Case: New interface brings data from Population Information System automatically to City of Helsinki’s SAP system – considerable savings to working hours
SAP is one of the main systems used in the centralised financial management of the City of Helsinki. For a long time, there was a need for a solution that would automate updates to the customer register, especially the name and address information of private customers from outside Helsinki. This has finally been possible since the summer of 2021.
The City of Helsinki has implemented the new PIS modified data interface service (VTJ-muutosrajapinta), which has made the updating of the SAP customer register more efficient. The service transmits updated personal data from the Population Information System to the City’s customer register. The primary aim of the reform has been to ensure that the name and address details of customers whose place of residence is outside Helsinki are up to date – automatically.
– The challenge with the previously used Facta municipal register of the modified data update service for municipalities was that it covered only the details of Helsinki residents and was updated once a week. The customer register of the financial management of the City of Helsinki contains a considerable number of persons who live elsewhere. Their information had to be verified and updated manually, says System Administrator Jukka Hänninen, who looks after the development of the SAP customer register.
– Customers contacted us either by email or by phone to let us know their new details. Sometimes invoices were returned to us from addresses that the person no longer lived in. In practice, the information that had changed was verified and the updates were entered into the system manually. Now the data is updated automatically every day, Hänninen describes the situation.
From a legislative point of view, the solution would not have been possible before the GDPR entered into force. Before that, each municipality had the right to process only the personal data of its own residents. When the Regulation entered into force the City asked the Finnish Digital Agency about the possibility to build a direct connection to the Population Information System and the answer was positive. Technically, the transmission of data between the different registers is enabled by the Suomi.fi Data Exchange Layer of the Finnish Digital Agency.
The successful joint project involving several actors was implemented fully remotely
The teams convened at the beginning of 2020 to launch the project. In addition to the City and the Finnish Digital Agency, the different software developers partnering with the City were involved in the project: CGI Finland, Atos and Tietoevry.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the timetable slightly, but in spite of the challenging situation and task, the specifications and testing reached a point in which the new interface service could be implemented. The project, including the implementation, was carried out remotely. Matters were advanced in close cooperation with the software developers of the Finnish Digital Agency.
– We have hundreds of thousands of private customers in the register. Ensuring that everything definitely works requires careful testing and specifications. After the piloting carried out by the Finnish Digital Agency, we were the first to implement the service. The supplier had not had a similar project before, either. The biggest effort was to combine the interface data with SAP, which required a considerable amount of customisation and gradual modifications along the way, Hänninen sums up.
Only the data that has changed is transferred from the PIS modified data interface to the register. This was a major change in the operating methods as until then, they had received all up-to-date personal data from the Facta municipal register regardless of which part of the data had changed. However, only the data that had changed was updated to SAP. The SAP implementation of the PIS modified data interface challenged the developers especially from the point of view of managing the different situations in which the data had changed.
According to Hänninen, the joint project of several actors went well. It became considerably easier when it was discovered in the specification phase that Helsinki was already using the Suomi.fi Data Exchange Layer. As there was no need to build the connection from zero, the CGI Finland team was able to focus on how to get the messages to the Finnish Digital Agency's interface and back to SAP in the format required by SAP. The specialists from Tietoevry were also a big help.
Transparency, time savings and many useful experiences
Jukka Hänninen is satisfied with the results of the project.
– The reform has given us the desired transparency in the management of personal data. Although the benefits often do not become concretely visible until after long-term use, it is already clear that the amount of manual work and customer feedback and the number of direct contact requests are significantly smaller than before. It leaves us more time to concentrate on other work tasks in customer services and the maintenance of the customer register.
Hänninen believes that the PIS modified data interface could also benefit people working in sectors other than municipalities.
– We are happy to share our experiences of the implementation of the interface. It may not be possible for other actors to directly adopt what we have done, but familiarisation with it may speed up the specification phase when it is not necessary to generate ideas from the start, Hänninen says.
For the time being, the Finnish Digital Agency uses two services. The old modified data service will be discontinued on 31 December 2024. The City of Helsinki financial management hopes to see foreign address details as the target of further development so that in the future, they could also be received in SAP directly through the interface. At the moment, the number of characters or the format of foreign addresses in the interface service are not checked, and the reception of the addresses cannot be automated.
PIS modified data interface of the City of Helsinki
Main partners: City of Helsinki and Finnish Digital Agency
Implemented service: PIS modified data interface (VTJ-muutosrajapinta) for transmitting up-to-date personal data from the Population Information system, aimed at government and municipal authorities
Main objective: to automate the updates of the names and address details of private customers in the customer register of the SAP system in financial management
Benefits to customer: significant savings in working time, new customer details every day, a reduction in contact requests and customer feedback
Customer’s main system: SAP
Replaced system: Facta municipal register (in use 2015–2021)
Connections: through the REST interface across the Suomi.fi Data Exchange Layer
In cooperation with: The City of Helsinki Department of Financial Management Services public enterprise (Talpa), Finnish Digital Agency, GCI Finland, Atos and Tietoevry
More information: dvv.fi/vtj-muutosrajapinta (in Finnish)