Case: SATO

Improving data-driven management at SATO

The SATO Group is one of Finland’s leading apartment rental companies. The company’s mission is to offer comprehensive options for rental housing and outstanding customer experience. At the end of 2017, SATO owned approximately 25,800 rental apartments in large and growing cities in Finland, as well as Saint Petersburg, Russia. Intito helped SATO implement new models for financial planning and forecasting. The technology is based on the IBM Planning Analytics software.

In 2017, the SATO Group had an annual revenue of EUR 280 million. The operating profit was EUR 231 million and profit before tax EUR 185 million. The total value of SATO’s investment property amounted to approximately EUR 3.6 billion. The company strives to promote sustainable development and proactivity through its own operations and to engage in an open dialogue with stakeholders to generate additional value.

“Our operations are characterised by a long-term view and a focus on profitability. We increase the value of our assets through investments, divestments and repairs. Our previous financial planning models were not the best match for our needs, so we asked Intito to carry out a health check on our technical environment. They found a lot of room for improvement, so we decided to revise our environment and planning models based on their recommendations,” says business controller Ruslan Paasonen from SATO’s housing business. “We wanted to improve the quality of our budgeting and forecasting and to introduce more automation.”

SATO is constantly improving the service it provides to tenants. For instance, service managers were appointed for each SATO house in the spring of 2017. Then, in August 2018, the company launched the OmaSATO online portal. Developed in cooperation with tenants, the portal is meant to provide easy access to services, make everyday life easier and promote a communal spirit.

Higher-quality data for business operations

During the health check, Intito reviewed the technical environment of the IBM Planning Analytics software, as well as the planning models. “We identified potential areas for development and laid out the recommended actions. We have our own method for reviewing the health status and functionality of a planning system,” says Janus Timperi from Intito.

“The first area of development we chose to concentrate on was the repair work planning model, as it would help us to plan building repairs more efficiently,” Paasonen notes. In cooperation with experts from SATO, Intito designed and implemented a new long-term planning model for repairs. The SATO experts were closely involved in the development work from the beginning. “We were able to implement the model very quickly. Many people started using it, and we saw that it worked well. Next, we decided to work with Intito to expand the environment to other financial planning functions.”

At SATO, the new planning system has reduced the workload of the personnel responsible for the business activities. “Budgeting used to be a heavy process: service managers, for example, spent about two weeks a year on it. The new solution has automated our forecasting process to a much higher level. Transparency has also improved significantly,” Paasonen explains. “Constant forecasting helps to eliminate some inherent flaws in calculation processes and improve their logic. As a result, our predictions are becoming more and more precise.”

“We are providing higher-quality forecasts and figures for the organisation, which also leads to higher expectations. Contact with corporate management has increased. Our work has become more meaningful. Furthermore, we can explain the reasons behind changes and variations in our predictions to the management in much more detail,” Paasonen says emphatically. “Transparency has improved significantly, and the new models meet the company’s business needs in an effective way.”

The cloud helps to focus on the essentials

Intito also performed the cloud migration of SATO’s IBM Planning Analytics solution. “The cloud turned out to be a good option, as we didn’t have to upgrade our fairly old software version or our existing server. The costs of cloud migration were on par with the traditional set-up, but the cloud enables automatic maintenance and updates. It allows us to focus on developing business models and supporting business operations.”

“IBM offers high-quality support for cloud solutions, as well. Help is available at short notice, and a service team based in Europe handles customer service requests in an efficient way,” Timperi explains.

“In addition to technical expertise, Intito understands business. Their experts know how to resolve challenges in a quick and agile way, and the focus remained on the essentials from start to finish. The new models are both sufficiently straight-forward and a good match for our needs. We learned a lot, and when challenges arose, we worked together to resolve them. We now know our way around the whole environment, which is a great help in using the software and fine-tuning the models,” Paasonen concludes.