Nordics Digital Enterprise Festival Post Event Report

With almost as many tech startups as Silicon Valley, Stockholm is fast becoming a global digital hub, making it the perfect location for the Nordics Digital Enterprise Festival.

Over 90 delegates attended the conference, including CIO’s, CDO’s, CTO’s, Heads Of Digital & CMO’s from the Nordics leading enterprise level brands including McDonald’s, TUI, Volvo, Danske Bank, Nordnet, Swedbank, Electrolux, Samsung and many others.

The theme of the festival was “The Future Belongs To The Fast” speakers from Telenor, Ericsson, CO-OP, Nordnet, Danske Bank, the University of Gothenburg and more, discussed how organisations can effectively respond to the pace of digitisation.

In this roundup of the conference, we look at some of the insights shared by our speakers at the Nordics Digital Enterprise Festival.

Digitalisation Through Agility

Telenor’s CIO, Ulrica Holmgren, and CMO, Christian Thrane, opened the conference by discussing their company’s approach to agile and agile’s role as an enabler for digitalisation.

Digitalisation is significantly increasing the pace and complexity of change. It took the radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. It took Facebook 1 year, Twitter 9 months and Pokemon Go just 19 days. In this environment, Ulrica and Christian argue, companies need to move to an agile way of working; an agile way of being.

To make this switch, Telenor set up agile pilot projects, focusing initially on areas where it was easier to change the ways of working, such as the brand and frontend systems. They then moved to more complex projects, such as legacy backend systems.

“The move to agile required a culture change, not just a process change. Staff needed to work more closely with customers, teams were given more autonomy, and importantly departmental silos were broken down. As Christian said, “the days of having a wall between the what and the how were over”.

The switch from waterfall to agile yielded positive results. The time-to-market for a medium-sized project went from 7 months to 6 weeks. Documentation went from 200 pages to 18. Quality and staff engagement went up.

The move to agile has given Telenor’s staff a shared understanding of where the organisation is going. And the company has found that some of the biggest supporters of the move have been people in traditional teams – they understand the old ways of working, and see the benefits of change.

Robotics & Artificial Intelligence, Changing The Way We Do Business

By 2025, it’s estimated that 3 out of 10 jobs will be automated and 85% of customer interaction will be handled without a human. In this talk, Rickard Wieselfors, Digital Transformation Director at Ericsson, looked at how robotics and artificial intelligence are driving the organisation’s digital transformation.

Richard argues that “intelligent operations” (robotics and AI) is the new operating model for digital businesses. It gives organisations the opportunity to reimagine their entire value chain, from development to delivery, and from back-office processes to customer service.

A change of mindset is often needed for organisations to fully appreciate the opportunities intelligent operations opens up. While the question many companies ask themselves today is “what can be automated?”, tomorrow it may be “what can’t be automated and why?” Processes will be designed with automation in mind.

At Ericsson, their transformation model is to start small, show value, and scale fast. In 2018 the company will have 200 robots and an automation operating model in place. The target is for all manual, rule-based, repetitive processes to be automated by 2020.

Richard stresses, however, that the focus is not on robotics and AI, but on leveraging intelligent operations to improve processes and change the way Ericsson does business.

Case Study: Living The Vision

The NCC Group is the second-largest construction company in the Nordic region. As NCC’s Head Of Business Transformation & Digitalization, Anders Torell says he has one foot in the tech startup world, and the other in a large company.

Anders started his talk by asking the audience how many of them worked for a large, market-leading organisation facing new disruptors entering the market. The majority of hands went up.

“The problem, Anders argued, is that many market leaders don’t try to “disrupt themselves”. NCC want to “be disruptors in their own market” – changing and renewing the construction industry. To do this, Anders helped establish a “startup” within the organisation. The startup developed and pitched new business ideas, before deciding to create Loop Rocks. Loop is a recycling app that brings together buyers and sellers of secondary building materials, that would otherwise go to waste. The project went from idea to launch in just 16 weeks.”

The startup model worked well, allowing NCC to try new ways of working outside the organisation’s standard governance, budgeting, planning and risk models. The result was an award-winning app which is promoting sustainability and disrupting the market.

