Mastering business agility with low-code
Norconsult, a leading multidiciplinary consulting firm in the Nordic region, has experienced a tremendous growth the past two decades. With Genus as a low-code platform supporting business agility during this growth, Norconsult has been able to align IT with their business processes. Starting out with solving an isolated issue within the financial department, Genus has gradually evolved to become a strategic platform supporting their core business.
By using the Genus platform, we have been able to continuously and rapidly implement functionality to optimize our business processes.Sally Shapira, Senior Financial Advisor in Norconsult
Norconsult is an international consultancy firm headquartered in Sandvika, Norway. The company has more than 3.800 employees, of which 3.000 are located in Norway. With more than 101 offices throughout the world (70 in Norway), Norconsult provides consulting in areas such as construction transportation, energy, water and sewage, oil and gas, environment, planning, architecture, safety, and IT.
A leading consultancy firm
As one of the leading multidisciplinary consultancy firms in the Nordic region, Norconsult provides services geared towards community planning and architectural design. They are engaged in all aspects of development, from initial concepts to master plans, engineering, and operational support. Norconsult’s vision is to be the consultants that can solve the most challenging projects for their clients at any given time. They perform thousands of projects every year for public and private clients, and they have become a leading national and international consultancy firm.
Norconsult has a long history in the Nordic engineering market and has multiplied its operations, number of employees and revenue many times through the last two decades. As a company growing from around 400 employees in 2001 to nearly 4000 in 2020, business processes have naturally changed.
Governing a growing business
In the early 2000s, Norconsult in Norway realized that their growth, in combination with changes in laws and regulations, challenged their ability to govern their business operations in an efficient and sustainable manner. Further, the combination of organic growth and new acquisitions expanded the services they provided and continuously introduced new requirements from the new business areas.
Although Norconsult had a well-established ERP system, they experienced that it did not have the agility to evolve in pace with the business. Further, it was not well suited for their advanced project management methodologies. As a result, the projects were managed through an extensive use of spreadsheets and other (often locally chosen) alternatives. With a steadily growing number of projects, an expanding service portfolio, and no standardized way of keeping track of the data, the need for a new software solution was urgent. The ideal new solution would need to answer questions like: What is the status of our projects? Which parts of the projects are charged to the client? Where are the risks in our projects? Which resources are idle, and which are staffed?
With this awareness came the time for change. Norconsult wanted to leverage digital solutions to better support their project managers and corporate business processes. Their goal was to significantly reduce or automate manual and time-consuming processes, tame the diversity of their advanced project management, and try to streamline processes where the existing software could not perform at an acceptable level. Furthermore, Norconsult needed a solution to create a bridge between the project managers and the finance department, allowing the growing company to operate as a single unit.
“The business was run by manual processes, where some processes were administered differently for each department,“ said Sally Shapira, Senior Financial Advisor. “We realized that this was not sustainable as we continued to grow. Throughout the years, one of the biggest issues that Norconsult struggled with was the time-consuming procedures of reporting from project managers to finance and management. Key information received from the field was manually entered into the ERP system and did not contain the breadth and sophistication of information we needed to manage the organization. All in all, we understood that we needed new technology to solve the problem.”
A platform supporting business agility
While the ERP system was not suited for supporting the company’s high standards for project management, it still served its purpose for corporate planning and financials. Further, purchasing and customizing a new ERP system was considered too risky and too expensive, with a potential to disrupt the ongoing business. As a result, Norconsult decided to search for complementary software to extend the capabilities of their ERP system and automate and centralize manual processes.
After hearing about Genus, Norconsult decided to see if low-code could help them move forward. The platform promised the flexibility and agility they were looking for to support the continuous evolution in their business processes. In addition, it supported rapid and iterative development, and it was recognized as a cost effective option. Finally, it provided the necessary capabilities to integrate with Norconsult’s existing IT landscape.
As a first step, Genus was put to the test in the financial department in 2000 and was used to support a new billing and invoicing process. Among other things, the solution supported project managers by enabling them to view and sign off worked hours in Genus, a process that drastically reduced the number of invoices that had to be altered after being sent to the customer. Several reports were also implemented, one of which made it possible to preview an invoice before being posted to the ERP system. This new process support was essential for Norconsult, and the solution alone reduced the time to receive payments with several months and effectively increased Norconsult’s earning capacity. The rapid implementation and efficiency of the platform, proven in this project, laid the foundation for using Genus in other areas of the organization lacking software support.
