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CIO interview: Anders Candell, Stora Enso
CIO at Finnish pulp and paper manufacturer shares advice for shouldering a new CIO position and guiding the business towards innovative technology
Anders Candell hit the ground running when he became CIO of Finnish pulp and paper manufacturer Stora Enso last July, with little time to get up to speed.
“There was no honeymoon,” he says. “It is like a treadmill at the gym – I just had to get on and start running, and then try to run even faster.”
Before joining Stora Enso, Candell was CIO of Swedish telecommunications operator Tele2, and before that was CIO of Finnish stainless steel company Outokumpu.
“Technology wise, Stora Enso’s IT is somewhat similar to that of the steel industry,” he says. “But a lot has happened in the industry since I left Outokumpu nearly 10 years ago, so there is a lot of new technology for me to get into.”
But the most important thing for a new CIO is to understand the business, and what challenges it faces going forward, says Candell. For example, the biggest challenge for Stora Enso – as well as opportunity – is the global move away from print media, which uses one of its products, paper.
“This means we have to manage costs and increase revenues in other areas, which in turn has to be supported by IT,” he says.
To help reduce costs, work processes are becoming more automated at Stora Enso, which means IT will play an increasingly important role, says Candell.
But it is not just about cutting costs through modern IT – the company will also make use of the internet of things (IoT), he says.
“There are enormous amounts of sensory data in our production, and if we analyse this big data, we can see connections that are not possible to see without advanced IT tools. This knowledge can be used to improve quality, effectiveness and logistics.”
Stora Enso will also help its customers make use of the IoT, says Candell. “We are creating intelligent packaging, with RFID chips. Brand owners selling things in these packages can, for example, use the technology to increase brand awareness, or show that the product is not fake or tampered with, while improving the logistics,” he says.
New technologies take up a lot of Candell’s time. “We in IT have to be a step ahead and explain how new technology can be used,” he says. “We have reorganised the IT function, and created a new department called digital solutions, which can guide the business when it comes to innovation.”
The new innovations group, which is not yet fully established, will consist of 10-20 people, says Candell. “It is not a big organisation, but very fleet-of-foot. What it will look like will change over time, since we cannot predict what will happen in the future.
“Its competences are a mix of understanding the business, technical competence, capacity to think differently, and the ability to explain the uses of big data to the business.”
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Stora Enso’s IT function consists of 540 people, most of them located in Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. “But we are in many other countries too, so both I and my co-workers travel a lot,” says Candell.
About 60% of the company’s IT costs are external, in the form of outsourcing and purchases of hardware and software, he says. “Infrastructure, hosting and a number of systems are outsourced. We run systems ourselves, too, and we will always handle the interface between IT and business internally – that is a necessity, because we would not be able to manage the suppliers otherwise.”
Candell has not yet decided if he wants to insource or outsource more in the future. “There is no rush to change things,” he says. “But we are continually checking up on the partners we have.”
Candell’s best advice to other CIOs who are new to the job is to have fun. “I enjoy myself enormously, and that makes everything so much easier,” he says. “It is so important to have a positive outlook.”
Another vital quality that Candell has learnt during his 11 years as a CIO is patience. “You have to let change management take time,” he says. “It is about people, and you have to respect them.
“I was impatient when I started out as CIO, and I am still impatient, but now I realise that I have to adjust. So there are some benefits to all the grey hair I have acquired over the years.”
Candell’s third piece of advice to fellow and aspiring CIOs is: do not fear failure. “You have to be brave enough to test things out,” he says. “Start on a small scale, so that you can fail on a small scale. And if it turns out to work, you can scale it up.”
“Start on a small scale, so that you can fail on a small scale. And if it turns out to work, you can scale it up”
Anders Candell, Stora Enso
Stora Enso’s project with intelligent packaging is an example of this philosophy, says Candell. “We are starting out small with pilot customers, and this allows us to gain important experience that we can leverage in the next phase. You have to start out on a small scale – just like a startup company.”
Intelligent packaging can be used in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer scenarios, says Candell. An example of a potential service geared at end-users is communication between smartphone and packaging, he says.
“The RFID chip in the packaging can direct the end-user to an internet page with product information to show, for example, that a food product has been frozen since it was made, and many other things. But this requires our customers to build up the ecosystems to support this infrastructure.”
Candell believes Stora Enso is more focused on innovation than are other similar companies. “We talk and think about it more than others, and we have an explicit agenda for how we will manage innovation,” he says. “I have a background in telecoms, and that industry is ahead in this area, since it is a business driven by technology.
“Our CEO has innovative visions, so my role is to capture these and realise them together with the business. The IT function cannot do that much on its own.”