Redefining risk – transforming incumbent organisations into digital frontiers

Christoffer Vollmer, Head Of Digital Transformation at Forefront Consulting Group, started his presentation with a quotation:

“Digital is the main reason just over half of the companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000.” – Pierre Nanterne, World Economic Forum, 2016

Christoffer argued that startups and digital disruption are not the biggest risks to incumbent companies. In fact, the biggest risk is the incumbents themselves. They often:

●    fail to innovate, making themselves obsolete to tech-savvy consumers and vulnerable to new, digital entrants in the market

●    rely too heavily on barriers to entry, failing to recognise that digitisation significantly lowers these barriers

The Forefront Consulting Group helps large incumbent organisations use their size and scale to disrupt their own industry – to “disrupt the disrupters”. Forefront steers organisations through the process of implementing a digital transformation strategy and realigning their focus from products to purpose.

Although many incumbents are fearful of change, in today’s fast-paced world, doing nothing is no longer an option. As Christoffer put it: risk isn’t betting on the wrong horse, it’s not betting at all.

Customer Co-Creation: A Win-Win Situation

Today, almost every large organisation is running a digital transformation programme. Everyone is moving to agile. Mark Nielsen, VP of the Digital Hub at Danske Bank, argues that’s not enough to differentiate you anymore. Instead, there should be a focus on how to “pull customers into the organisation”.

Danske spent time getting to understand their customers better. They looked at the customer day: what do they want to achieve, what are their key challenges, what do they spend their time on, what do they need to perform better, who do they work with?

This greater understanding of the customer-led to fundamental changes at Danske. The organisation has moved to a “customer co-creation” model, where customers are more deeply involved in how the bank develops and goes to market with new solutions.

Dankse now engages with customers to identify potential solutions, before developing an MVP. This is tested with customers, iterated, then tested again in two to four-week cycles. The organisation’s traditional view was that if something was 100% correct, customers wouldn’t be happy. In fact, customers have been happy to test partial solutions. They don’t expect to see the final product, as long as they can see progress in the right direction.

Mark says this new way of working has led to significant changes in the organisation. It’s creating new business opportunities, driving operational efficiency, and developing a more customer-centric mindset.

Building The Corporate Brain – A Platform Driven Approach To Digital Transformation

In his talk, Stefan Dageson, CTO of Ortelius, argued that many organisations recognise the value of knowledge and data, but are yet to fully leverage their potential. He shared some statistics with the conference:

●    around 50% of US employees are “knowledge workers”, but only 20% of their time is spent on value creation, the rest is spent on coordinating or searching for information

●    companies are investing heavily in big data and machine learning, yet only 30% of projects are profitable

Although there’s much discussion about machine knowledge vs human knowledge, Stefan argued that the way for organisations to achieve real competitive advantage is to use machine knowledge to leverage human knowledge and break down departmental silos.

Ortelius’s Inorigo platform compiles and organises corporate knowledge in a single repository. It allows knowledge workers to interact with and share information more efficiently, increasing the pace of innovation and transformation. And this, said Stefan, is key – because to succeed in today’s digital environment, “organisations need to be continuously fast, not just fast”.

Digital Governance in a time of Disintegration

The longer an organisation exists, the more governance and controls it puts in place. In his talk, Johan Magnusson, Associate Professor at the Swedish Centre For Digital Innovation, discussed how incumbent organisations often find themselves constrained by these “antiquated models of governance”. Existing governance structures inhibit change, leaving organisations unable to respond effectively to digitalisation.

Large organisations often feel secure in their market position, but in reality, argued Johan, the pace of digitalisation is leading to the disintegration of markets. New technologies are toppling established practices and traditional industry boundaries are disappearing. In this environment, small companies can achieve economies of scale, without the scale, and an incumbent’s next competitor can come from any industry.

Some organisations respond to this challenge by simply adding a new layer of governance on top of their existing framework – the increasing uptake of Agile in large organisations being a prime example. However, to Johan, this isn’t the correct approach. He argued that, in the wake of digitalisation, large organisations need to completely break down existing governance and develop new, leaner models.

Age Of The Virtual Workforce Has Arrived: It Has Never Been More About The People

Early in his talk Mattias Fras, Group Head of Robotics at Nordea, admits that there is a lot of hype about artificial intelligence (AI) in the financial industry, but that no one has done anything significant yet. However, he’s certain this is about to change.

The reason for the hype, argues Mattias, is that “the stars are aligned”. A new regulatory environment, changing business models and customer behaviour, new competition, and mature technology mean the time is right for AI in the sector. For example, financial services companies have access to vast amounts of data on customers’ financial transactions but are not utilising it yet. AI and machine learning could be used to exploit this resource.

