A CIO’s role is all about forming an understanding of the business, information and technology in their company, as well as of emerging technologies and competitive capabilities. Sofigate’s podcast series “Reimagine Technology” was re-launched in June 2018, with a focus on the most pressing questions CIOs face in their work.

During the making of the series, we have had the fortune of talking to over 20 CIOs and other key stakeholders in various business technology organisations. These encounters have been very helpful in gaining an understanding of their strategic directions, top priorities, challenges, and their daily work.

We have learned about issues such as innovation, data management, shadow IT and legacy, finding and retaining competence, AI, the integration of business and IT and leadership… and these are just the tip of the iceberg!

This article is a carefully selected compilation of the insights we have amassed during the making of the podcast. We hope these findings and visions of these top professionals will prove most interesting and useful to you, too!

1. TO INNOVATE IS TO STAY RELEVANT

Innovation can be many things, but one thing is for certain: it occurs when people with different competences meet and create together, and it seldom is a one-man show. Fredrik Heghammar, co-founder and partner of House of Sparks underlined the importance of making innovation a daily part of everyone’s work in a successful organisation. Larger enterprises should pay particular attention to this if they want to utilise all of the potential that lies within their staff.

Michael Asplund, CIO at Coor, also placed great value on an innovative mentality. At Coor, this means that innovation is a large part of all their employees’ commitments. Continuously improving your own and others’ workday is one of the corner stones in the company’s common values. The collaborative nature of innovation can also be understood in an even broader way, as Stora Enso’s CIO Teemu Salmi saw it. Stora Enso is trying out a model to ensure that innovation within the company is geared at bringing value. One way to boost this goal is to co-innovate and engage more closely with customers.

This kind of collaborative innovation is currently a real trend. Right now, several larger companies are testing out a related concept: innovation labs. For example, the telecom operator Tre arranges annual, week-long Freelabs, where people outside of Tre are welcomed to increase the innovative power. The goal with Freelabs is to enable innovation in Tre’s daily work. ATG is also using the innovation labs concept under the name X Labs.

Another important aspect in driving innovation is for it to be owned by group management, stressed House of Sparks’ Heghammar. Management ownership of innovation enforces it to reach across the organisation and puts innovation on top of the agenda. And as Hillevi Agranius, Husqvarna’s CIO described it: by having constant innovation, you keep a company alive and on the market.

2. OH, THE INVALUABLE DATA!

However, innovation is not the only key to success. Another essential factor that CIOs discussed in most episodes of Reimagine Technology was data management. The common denominator for all organisations in all fields is that there is a true need for better structured and centralized data.

Daniel Eriksson, CIO at Medivir at the time of recording the podcast and currently Head of Technology at Transparency International, mentioned that Medivir has a centre of data excellence. The grand idea is to use their data to increase the focus and create improved synergies between projects. Stora Enso is also working strategically within this area, for example by forming a partnership with Azure, who support them with the creation of data lakes. According to Carina Landberg, Head of Unit at the Department of Strategic Information Infrastructure at Stockholm Läns Landsting, her organisation currently lacks fundamental master data. Therefore, this is one of the great focus areas that requires considerable development. Christoffer Eile, CIO at Fora, told that their entire business strategy circles around data. This goes through the entire lifecycle of a process, from capturing data to arriving at final decisions, to learn how to deal with possible issues quicker and to ensure quality.

Logically following from data management is Artificial Intelligence, one of the hype topics during this year’s CIO Trend event by IDG. The companies we talked to are all investing in AI and RPA, but many stressed the fact that there is still a long way to go. As Ann-Marie Ovin, CIO at Vinge said: “AI is not there yet to replace people.” Even when deploying AI, there is still a need for a human being to understand the cultural context. However, she also mentions there is a digital thaw, and now everybody is running to become more digitalised.

Another major challenge in enabling AI are legacy issues. Due to the difficulties with legacy, Husqvarna is first focusing on consolidation to decrease complexity. Hans Malmström, IT Transformation Manager at Telia, mentioned that also his organisation is still depending on certain legacy systems, which makes developing AI and robotic solutions more challenging.

All in all, the effect of having control over your data does not only generate value when developing AI, it also enables a more fast-moving company and secure environment. Göran Kördel, CIO at Boliden, told us he believes control, frameworks, rules, and increased communication can decrease shadow IT and empower a more protected organisation. This is of great importance for CIOs looking to create an understanding of security challenges. Not only because nowadays everybody needs to follow GDPR, but also because security is never-ending work. As Mathias Wikström, DPO at Telenor, mentions you can always be better in ensuring privacy in your organisation.

3. CULTURAL CHALLENGES APPROACHING

How do you develop the right capabilities for your organisation to enter the future with resilience? One aspect many companies – including Scandic Group, Telia and Arbetsförmedlingen – mentioned, is forming an ecosystem perspective of the organisation and its partners. Telia is looking at future solutions and services through a holistic enterprise architecture perspective, making sure to see from business, IT and product perspectives. The goal is to minimise the gap between people and to work more in a more multidisciplinary fashion within the organisation.

That was also one of the focus areas that Per Löfquist, CIO at Rexel at the time of recording the podcast, advocated strongly: the importance of working as a united interdisciplinary organisation, as opposed to silos. House of Sparks’ Heghammar agreed: this enables both an innovative culture to prosper and drives up-to-date organisations.

