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Fast-digitalizing Neova upskilled their staff through Sofigate Academy

Neova promotes clean, water-efficient local food production; the supply of local fuels; heat, power and steam solutions; and develops new products to clean up environmental pollution. Neova is becoming an increasingly technology-driven organisation, which means that its IT management needs to stay a step ahead. That’s why Neova and Sofigate joined forces to launch a competence development programme to improve the Information and Communication Technology skills of Neova’s staff, and to ensure that the IT function was integrating effectively with the rest of the company.

New strategy calls for new IT skills

Traditionally, Neova (previously known as Vapo) has been known for its promotion of peat as an energy source. But as it continues transitioning towards low-carbon emission solutions, the company is developing new, more energy-efficient and sustainable alternatives.

In 2018, Neova overhauled its strategy and organisational structure. Previously a holding company, its operations were consolidated under a single group. It also established an IT unit responsible for the company’s IT management. These changes made it necessary to upskill staff to ensure that they were prepared for the new demands of their jobs.

“Through the reorganisation, we realised that IT operations are increasingly at the centre of all aspects of our company. Neova’s transformation strategy relies heavily on improved IT services. Customers and markets are also always looking for better, cost-effective and innovative digital services,” says Jukka Holm, Chief Information Officer at Neova.

In 2016, Neova conducted an internal IT governance maturity analysis that emphasised the importance of IT competence development. The analysis found that the rest of the company felt little benefit from IT, highlighting the importance of developing competence internally.

ICT JOE programme to increase skills

In order to make significant strides in its IT management, Neova shifted its focus from recruiting professionals with the right skills to training existing staff. In the spring of 2018, Neova launched its Journey to Excellence Information and Communication Technology management programme.

The Sofigate Academy’s change programme set out to increase Neova’s IT unit’s expertise and to ensure that IT was well-positioned to support a changing Neova. The programme also sought to clarify the management models, processes, roles, and responsibilities of the Neova Group’s IT unit and to create a centralised “ICT 3D” management model (Demand, Development, Delivery model).

“It was important for us that the programme helped the rest of the company and the IT unit to understand one another better, because Neova’s business is becoming increasingly technology-driven,” says Holm.

The two-year programme included six two-day coaching sessions. In addition, the Academy boosted participants’ skills between coaching sessions, with coaches reviewing and, when necessary, workshopping individual goals. After each training day, participants were asked to reflect on their progress and fill out a self-assessment form.

It was important for Neova that everyone be able to participate in the development of the IT function. In addition to Neova’s own IT experts, the programme included development staff from its business side, as well as key individuals from partner organisations. In all, there were around 30 participants.

“We have been extremely pleased with the ICT JOE programme. In Finland, Sofigate is one of the best and only organisations that provides comprehensive IT governance development and that can coach IT management development,”says Holm.

It is a big hit within Neova

The two-year development programme will end in the spring of 2020. The increased level of staff competence is already noticeable.

As a result of the programme, Neova now has coherent IT management, common processes and practices, as well as actionable goals.

“We redid the maturity analysis and the business team now reports that it benefits greatly from the IT unit. The situation, therefore, has turned around entirely. As a team, we are now ready to bring about the transformation that the company needs, ” says Holm.

The knowledge base and skills of Neova staff have grown, and new operating methods are now familiar throughout the organisation. In addition to Finland, employees from Estonia, Sweden, and the Netherlands have participated in the programme. And as an added bonus, partner organisations’ understanding of Neova’s operations has improved vastly.

“From the outset, Neova made employees central to the change, and they were given more responsibility. Employees are generally more committed when their professional development is being invested in and they are given the opportunity to highlight their own skills. Neova dared to bring ecosystem thinking into play. It is rare for organisations to also involve their external partners in development, and Neova definitely benefited from it, ”says Liisa Korkiakoski, who is in charge of coaching at the Academy at Sofigate.

“In Finland, Sofigate is one of the best and only organisations that provides comprehensive IT governance development and that can coach IT management development.”

Jukka Holm
CIO, Neova

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