Through more than three decades Björn Lundén AB have established itself as a premium provider of fact based, yet easy-to-understand information, books, classes, and articles aimed at small and medium sized businesses and specifically the accounting firms helping this market. Beginning as a book publisher, its value to the industry was added to by adding software in the late 90s. Since then Björn Lundén AB has enjoyed a very high reputation, and the typically very long customer relationships that follows as a consequence of taking each customer relationship very seriously 1).
Björn Lundén AB have been, and still is, the only company that provide the combination of information services and software. We have competitors that does either or, but no one does both except us.
Since ca 2010, the software industry has spawned several new competitors providing new web-based software to our core customers. Often somewhat limited in features but making up for this by providing very high accessibility and ease of use. All software provided by Björn Lundén AB at that time, and the years that would follow, was on-prem, installed on location, with locally stored data, etc. Björn Lundén AB was at first, as many others, uncertain of how to react to this development and new customer behaviour. But many aligning facts started to present themselves in terms of where the industry was undoubtedly heading.
2016/2017 the development team at Björn Lundén AB consisted of about 10 people doing mostly day-to-day maintenance of the current line of products and doing only limited amounts of new development. The challenges consisted of a very diverse technical stack, amassed during almost 20 years of product development, and no clear direction or ambition other that keeping customers happy (which we excelled at). It was clear that, for Björn Lundén AB to stay relevant, we needed to change the way we developed software.
What followed can only be described as a complete redesign of how we view what we do, and what the value is that Björn Lundén AB is bringing to the industry.
Key facts and dates
During 2016-2017 all personnel, at that time more than 80 people, was trained in agile product ownership and agile product development – not because everyone would be “Product Owners”, but because everyone must understand the new direction we would be pursuing.
A “cloud”-version of the installed flagship product BL Administration had been released – still locally installed but supporting data in the cloud (we started to offer backup- and cooperation features).
In early 2017 the decision to build an entirely new api-stack on top of these cloud databases to enable real API-based relationships with 3rd party integrators.
Early Q3 2017 the api-stack was released, and the first external integrator went live.
Q3 2017 we also started an internal project “Rådgivarverktyget” (Advisory Tool) – a very ambitious project aiming to fuse our new api-stack with ai-technology for anomaly detection and forecasting. The aim of “Rådgivarverktyget” is to put AI-driven talking points in the hands of an accounting consultant that is about to give advice to a client business owner, but also to send notifications to both the accountant and the business owner about anomalies and advice. The first outcome of the “Rådgivarverktyget” project was an internal report compiling huge amounts of data from tens of thousands of customer databases. For the first time we knew the actual details of who our end-users actually are: types of businesses, geographical locations, revenues, number of employees, salaries, suppliers, customers, bank information and so on. The information made visible a vast number of potentials that we had not previously been able to assess.
Also in late 2017/early 2018 the development of the new web-based Björn Lundén App (app.bjornlunden.se) leveraging our new api:s begun. The web-app target features for accounting firm and client collaboration first, for example Customer Invoicing and Supplier Invoicing Attest, rather than Bookkeeping, as the latter is still provided by the accounting firm that use the more richly featured BL Administration, but now in 100% real-time sync with the app through the api:s 2).
Q1-Q2 2018 – Björn Lundén AB, wanting to showcase the power of our api stack, build an iZettle integration. The result was the most-supported-iZettle-features-integration to date as stated by iZettle, leading to a marketing collaboration.
Q2 2018 – BL Tolkning went live. An AI-powered invoice interpretation and accounting add-on which, thanks to its high level of automatization and feedback loop, enabled a truly disruptive pricing compared to the competitors. This was a very well received service by our existing users, as well as a driver for new customer onboarding.
Q4 2018 – Release of Digital Årsredovisning with api integration to Swedish government Bolagsverket. Digital Årsredovisning is a web based, stand-alone product for making an Annual Report given a set of easy to understand wizards and guidelines.
Q4 2018 – Release of BL Bokslut with api integration to Bolagsverket for digital submission of Annual Reports. Since this release, BL has achieved industry-leading track record of highest quality of submitted reports, as well as ranking among top 3 in total number of submissions.
