Finnish intranet products are conquering the world – introducing Universe

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Lately there has been a lot of talk about the competetiveness of the Finnish economy. One thing is for sure: in the intranet market we aren’t doing badly at all! Two Finnish products designed for intranet and digital work – Valo and Universe – are churning out outstanding sales figures around the world. In the spirit of our centenary year of independence, we decided to introduce these two top export products.We interviewed representatives from both Universe and Valo, giving them the freedom to praise their own products as they see fit, but we also asked them to evaluate the competition and describe their product development philosophy. So, in this article we shall focus on Universe.

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.

6 September 2017

Hanna P. Korhonen

Introducing Universe, based on G Suite

Universe is a product that is built on G Suite. It was published only about a year and a half ago, and already it is used, for instance, by the French lingerie giant Groupe Chantelle, the Nordic music retailer Music Retail, as well as Rovio, world-famous for their birds that are angry. The foundation for creating Universe was laid in Gapps Oy during the development of an intranet system for the Finnish national broadcasting company. Nowadays Universe is a company of their own, with a head office in Helsinki, Finland. Their service currently has about 150 000 users.

We interviewed Universe’s CEO Perttu Ojansuu, one of the company’s three founders.

Universe is built on Google’s G Suite ecosystem. Therefore, digital work in organizations utilizing Universe is done within Google’s ecosystem. Universe creates a unifying layer on top of the ecosystem. This layer contains dynamic communication streams, collaboration groups and people, as well as a traditional, communicational intranet if the client so desires.

Perttu Ojansuu, based on feedback from your customers, what are the key features of your product?

“Our clients have been most excited about discussion channels that can be created based on teams, projects or even hobbies, for example. Within these channels it is possible to discuss, like comments as well as work on documents together with colleagues. Furthermore, all information can be found later from within the channel.”

“Universe’s search function has been an important feature right from the start, because an intranet is a tool which tends to get bloated as time goes by. Universal search is able to find information from both employee data and different databases, as well as from within the whole Universe.”

“Many clients still want to have traditional intranet pages, and it is easy to build them with our own CMS product, utilizing existing widgets. It is clear that it is important for our clients that the intranet looks like their own. Therefore, the ability to customize visual branding is mandatory.”

“For our large international clients it is important that offices in different countries and teams within them are able to create their own intranet pages and discussion channels for their own needs. It is equally important to be able to set up pages and discussion channels for the whole organization. These are the building blocks for the news feed of an employee’s own Universe. On the home page, the news relevant to the employee in question are displayed side by side with news regarding the entire organization.”

“From the administrators’ point of view, we have received lots of positive feedback on the simple and versatile admin console, which is seamlessly integrated to the organization’s Active Directory user database.”

Who are your main competitors?

“I believe our most significant competition would be Facebook Workplace, Jive and Lumapps – as well as Microsoft’s ecosystem which includes SharePoint.”

How do you differentiate from the competition? What are the key product differentiation features?

“Our strongest asset is our continuous and quick product development, which is based on listening to the customer during the development process.”

“Technically speaking, our product’s strength comes from the fact that it is based on Google technologies. Compared to our competition, Universe is deeply integrated into the G Suite tools.”

“Regarding the product, in Universe the company’s digital working environment is always available as a cloud service for anyone on any device. Our clients are able to choose whether to build a traditional or a social intranet – both functionalities are included in the system.”

What are the next steps in development?

“Universe as a service is constantly developing at a tremendous pace. For example, the mobile user interface will be streamlined in the near future. Furthermore, we will integrate some SaaS applications often used by major corporations into Universe. This means that they will be available for all our clients.”

What does Universe cost? What kind of a licensing model do you have?

“The license price is from 8 euros per user per month. Our licensing model is based on 12-, 24- or 36-month subscription periods. A 30-day free trial is available.”

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