In 2019, Otava started a financial development project that aimed to improve the master data and reporting at different levels, among other things. The new data warehouse implemented by Epical is an important part of the development. Analytics Data Accelerator (ADA) played a major role in the implementation of the data warehouse.

Otava designed a new, unified data structure to support the transformation. In addition to bookkeeping, the development project included management accounting, forecasting and reporting that supports these actions. The changes in different areas had to be carried out simultaneously.

Otava’s new data warehouse had to be developed in such a way that the new structure would serve Otava both during the transition and after the renewal of the financial systems. This enabled a step-by-step progress in different business areas. Data was retrieved from Otava’s business area systems and compiled into a Microsoft Azure data warehouse, so that it would be easily accessible to everyone.

Otava chose its long-term partner Epical to build the data warehouse. “Epical has excellent capabilities for reporting and data warehousing, as well as tools and expertise for master data. In addition, the ADA solution introduced automation to Microsoft’s architecture,” says Mikko Lehtinen, Data Manager at Otava.

ADA is a crucial component in the data warehouse architecture

Epical provided Otava with a modern data warehouse in accordance with Microsoft’s reference architecture in the MS Azure cloud. The project initiated by modelling the data of the former systems and changing it into a new format. New solutions were built for each business area one by one.

ADA has been an excellent component to generate added value in the data warehouse solution. “ADA accelerated the development project through automation, supported the information modelling and imported data automatically in the data warehouse. The time spent for manual coding decreased, and the end result according to the MS reference architecture was produced quickly. At least 70% of manual work is eliminated when the developer does not have to write the code, but ADA does that based on the goals and documentation. In this way, more functionalities can be added to the solutions without exceeding the budget,” says Ari Rämö, Cloud Architect at Epical.

Otava has been happy with ADA. “ADA has been an excellent tool: it completes well the tasks it is supposed to, and it does not cause problems. External parties have also evaluated the solution afterwards, and they have considered it good. The scripts produced automatically by ADA are clear and consistent. ADA is a crucial piece of our data warehouse architecture,” Lehtinen says.

Consistent results make maintenance easier

With ADA, the data warehouse can be implemented according to the uniform standards. “Microsoft tools allow for artistic freedom. In the standard user interface of ADA, the developers choose what they want to accomplish – not how to accomplish it,” Rämö explains.

In a large-scale project like this, consistent results have a great importance. At Otava, more than 800 integration packages were included in the data warehouse. Thanks to ADA, 99% of these packages met with the same standard: “We got a data warehouse that is built onto a unified dimension model. The solution is working and it is easy to maintain"
Mikko Lehtinen
Data Manager at Otava Oy

Easy maintenance becomes emphasized, for example, in events of an error. They rarely occur, as ADA itself reduces human error. However, random errors are easy to fix. “Developers can easily access the environment. Unified data warehouse is like your local grocery store: it always follows the same layout. Errors can be fixed quickly when things can be found in the right place. After the fix, the implementation can be regenerated in about ten minutes. If this was done manually, it would take days,” Rämö explains.

Easier management of pipeline runs

ADA also makes it easier to schedule and manage pipeline runs. Large workloads can be run reliably, and ADA knows how to execute them optimally. This makes the most of Azure’s capacity, and no idle time is generated during the integration run.

“We can see the progress of file downloading, when the run was started and if there have been any errors. We can also start pipeline runs ourselves either manually or through the integration layer,” Mikko Lehtinen says.

Pipeline run management can also be used to manage Microsoft’s resources. “In Azure’s own user interfaces, resources cannot be easily managed as part of the pipeline runs. But it is possible with ADA’s pipeline management: capacity can be added during a run or it can be removed after the run. This generates cost savings,” Rämö confirms.

ADA also makes it possible for Otava to use and develop the system. Otava has already made some additions to the data warehouse. “The graphical user interface of ADA is clear and easy to read. It can visually present long and complex pipeline runs and their dependencies,” Lehtinen says.

“Customer can use the system in the same way we do, and everyone is informed about what has been done. Documentation is the primary aspect in ADA: customer documents in ADA what they want to achieve, and ADA does the work. This makes working easy for the end-users as well, without compromising the environment,” Rämö explains.

A leap into a new era of technology

Building solutions simultaneously for bookkeeping, management accounting and reporting has been a massive project. Otava is happy with the results. “Data warehouse offers us a solid base that will start to bring benefits through the stored data. We can retrieve information much easier and faster and obtain new viewpoints,” Lehtinen says.

Epical has contributed a wide range of expertise to the development project. “We are interested in Epical’s data capabilities, as the company has a lot of expertise, for example, in master data, data modelling, data warehouses, and Azure. Epical supports our actions at several levels, and the fact that Epical has expertise also in the areas that are not included in the cooperation benefits us as well.”

The development has marked a leap into a new era technology for Otava’s financial solutions. “The change of master data was one big thing, and the other was the excellent execution of the Azure-based architecture. The solutions have worked as expected, and we can generate reports fast and by several operators.”