Also in 2018 – Björn Lundén AB initiate inhouse project Kafka: to be able to provide real time updates to our new ai-platform we need to channel all written input to potentially hundreds of thousands of databases into one single stream of events – “the truth”, to be used by the ai. The Kafka event stream infrastructure basically enables each of our myriad client databases to tell when something happened in it, rather than having to have to ask each and every database if that was the case – which would be otherwise impossible with the user numbers we are aiming for 3)
Q2 2019 IOS & Android app development begun – aiming to provide similar features as app.bjornlunden.se, through use of shared web components, as well as native mobile features such as camera etc, but also to “claim presence” in both App Store and Google Play.
Q3 2019 Ekonomi & Företagarmässan, Kista, – the biggest event for our industry with all major software providers and accounting firms present – both our new web-app, mobile app and the first version of the Rådgivarverktyget was showcased and was very well received. The most asked line of questions at the Björn Lundén AB booth was versions of “We use <competitor brand> now, how do we get access to this?”
Q2 2020 Björn Lundén AB accepted the first orders of white- and grey labelled versions of app.bjornlunden.se and its mobile sibling. This will enable our accounting firm customers to have their own white labelled presence on AppStore and Google Play to drive their own trademarks – something we can provide with very little effort given the modular design we have embraced since the start of the web and mobile projects. Additionally, we have seen several inquiries from non-accounting firm organisations that are also interested in branding their “own” ERP software to add to their proposal, so the potential of this service will be evaluated and explored further to reveal its true potential 4)
Q2 2020 Bank integrations with 3 out of the 4 major banks in Sweden go live. The addition of the 4th, as well as several more are anticipated during second half of 2020.
Q4 2019-Q2 2020 Björn Lundén AB have continued to assemble the highest value “firm-client-collaboration”-bundles possible, resulting in the 2020-05-23 release of three versions of bundles 5)
“The Book of the future” (“Framtidens bok”) – new inhouse project is launched in Q3 2020. Inspired by the newly developed technical platforms and know how, we aim to inject all written knowledge and information – all articles, books, q&a’s etc, in a Kafka event stream timeline. That will enable us to train a search engine on all our content, and to cherry-pick written content for any given situation and application. This will enable us to truly fuse our two strengths in a single experience 6). This will also change entirely the way we can leverage the work of an author: to a multitude of applications and scenarios, where previously there was only the original intention: for instance, printing of a book.
The combined efforts described above marks the cornerstones of the Technical Leap as of today.
We have also seen an increase in requests for integrations and partnerships. This is highlighted by our release of the new developer.bjornlunden.se site, where we have begun building a platform for our evolving integrator community. On the site we share api documentation and “best practises”, engage in Slack interaction with the community, and more.
1) Björn Lundén AB has a proven record winning and defending the #1 spot of accounting firms-customer satisfaction survey.
2) app.bjornlunden.se front-end is written in Angular (currently version 8 but following the new platform releases). It is a responsive single page application with very high levels of modularity. It currently supports SSO from Swedish BankId, Google and Facebook accounts, as well as the Björn Lundén AB BL Account.
3) All written data in every database end up in the stream. This is used to train the ai, but also to trigger push messages in the mobile apps and will soon be used by our first external integrator to trigger events in their platform based on events from the stream – a collaboration that we believe is another First in the industry. The stream typically processes about 40-100 written events per second during normal business hours, but we have processed as much as 4500 events per second sustained for several hours when stress-testing. The Kafka Event Stream will be an infrastructure cornerstone for many applications for the years to come.
4) For an example of the grey labelled web-app, compare app.bjornlunden.se with app.bjornlunden.se/redokonsulterna. For an example of the white labelled mobile app, search App Store or Google Play for “Redokonsulterna” (will be available late Q3 2020).
5) The bundles are basic, medium, and large, and are provided as per-month subscriptions, including a combination of functionality per company, and per user. Regardless of which bundle is selected, we offer the same per-user extra module for additional users. More information can be found here (in Swedish): www.bjornlunden.se/program/kundsamverkan
6) Inspired by the New York Times Kafka project (www.confluent.io/blog/publishing-apache-kafka-new-york-times/), we find ourselves identifying many of the same use cases (such as news feed, intelligent search engines, automatic article publishing, etc). But also, to be able to create a new “book” on demand, depending on context awareness about who the user is, what her role is, type of company etc. And to produce a new “book” tomorrow with additional content that did not exist yesterday. These features will also be included in the software UI’s – for instance, the “talking points” provided by the “Rådgivarverktyget”. This in turn, will provide for more dynamic content in the Tool, which will heavily strengthen the advisory capacity of the consultant in that scenario (by, for instance, adding a comment of a newly passed – and relevant – law or verdict dynamically)