At SBAB, CIO Klas Ljungkvist told us that their organisation is working towards the goal of being a modern workplace where employees feel safe, dare to fail, and are encouraged to go forward without being pushed back. Which, by extension, enables innovation on a micro level.

Ensuring successful change management and enabling a will for change in an organisation was also on many CIOs’ minds. According to Alexandra Fürst, CIO at Wasa Kredit when recording the podcast, now EVP IT & Digitalisation at Dustin Group, the most dangerous pitfall is failing to enable the ability to change quickly. Telenor’s CIO Christian Roth told us he is passionate about change and challenging old truths – and this is something he tries to transfer to his organisation, too.

Filippa Jennersjö, CIO at Arbetsförmedlingen, supported this and implied that jobs in the future should be easy and quick to learn, because professionals will not work for the same employer for their entire career anymore – not even now and especially not in the near future. Instead, people will work for a short period at each organisation and then move on to the next challenge. To prepare for this future, organisations and the labour market need to rapidly adapt to this transformation.

4. …AND WHAT IS GOOD LEADERSHIP?

Many of our guests espoused the importance of good leadership as a key driver for competence maintenance and development. Having a manager with a coach’s mindset, with the goal of making the team prosper as well as a trusting the leadership, is essential.

However, leading a company through today’s ever-changing digital environment where everyone is screaming for competence is a difficult task. To counter it, many companies, for example Telia, work with partners to attract talent. Tre has partnerships with universities, both for knowledge exchange and talent attraction. According to Ann Hellenius, CIO/CDO at Scandic Group, it is important to develop the leadership and stay relevant in several different contexts because of the big changes that will happen to the CIO role. It is also key to be a part of the general social development.

Carina Landberg, Head of Unit, Department of Strategic Information Infrastructure at Stockholm Läns Landsting, said she believes in allowing people to be and act in different ways. Teamwork is very important, coupled with an environment without unnecessary prestige. At Systembolaget, CIO Eva Listi mentioned that personal leadership is central, and everything in the daily work is focused on improving it. Mattias Forsberg, CIO at SAS, appeared to have a lot of confidence in employees. He stated he believes the best way to be a manager is to enable the best resources for the team’s use, instead of micromanaging each and every individual.

Another CIO who advocated a similar leadership style is Peter Larsson at ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems. He said he has high expectations of people and believes in giving them a lot of responsibility. This is part of being a coaching and supporting leader: encouraging everybody to grow into their role.

5. GETTING RID OF THE GAP

According to Jonny Engel, CIO at Tre, another important matter in running a successful organisation is to minimise the gap between business and IT to create a mutually trusting environment within the company. This removes the idea of the business side being a customer to the IT side. Instead, there are no sides: business and IT must work together to create solutions.

Tre is not the only company to raise this issue: Jonas Broman, CIO at Unionen, told us he is striving towards the goal of having IT and business working together in symbiosis. Similarly, Clas Artvin, CIO at SJ, expressed the ambition of IT being a proactive partner to the business. Klas Ljungkvist, CIO at SBAB, shared this idea, and said his organisation plans to succeed by working in agile teams that include people from both the business and the IT.

Minimising the gap between business and IT is also one of the key focus areas for Stadium’s CDO Fredrik Persson in his leadership, which he stated he is doing by having the right competence and creating possibilities for teamwork. However, the most important aspect as a leader is, according to Per Löfquist, CIO at Rexel when recording the podcast, to allow each individual to feel seen, draw out the best from every person and utilise the differences to positive effect. That is how you make your business bloom and stay relevant even tomorrow.

 

A BIG THANK YOU…

…to everyone that we have had the privilege to talk to when creating the Reimagine Technology podcast. If you feel you would like to be interviewed for a podcast episode, please let us know! We are always looking for opportunities to learn and to get to know you.

 

Reimagine Technology – Guests interviewed in 2018–19

CIO Ann-Marie Ovin – Vinge (June 2018)

CIO Daniel Eriksson – Medivir (June 2018)

IT Transformation Manager Hans Malmström – Telia (July 2018)

CIO Jonny Engel – Tre (July 2018)

CIO Teemu Salmi – Stora Enso (August 2018)

Head of unit – Department of Strategic Information Infrastructure Carina Landberg – Stockholms läns landsting (August 2018)

CIO Christoffer Eile – Fora (September 2018)

CIO Filippa Jennersjö – Arbetsförmedlingen (September 2018)

CIO Hillevi Agranius – Husqvarna Group (September 2018)

CIO Alexandra Fürst – Wasa Kredit (September 2018)

CIO Eva Listi – Systembolaget (October 2018)

CIO Göran Kördel – Boliden (November 2018)

CIO Jonas Broman – Unionen (November 2018)

DPO Mathias Wikström – Telenor (December 2018)

CIO Clas Artvin – SJ (December 2018)

CIO Klas Ljungkvist – SBAB (December 2018)

CDO Fredrik Persson – Stadium (January 2019)

CIO Michael Asplund – Coor (February 2019)

CIO Per Gutesten – ATG (February 2019)

CIO Peter Larsson – ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems (February 2019)

CIO Mattias Forsberg – SAS (March 2019)

CIO/CDO Ann Hellenius – Scandic Group (April 2019)

CIO Christian Roth – Telenor (May 2019)

Founder Fredrik Heghammar – House of Sparks (May 2019)

CIO Per Löfquist – Rexel Sverige AB (June 2019)

Authors:

Sophie Sandberg, Business Technology Analyst, Sofigate

Robin Bassili, Business Technology Analyst, Sofigate

Read these next