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 Valo.
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.
Introducing Valo, based on SharePoint
Valo, made by the company called Blue Meteorite (Sininen Meteoriitti in Finnish), is a product built on Office 365. It has been available for longer than Universe, initially as a version based on on-premise Sharepoint. In just recent years, Blue Meteorite has recruited a global partner network to support Valo sales. There are 100 partners in 30 different countries. It’s beginning to bear fruit: Valo has been sold to 21 different countries, the top sales numbers coming from the USA, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Australia – in addition to Finland, of course. Some examples of current Valo clients are the Dutch telephone and broadband operator VodafoneZiggo, and the global cosmetics enterprise Oriflame. There are over 200 clients and appoximately half a million end users. European SharePoint Community awarded Valo as the best intranet/extranet product in 2016.
We interviewed Juha Koivula, Blue Meteorite’s product manager.
Valo is built on Microsoft’s ecosystem, and SharePoint in particular is utilized by Valo. This means that digital work in organizations utilizing Valo is done within Microsoft’s ecosystem. On top of SharePoint, Valo builds a unified, communicational-social intranet which contains all typical intranet functionalities. It also includes collaboration groups which have been improved in this product especially as regards workspace management.
Juha Koivula, based on feedback from your customers, what are the key features of your product?
- “News: easy to publish, user profile based targeting.
- Event calendar: targeting, signing in.
- Content pages: preset page templates which enable the content creator to focus quickly on the content itself with minimum amount of time spent on configuration.
- Teamwork: workspace templates and overview page, lifecycle model. All Office 365’s different teamwork tools are gathered into one neat view.
- Mobile: Nowadays responsiveness is a standard feature, but today most users will ask for a mobile app which will provide better usability and notifications, for example.
- Social features: commenting and liking content. Possibility to create posts without an official intranet content creator role.
- People: personal search, new employee introduction, user profile.”
Who are your main competitors?
“Our biggest competitors are intranet-in-a-box solutions built on the SharePoint platform. However, none of these have so far made their debut in Finland. These include e.g. Wizdom from Denmark, Unily from the UK, Bonzai from Canada, Rise from the USA, Powell 365 from France, and dozens of others. In Finland, our competition consists mainly of customized intranet implementations that are based on SharePoint. One can say that even email and other archaic communications systems are Valo’s competitors. They still play a significant role in very small organizations.”
How do you differentiate from the competition? What are the key product differentiation features?
“The foundation we are building our global success on is definitely Valo’s exceptionally strong network of partners and the partnership program behind it. This is what differentiates us from our global competitors. Our product offers a clear-cut business case for the partners. It helps them make better business and grow. We invest in marketing together with our partners in many ways. Our partner is able to deliver the product without any effort from Blue Meteorite’s side. Furthermore, we have enabled our partners to customize many aspects of the product in order to meet their clients’ demands – once again, without any intervention from Blue Meteorite.”
“As regards the product itself, it is full of innovative and constantly evolving solutions, such as the gamification-based idea bank, social mobile app with push notifications, and the administrator’s toolkit which enables the intranet admin to view statistics and make it easier to find information from the intranet. This all in addition to the most important features mentioned earlier.”
“One of our partners mentioned that Valo’s most important sales point is the so-called Fresh subscription. It refers to a continuous subscription, which allows our clients’ intranets to constantly evolve and stay current, without the need to pay by the hour for further development work. Currently we have 15 full-time top experts developing Valo. They are supported by Blue Meteorite’s army of one hundred SharePoint experts as well as the partner network discussed earlier. Therefore, our clients’ intranets are in good hands.”
What are the next steps in development?
“A visual facelift. Implementing SharePoint’s modern features (new-style pages and document libraries etc.) in the solution.”
“Expanding the workgroup feature to include all new Office 365 tools such as Groups, Teams and Planner.”
“In addition to these, we have hundreds of smaller development targets in the backlog, such as further development of the mobile app, more analytics KPIs and a more versatile event calendar.”
What does Valo cost? What kind of a licensing model do you have?
“Valo has a fixed-price single fee license, which is priced at 5 000–34 000 euros based on the user count and features included. On top of this there will be a delivery project which at a minimum means couple of hours worth of installing, all the way up to several dozens of days of work in case the client requests customizations, content migration from an existing intranet, change management consultation or other consulting services from Blue Meteorite and our partners. Valo’s Fresh subscription model will provide the constant development feature.”