In the beginning, Genus was primarily used to solve financial issues and for reporting needs. However, as the company grew the priorities changed. Gradually, the use of Genus shifted to other core business areas needing support. One of the key challenges Norconsult faced in the mid 2000’s was the need for a more centralized and effective process for project management and administration.
Thus, the next major project with Genus was to create a unified and improved solution for managing new project enrollment. This was a critical solution, as each department had their own way of creating, structuring, and saving data. Further, the existing process involved manual and time-consuming routines for re-entering the data into the ERP system for financial purposes. In addition, the ERP software was rigid and lacked the possibility to modify the underlying data structure, which was a prerequisite to enable a company-wide standard.
The solution for project enrollment was developed in Genus through agile and iterative implementation and testing and involved IT, the financial department, and quality management. The nature of low-code and Genus allowed for rapid development, as well as the ability to quickly turn around and change course if needed. The result was a new project enrollment solution that centralized data management and administration, enriched the data structure with important information and removed manual processes for entering data into the ERP software.
Through the following years, Genus was the “platform of choice” to improve efficiency and solve challenges, always using an incremental and agile approach. For instance, the acquisitions of companies added to the complexity of the organization and required modifications to the support provided by the software. One such modification came from the acquisition of a valuation surveyor company. The first version of the project enrollment solution became too time consuming for the types of short-term projects conducted by this company, where a project often lasted less than two hours. With the first version of the solution targeted towards large-scale projects, Norconsult decided to expand the solution with a light-weight version. This new version was based on the same data structure but included more predefined fields and hid information irrelevant for this type of project and user. The result was a significant reduction of complexity and time spent on registration.
The most recent use of Genus in Norconsult is a solution for time capture. As with other processes, the need for new software was based on the ambition to automate and improve processes, and especially business critical processes that impacted all employees on a daily basis. During the vendor evaluation, off-the-shelf solutions were considered and tried out. However, due to the complexity of the projects in Norconsult, as well as the need to adhere to well-established processes, the off-the-shelf solutions were rejected. The solution was tailor-made with Genus, and fully integrated with the financial core system, meeting all the requirements Norconsult had for its time capture application.
The time capture solution was set in production for 3 000 users simultaneously in September 2020. Norconsult sees the project as a great success, and although the solution is in production, the flexibility of Genus allows Norconsult to gather feedback and make iterative changes to continuously enhance the solution and user experience.
Main areas covered by the solution
Billing process support
Supporting processes for billing and invoicing customers by creating routines for project managers and the financial department, as well as multiple reports, such as time capture reports and preview of invoices before they are sent to customers.
Reporting and analytics with dashboards, data discovery and traditional reports. Mainly used for tracking progress on projects and financial insights.
Flexible solution for project enrollment. Up to 10 000 projects are registered each year, varying widely in complexity and duration.
Reference project catalogue
Solution for categorizing and maintaining reference projects to be used in tender processes. A project can be tagged as a reference project, enabling automated generation of reports with key information about the project.
Documentation of credible management of projects.
All Norconsult employees register their estimated workloads three months ahead to optimize workforce usage. Predictions are continuously compared to actual results to optimize prognosis.
Corporate management dashboard showing backlog, project status and financial results vs. budgets for Norconsult Norway.
Time sheet functionality for all employees, tailored to fit the project data structure and levels of control and approval in Norconsult.
Looking back at almost two decades of experience with low-code, Norconsult has experienced the advantages of continuous improvement of software where digital transformation and innovation is seen as a natural process in their business. The challenges and needs in a growing company, such as Norconsult, are often best solved by making IT and business evolve in the same pace. With its capabilities to automate processes, integrate with any system, and tailor even the most advanced solutions, Genus has been an important part of Norconsult’s IT landscape.
“By using the Genus platform, we have been able to continuously and rapidly implement functionality to optimize our business processes. This has freed up time for other activities, such as business analysis and new value creation for the company,” said Sally Shapira.
In addition to its capabilities for continuous improvement, the included business intelligence and analysis features in Genus are highly valued by Norconsult. Rather than building the reports in another tool, the data model in Genus can be used directly for advanced dashboards, reports, and data discovery. This is both cost- and time saving and leads to enhanced trust in the numbers.
“I can use the platform directly to go back in time and find exact numbers and figures, and I know that they are correct because I trust the system,” said Sally Shapira. “This is a great advantage with Genus. We have used the platform for many years, and it has proven to be a sustainable platform.”
With a low-code platform supporting their growth, Norconsult has been able to align IT with their business processes. From starting out with solving an isolated issue within the financial department, to gradually growing into to the platform it is today, a core part of their business.