In 2019, AFRY (then Pöyry) Process Industries Division Finland (PID Finland) was scoping, as part of its sales process, its proposals using large Excel files. These Excels were part of the scope definition of large business cases. These files were an important part of specifying the responsibilities between AFRY, its Customer and other parties, for instance when negotiating contracts for the construction of large production factories somewhere around the globe. The use of Excel spreadsheets resulted in several challenges. For instance, different files versions were circulated via emails and it was difficult to ensure compliance and drive changes to current ways of working. The biggest challenge was, however, the fact that these Excels often failed to specify with sufficient clarity and details the responsibilities between AFRY and its customers.
Power Platform to the Rescue
In cooperation with Digital Illustrated, AFRY PID Finland decided to generate a digital way of preparing proposal to standardize its processes, enhance its efficiency and make sure that scope and responsibilities can be presented to the Customer in a nice, clear, and standardized format. It was obvious that, for this purpose, a standardized Word/PDF document following AFRY visualization guidelines with a clear structure would do a better job than Excel. To make this transition possible, it also became clear that the Excels had to be abandoned altogether – there had to be a consistent and reliable way of gathering relevant information in a structured manner – to support the automated and successful printing of any given proposal.
The key building blocks for the renewed process include a) Power App to support proposal creation, b) Teams to support collaboration, c) SharePoint document sets, enabling all proposal documents in one place, and d) Print functionality as part of the application. All of these are bound together via automation and metadata.
Figure 1: The four key building blocks of the new solution.
The Canvas Power App supports the sales process and coordinates the proposal work including features for
- Proposal creation and listings with relevant metadata, such as country, project phase, and business unit.
- The automated creation of a Teams environment for the proposal case, as well as a document set (document folder with proposal metadata) to the proposal library in SharePoint.
- Specification of proposal “areas and objects”, to define the split of work and materials on a high level.
- Specification of proposal team responsibilities, as well as features to invite team members to the project and Teams and, to automatically find the next available meeting time for a proposal kick-off meeting.
- Scoping functionality, to help define the scope for each of the proposal areas and disciplines and, to allow the definition of responsibilities and work hours accordingly. This often means the editing of hundreds of rows for a large proposal.
- Revision management
- Data comparison to similar cases (for example based on phase and business unit) and finally, the automated printing of the proposal scope, one of the main appendixes of any proposal.
Power Automate and Logic App workflows automate the creation of related Teams and SharePoint document sets, process-related alerts, and invitations, as well as produce the finalized scope prints, including project metadata, in Word format.
A SharePoint library stores the automatically generated scope documents, as well as manually created files. All folders automatically contain proposal metadata, which supports the easy filtering and finding of any proposals based on their target country, business unit, or phase.
Teams supports proposal Teams in the collaboration and related discussions. Teams are also utilized in the communication of work-related alerts, for example, to deliver information of a finalized scope print, ready to be opened for finalization.
Power App acts as a glue between all these elements. Each proposal in the tool contains direct links to related Teams and SharePoint resources, allowing a smooth transition from one tool to another.
Figure 2: A Power App now replaces the Excel and collects data to the proposal database, connecting each proposal to Teams and SharePoint resources accordingly.
Benefits of the digitalized solution
As a result, AFRY PID Finland has not only been able to improve its communication towards Customers via clearer and more visual scope definitions, but also has been able to enhance its ways of working. “I am very pleased to see that these recent improvements have had a significant positive impact on our proposal work in terms of efficiency and scope standardizations. Our standard delivery packages are still flexible and leave room and freedom to optimize deliverables spot on case by case.“, says Kim Lucander, Vice President.
An easy-to-use application has been a key enabler in making this transition possible. As a result, after the successful implementation of the solution in Finland, AFRY Process Industries Division is planning on expanding the process and toolkit to other countries of operation. “We at AFRY are happy to exploit the capabilities of digital solutions. Power Platform has proven to be flexible and has helped us adopt efficient ways of working and manage business risks. According to our estimation, we save 10 to 20% of the effort required for proposal work, compared to our old ways of working”, says Philippe Lafferre, Director, Project Controls.
As the next step, AFRY PID Finland is seeking to apply a similar methodology and tools to digitalize the handover from sales to project implementation.