Case study Keva

Advancing automation in an automation mature organization


employer customers

 1.3 million

employees and pensioners associated with these organizations.


self-service rate of all customer contacts

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This year (2023), we had the pleasure of hosting a lunch for the directors of Finland's largest pension insurers. As part of the day's program, Tommi Heinonen, Keva's CIO, shared a thought-provoking story about their journey and results with automation.

In this article we summarize some of Tommi's story and other discussed ideas at the event, offering insights into the challenges and potential solutions for further advancement and increased value from automation within organizations that are already well-established in process automation.

Keva in brief

Keva, the largest pension insurer in Finland, is responsible for managing the pensions of various public sector organizations. These organizations include the state, municipalities, church, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Bank of Finland, and the wellbeing services counties.

Currently, Keva serves approximately 2,000 employer customers, catering to 1.3 million employees and pensioners associated with these organizations.


The pension insurance sector's operational environment and regulatory requirements concerning the use of automation

Keva must consider a multitude of ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements when it comes to implementing automation within its organization.

The pension insurance sector has to comply to the legal requirements for accountability in the provision of public services. These are particularly emphasized in the case of Keva as a public law entity.

Key regulations to be taken into account in the responsible use of automation are included in the amendment to the Administrative Act that entered into force on 1 May 2023. The provisions concern automated decision-making, its conditions, and legal remedies.

The Information Management Act, on the other hand, contains requirements for process quality assurance and documentation. In particular, documentation requires significant work. The Service Automation Act contains provisions on, for example, the conditions for using chatbots and the quality of counseling.

In addition to the international regulation, the EU's forthcoming AI regulation is to be considered. The EU also has an AI strategy, and the OECD has presented Ethical Principles for AI.

Given the dynamic nature of evolving automation laws and regulations, highly regulated organizations like Keva must possess the ability to adapt quickly, and proactively address security and sustainability concerns related to automation.

By 2023, the self-service rate has reached an impressive 91% of all customer contacts.

Keva's Automation Journey: Enhancing customer service through robotics

Keva embarked on its robotic process automation (RPA) journey in 2018 as part of the organization's aim to transfer all customer interactions to electronic self-service. By 2023, the self-service rate has reached an impressive 91% of all customer contacts.

Keva's customer service solutions utilize various technologies, including automated forms, Blue Prism robotic process automation, and AI for image recognition and meta-data extraction. In addition, a chatbot named Ilona is employed for customer-facing tasks. Keva transferred its bots to Digital Workforce cloud service in 2022 as part of its cloudification efforts and to increase flexibility and scalability of the solutions.

Through his speech, Tommi Heinonen stressed the significance of continuing to advance toward fully automated customer service and utilizing automation, in general, more effectively. In a mature organization, however, running is no longer as simple – or at least the challenges in the way of advancement are different.

"Low-hanging fruits" are already picked. New opportunities are less easily identified, and solutions are more complex.

Tommi Heinonen
CIO, Keva

Keva’s challenges related to gaining more value from automation

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    Slowed down development:

    "Low-hanging fruits" are already picked. New opportunities are less easily identified, and solutions are more complex.

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    Slow realization of savings in staff costs:

    Staff savings only materialize after many years, mainly through retirement.

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    Ever-increasing need for knowledge development:

    After the initial easy wins are accomplished, establishing new success becomes more complex. Advancing requires a profound and nuanced understanding of both the business and the rapidly evolving technologies. This knowledge also needs to be spread across the organization.

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    Incorporating automation into business culture:

    Business culture and the availability of adequate human resources can influence investment decisions. A conservative or cautious culture and limited resources can lead to slow progress.

    A public sector organization like Keva aims to sit just behind the wave's crest in the suction of automation forerunners. According to Tommi Heinonen, balancing forward leaning and conservative strategies in automation can sometimes be challenging.

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    Non-standardised processes:

    Business processes need to be described in sufficient detail. When these are lacking more work goes into identifying process candidates and developing automations.

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    Limiting the scope of robotics to support processes:

    At Keva, the core solution and payment processes are implemented using traditional application development. These solutions work well for their purpose but have left less need for robotics and AI to be introduced across all business areas.

    When technological knowledge is confined to specific organizational functions, it can hinder the recognition of fresh prospects in other areas and impede collaborative efforts for cross-functional solutions.

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    Enhanced quality demands in customer-facing processes:

    Ensuring excellent quality from the outset is crucial in customer-facing automation. A positive initial customer experience promotes engagement with new digital channels, while a negative encounter may foster resistance to change and favoring traditional methods. Maintaining excellent quality control in intricate customer service processes, however, can slow down progress because it demands significant resources.

Project organizations that effectively blend expertise from both IT and business domains will play an increasingly important role in driving Keva’s automation forward.

Tommi Heinonen
CIO, Keva

Crossing the next threshold - boosting value creation in Keva’s automation mature organization

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    Comprehensive customer-centric approach to automation

    Comprehensive customer-centric automation involves identifying opportunities to enhance processes with a focus on improving the customer experience. Recognizing that customer's service journey often encompasses various business functions and interconnected processes is essential.

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    Focus on core operations and ensuring transparency

    Impactful automation relies on identifying core business operation and utilize automation to excel in these areas. This requires taking a step away from task automation and focusing attention on larger sets of interconnected processes. Additionally, overseeing these larger-scale operations necessitates implementing measures to guarantee the availability of accurate performance data and complete operational transparency, providing valuable insights for informed decision-making.

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    Continuous skill development and acquiring new talent:

    Tommi Heinonen emphasizes that cultivating a deeper and more comprehensive grasp of AI technologies, especially their business applications, is a pivotal part of advancing Keva's automation. Specialist skills can also be acquired as a service, but doing so effectively requires a close collaborative relationship between the customer and the client.

    Tommi Heinonen predicts that data scientists will hold crucial roles in the near future at Keva's organization.

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    Raising awareness and knowledge distribution:

    Comprehensive automation understanding across organizational levels ensures commitment to strategy integration. It fosters internal innovation and prevents motivation-dampening disappointments when expectations do not match reality.

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    Adjusting organization and roles:

    According to Tommi Heinonen, project organizations that effectively blend expertise from both IT and business domains will play an increasingly important role in driving Keva’s automation forward.

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    Setting the right indicators and monitoring results:

    Performance indicators must be kept up to date and focus on reflect value created - not activities done. Achieving goals will change the indicators to some extent.

“We envision a complete digitization of pension-related processes and payments”

Tommi Heinonen
CIO, Keva

The Future of Automation in Keva's Organization

Keva continuously works to ensure full transparency of its operations and processes. In line with the legal core mandate, Keva acts in accordance with the law and recommendations and respects data protection and security. Operators have a duty to demonstrate compliance, i.e., the obligation to answer the question, "How do we operate?" To achieve this objective, the "actual" activities must be adequately reported, and reasoning and responsibility in decision-making must be clearly demonstrable.

Operational transparency also involves assessing Keva's current solutions and practices. The organization continues to refine its metrics, and align automation with the business and enhancing customer experience.

According to Tommi Heinonen, there's still significant room for improvement in customer service. "We envision a complete digitization of pension-related processes and payments", Tommi says about Keva's objectives adding that more expansive cloudification is part of actualizing this vision.