback during the development of the service. For example, the Satisfaction Guarantee was not included into the original plans, but according to the tests, it was found to be a critical element for ensuring the secure service experience.
This was one of the rare new features that were added to the ongoing project. VVO’s Project Manager Juha Kurkela was safeguarding the scope of the project from the very first to ensure the schedule that was tight. “Adding new tasks can ruin everything, so it is really important to hold on to the focus and starting points”, Juha notes.
Commitment from the customer and the partner
Juha, Piia and Eveliina formed the VVO’s core team that even fitted their summer vacations to the needs of the project. “In this project, it was crucial that we had a core team of three members ready to answer questions and to outline solutions all the time: there were no unhandled open questions pending. Otherwise, in the Finnish work culture, it is not very smart to have a project in the summer time”, states Juha.
This model, however, requires commitment and putting other demanding projects aside. “This has been our best IT project – it was carried out as planned, and the results are better than we dared to hope!”, comments Juha.
The work has been done with good vibes, and the roll-out phase has been greeted in the corporation with excitement. The house hunters have adopted Kotinyt service very well, and new rental contracts are created online all the time.
Project data and specifications
verkkokauppa.Lumo.fi/en (VVO group)
MS ASP.NET 5 technology + Contentful
- March 2015 – Concept design
- April 2015 – Technology selection, requirements specification, request for proposals (North Patrol)
- May-July 2015 – UI design and user testing (Buena)
- May-August 2015 – Implementation (Offbeat)
- September 2015 – Acceptance testing and content creation
- October 2015 – Roll-out and launch