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CIO interview: Antti Koskelin at Finland’s Kone

Antti Koskelin joined Kone with the immediate task of finishing off a major IT infrastructure project that had already started, but has looked forward ever since

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CW Nordics: CW Nordics – November 2015 Edition

When Antti Koskelin joined Finnish manufacturer Kone Corporation in early 2015 as senior vice-president of global development and CIO, he took over its global development team of over 300 people and had to finish off a major project that had been kicked off by a predecessor.

Koskelin’s first task at Kone, one of the world’s largest lift and escalator manufacturers, was to oversee the completion of a major IT infrastructure outsourcing transformation. Once that was finished, he would be free to focus away from infrastructure and look at the wider IT needs of the company.

The outsourcing project included transferring datacentres, user support and workstation management from HP to German service provider T-Systems, as well as completing the consolidation of the SAP environment.

While the scale of the project was challenging, Koskelin has already seen strong results. “It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that these things don’t always go like in the movies. When I joined the team at the beginning of the year, our user satisfaction was at 65%,” says Koskelin.

“We have put in lots of work with T-Systems, and I have also done some restructuring of responsibilities in my team and aligned roles between Kone and T-Systems. Currently our user satisfaction is at 97%.”

The improvements have allowed Koskelin to shift his focus from basic infrastructure to the wider IT needs at Kone.

“First comes stakeholder management, especially at executive level, so that our team has the possibility to be involved there and we can recognise the things where IT needs to be involved, says Koskelin.

“[A CIO] also needs to understand where technology trends are moving,” he says. “It isn’t enough to visit a Gartner seminar once a year. You need to regularly meet with different kinds of [technology] players and service providers and be able to quickly see if there is something we can learn from – whether it is something we can involve in our thought process when planning our next steps, or even an idea or a provider we should involve in our operations.”

The evolving CIO 

Having started his career at Nokia Networks (then Nokia Telecommunications) in the late 1990s, Koskelin has seen IT and the role of the CIO evolve through the years. When he started to run his first small enterprise resource management team at Nokia, the trend was to do everything internally. It was a long way from IT today, where outsourcing partners, mobility in every operation and cloud services are becoming business as usual, he says.

“A colleague has said very wisely that ‘everything that isn’t core to the business can be bought from cloud’. Not many companies want to specialise in email or payroll administration. Even sales management starts to be more standardised. But when you go to service experience or product development, cloud services are still a few years away,” says Koskelin.

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This attitude has been embraced at Kone. While cloud services are a large part of its IT operations, any new systems are chosen in close co-operation with the relevant business units.

“The CIO position offers a vantage point across the whole company. I cannot think of any other role where you get to work with every single function,” says Koskelin. “Geographically, my organisation and I need to be in contact with every country we operate in.

The wide reach of IT today is why Koskelin believes the role of CIO should evolve towards deeper involvement in business strategy. “Maybe the next phase in the career of a CIO is from chief information officer to chief integration officer and then to the role of a chief innovation officer,” he says.

The four cornerstones where IT drives business

Koskelin sees further digitisation as the next major step for Kone. In fact, he talks about four sectors where modern IT already has plenty to offer for business: Advanced and easy-to-implement technology, or software as a service (SaaS); usability and user experience; data transparency and agile and fast projects

“Get something ready in three weeks or even three months, show it to the users, take note of the feedback and make changes accordingly,” Koskelin explains. “[Projects] should be taken forward with agile, small steps while understanding the needs and feedback of users.”

"Projects should be taken forward with agile, small steps while understanding the needs and feedback of users"

Antti Koskelin, Kone Corporation

Koskelin emphasises the effective use of big data. IT needs to make sure data and analytics can respond to the needs of new digital services.

“When you roll out digital services, transparency rises to a new level,” he says. “For example if we don’t have relevant data on our equipment and service, when a customer gets access to the information through a new portal or mobile app they will see straight away if the data is not up to date.

“From the CIO perspective, the data architecture needs to work. You need to have the same master elements in all systems. If your ERP [enterprise resource planning] system codes customers in a different way to your CRM [customer relationship management] system, the data the customer sees is useless,” he adds.

Cyber security and its biggest threat 

While Koskelins four cornerstones drive innovation, hes keen to stress the additional challenges that increasing adoption of mobile services and devices bring to cyber security. 

This is especially true at Kone, which employs more than 47,000 people globally, a large proportion of whom are always on the move. Koskelin believes part of the solution stems from technology, but also highlights the need to create an understanding of cyber security challenges throughout the company.

“CIOs often say only a small part of data breaches are technical – the biggest threat is people,” says Koskelin. “You can’t hide in the bushes and say to HR, ‘You take care of the personnel’. It is my responsibility to make sure people understand the risks, have the right attitude and know what to do [if problems arise].”

Koskelin believes the biggest IT challenges today arise from how to implement new technologies into real operational use: “Let’s take big data and analytics as an example. The technology exists, there is plenty of data and we can build analytics systems and reports that provide useful information – but how do we really put that into practice and change operational models? Can the operational organisation learn new things as fast as technology is changing?”

The solution? Something you should expect from a modern CIO: “Include people in early stages and give them time to adjust…Not the old rural community way of ‘Let’s wait until the spring, it will happen’, but give people a week or two to internalise the change. Take small steps, but more often,” Koskelin concludes.

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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