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Bringing IT and business closer – How the BT Standard helped Fennia prioritise development

The insurance business is one of the most rapidly changing industries today. To keep up with the pace of change and honour their over 140-year history, the Fennia Group wanted to ensure their service development work was in line with the company’s wider strategy. But how to achieve clarity on where the business is heading?

”Belive it or not, our IT function didn’t use to enjoy a great reputation in the C-suite! The business side felt the IT people were always saying ’No, hold on a minute now!’ in response to all development ideas,” chuckles Petteri Miinalainen, Fennia CIO. And there were many development projects indeed. The insurance industry is moving at a fast pace and facing a myriad of demands from customers, legislators and evolving technology.

”At one point our development backlog was 240 items long. For the top management, a situation like this looks chaotic. We needed to find a way to focus our development work on the areas that best support our group-wide strategy,” says Tapio Korttilalli, Director of Service Development and Partnerships at Fennia. ”We just didn’t have a proper prioritisation funnel and governance,” summarises Miinalainen.

A unified model of organising development work would not only help make decision-making more effective, but also bring down costs, shorten product lead-times and simplify vendor management. ”It was clear we needed a model to organise ourselves. But we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Korttilalli says.

BT Standard as springboard for organising operations

Reinventing the wheel didn’t turn out to be necessary, as Fennia decided to utilise the open-source Business Technology Standard.

”The BT Standard is a great springboard for constructing a model. It had already been tried and tested by hundreds of companies, so we could take it as a starting point and then fine-tune it to our own needs,” Korttilalli says. Fennia understood from the start that an outside perspective would be beneficial when implementing a new model of working.

”Sofigate had helped many companies of different sizes and in different fields implement the BT Standard, so their expertise was very valuable,” says Miinalainen. ”An external partner helps keep the focus on a sufficiently abstract level and avoid getting hung up on particular company-specific eccentricities.”

”Change management is the hardest part”

Even though the project originated from the IT function and was led by the CIO, the BT Standard model soon swept through all Fennia business units. The implemantation work ranged from creating task groups focusing on selected areas of the development work, to workshopping the Fennia way of organising and defining roles, and all the way to coaching hundreds of Fennia managers and staff to employ the new model in their daily work.

”In projects like this, change management is definitely the hardest part: How to get the new ways of working to jump out from the planning documents and into the daily reality?” Miinalainen muses.

”Sofigate’s methods and tools such as BT Forums, BT Café events and coaching sessions helped everyone really commit to this change. Even though people’s calendars were full, they still participated in BT Standard related workshops and other events. I take that as a sign that this work was felt to be valuable,” Korttilalli continues.

Because Sofigate has such a long history in implementing the BT Standard model, they were able to bring in some special guests along the way to share their wisdom with Fennia. ”We had people from top Finnish companies and brands visit and reveal their own lessons and insights to us. Their prestige was an effective boost to ensure the buy-in of our management and staff for the entire BT Standard project,” says Miinalainen.

Clearer vision, happier CEO

So did BT Standard succeed in bringing the clarity Fennia’s IT and business leadership were hoping for?

”First of all, IT and business work in much closer cooperation now. And even the different business units have come closer to each other in development work. We now have real transparency into our development needs and are able to prioritise them. Our backlog is not 240 items long anymore, but instead we are able to create a clear roadmap for development that supports our wider strategy,” Korttilalli states.

Miinalainen agrees that the breaking down of silos between IT and business is seen and felt at Fennia:

”The new model has made decision-making more effective. Our development work is now more focused and more cost-effective. Because we work in a more systematic way, roles and responsibilities are clearer for everyone now. This applies not only to our IT function and our business units, but even to our vendors.”

And IT’s reputation among the top management? Has it improved? ”It has! Especially the executive team and the CEO appreciate IT more than before. They understand that IT is an essential partner in developing the entire business. And the CFO is happy about improved cost-consciousness,” concludes Miinalainen.

“Our IT and Business work in much closer cooperation now. We have real transparency into our development needs and are able to prioritise them.”

Tapio Korttilalli, Director of Service Development and partnerships

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