At Nordea, Mattias is driving robotic process automation and chatbot programmes and building a future roadmap for AI at scale. There are of course challenges to developing AI and “virtual workforce” solutions – regulation, attracting talent, gaining business buy-in – but the results will transform the sector.

Adapt Or Die 

In her talk, Tuva Palm, CTO at Nordnet, looked at the rapid pace of change brought about by digitisation, and how companies adapt (or don’t) to change.

When faced with new competition, an incumbent organisation’s instinct may be to fear and avoid change. Some respond by trying to “do more” of what they normally do. Others don’t respond at all – relying too heavily on the perceived strength of their market position and economies of scale.

Many of the companies who’ve fallen off the Fortune 500 list in the last 20 years, failed to make the transition to internet-based business in the late 1990s. Kodak and Blockbuster are well-known cautionary tales, but even relatively new organisations, born in the internet boom, must still continue to adapt. Companies such as Blackberry and MySpace lost a seemingly unassailable market position. Success today, is no guarantee of success tomorrow.

At Nordnet, Tuva is heading the delivery of a “Robo Advice” tool. It’s utilising AI and machine learning to give customers a fully digital advisory experience – from automated deposits to automated rebalancing of customers’ investment portfolios.

The Importance Of Explorations & Continuous Innovation

The pace of change brought about by digitisation means that large, traditional companies need to learn how to be fast and explore new opportunities. Petra Sundstrom is Director of Ideas & Innovation at Husqvarna Group, a leading producer of outdoor power products. The organisation was founded in 1689, but Petra’s talk showed that no organisation is too old to embrace the opportunities of digital.

Petra led a project to test a new concept that allowed customers to book power tool rental through an app, then collect the tool from a set of lockers – unlocking the right door via bluetooth. Rental and the “sharing economy” were new markets for the company, and it was also the first time they’d interacted with customers through an app.

Petra explained that Husqvarna Group is used to long development times. For example, it takes the company 8 years to develop a new top-quality chainsaw. By contrast, the tool lockers went from concept to working reality in 6 months.

The team are still gathering user feedback, and Petra said there are still things the company need to work out. However, the project demonstrated that Husqvarna Group recognises it needs to be prepared to take “an early bet”, and understands that it needs to “play in the digital space, using its strengths”.

Digital Futures Panel: How to digitally transform your Enterprise for 2030

The conference ended with a panel discussion. Taking questions from the audience were: Peter Krielgaard, Head Of Marketing at CO-OP Danmark, Mattias Fras, Head of Robotics Strategy & Innovation at Nordea, Rickard Wieselfors, Director Digital Transformation at Ericsson, and Anders Torell, Head Of Digitalization at NCC Group.

The first question from the floor asked whether technology will replace or enhance the workforce. The consensus among the panel was that technology will bring a positive change. Peter and Rickard both felt that AI, in particular, will enhance and enrich employees’ working lives. Mattias accepted that in the next 10 to 20 years, technology will replace some employees, but it will also open up new job opportunities.

Another attendee asked how the panellists’ companies were facilitating innovation at all levels of the organisation. Mattias explained that at Nordea they’re redeveloping employee incentive schemes to place more focus on innovation and challenging the status quo. The company is also rethinking the way they do business cases, so they better suit agile, iterative projects.

Peter spoke about how CO-OP is encouraging staff to consider the effects of technology in all markets. During their weekly marketing meeting, staff take it in turns to talk about a new product, campaign, or technology they’ve recently heard about, and discuss its implications for the market and its incumbents.

“One of the last questions in the session focused on the customer: in constantly changing markets, how do you define your customers?

Peter felt that we have more data about customers than ever before, and so more opportunities to learn more about them. He stressed the importance of organisations owning their customer data – it’s now something that’s too valuable to outsource.”

Mattias said that while it’s arguably becoming easier to know your existing customers, as digitisation shifts markets, it’s more difficult to know who your potential customers are. He spoke about opportunities to collaborate with partner organisations to share data on potential customers.

The panel discussion reflected many of the key themes that had emerged throughout the day: artificial intelligence, agile ways of working, how digitalisation is transforming markets, and the many opportunities digital opens up for the organisations which are fastest to respond.

Our next event in Sweden is taking place on the 8th of December in Stockholm, CIO Edge Sweden will gather the Country’s most innovative Enterprise brands to discuss the latest IT innovations, spaces are limited, to enquire about delegate, sponsors, media or speaker positions contact us:

Best wishes,

CIO Edge Sweden Team

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