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CIO interview: Stefan Stigendal, Samhall

The CIO of Swedish company Samhall has the task of digitising its business while ensuring its staff, many of whom are disabled, get used to using IT

Swedish company Samhall is planning to roll out digital tools to all its staff. This presents a significant challenge for the CIO because most of the company’s 23,000 employees are disabled and have little or no experience in using technology.

Samhall is not like other businesses as most of its employees have disabilities, according to the state-owned company’s CIO, Stefan Stigendal, but this is part of the job’s appeal for him.

“Samhall helps people develop through work, and that is something I find very appealing,” he says. “Samhall is like a kind of school, where people learn to work.”

Although it is a government-owned organisation, working in Samhall’s IT department does not involve the same bureaucracy as working in a government department because it does not have to adhere to public sector procurement rules, says Stigendal.

“Samhall is a limited company, so we do not have to use the laws for government procurement in the European Union. In that respect, Samhall is similar to Ramböll, G4S Security Services and other companies I have worked at,” he adds.

The organisation’s IT operation is outsourced, so the internal IT team consists of just 20 people, divided into two groups – systems management and systems development.

“Included in the IT department is Samhall’s customer services team, which is staffed by employees with disabilities. They handle support internally,” says Stigendal.

Raising productivity through technology

Most of Samhall’s disabled employees works in areas such as cleaning, services for the elderly, ground and property maintenance, logistics, manufacturing, assembly and packing.

“The biggest challenge Samhall faces is to increase productivity, which entails strengthening how we work with digital tools,” says Stigendal.

Samhall’s staff work across about 13,000 customer sites, so the first priority is to implement digital tools to ensure employees are where they should be at the right time.

“Most jobs will soon require some form of IT knowledge. We are facing a big educational challenge, since our mission is to make people attractive on the future labour market”
Stefan Stigendal, Samhall

This is a big challenge for Stigendal. “Currently, the attendance management is done manually. At our bigger customer sites, we have work leaders who manage it. For the smaller sites, attendance control is handled at our own offices, before the employees go to the customer sites,” he says.

Digital attendance control is prioritised for three reasons, says Stigendal: “First, a big part of learning to work is learning to get there on time. Second, we have to make sure our employees are at our customers’ sites, as we have promised. Third, this will educate our employees in using digital tools.”

Many people working at Samhall have never used any kind of IT. Stigendal says that is a problem for them when looking for other jobs: “The kind of jobs Samhall is teaching today will soon disappear or change, and most jobs will soon require some form of IT knowledge. We are facing a big educational challenge, since our mission is to make people attractive on the future labour market.”

Researching attendance control tools

When Stigendal took over as CIO at Samhall in September 2015, he was given a big productivity challenge, with the additional challenge of helping employees get used to working with some form of IT.

“Samhall had identified the attendance control as a good starting point, so my task is to flesh out what we actually need and the solutions available,” he says.

Stigendal has approached this task from several angles. “Part of it is to meet with suppliers of different portable attendance control technologies. Another part is to get familiar with the trends in this area, for example through reading and visiting trade shows. A big part is to understand how the attendance control functions at Samhall currently work.”

The technologies Stigendal is considering are either based on smartphones or cards and card readers. “Not all our customers are okay with us putting things up at their sites, so I would prefer that our employees have the intelligent devices. That is, that they for example have a device to scan a bar code at our customer’s site, instead of the other way around.”

Further digitisation and IT expansion plans

Stigendal is also looking at other digital tools for Samhall employees. “I would like some kind of IT support to show employees what has to be more thoroughly cleaned, and what areas are to be cleaned on specific days. These things are mostly managed on paper today,” he says.

In addition, user interfaces have to be simple and easily understandable. “For those of us living with smartphones, most existing user interfaces would not be a problem to manage. But many of our employees do not have smartphones, and those who have might only use them to make phone calls and send texts. The IT maturity in Samhall is generally very low. It might sound strange, but many of our staff are not using smartphone applications or computers at all.”

“The IT maturity in Samhall is generally very low. Many of our staff are not using smartphone applications or computers at all”
Stefan Stigendal, Samhall

Samhall is also planning to digitise customer contact to a certain degree. “We want to create some form of web portal, where our customers can order services, report problems, and so on. We have nothing like this today,” says Stigendal.

He has management backing, with money allocated for the digitisation of Samhall. “There is a good understanding of the need for this, and that it is a big challenge. So it is very exciting and fun to come in as a new CIO and get the opportunity to be part of this.”

Another big challenge Samhall is facing is to optimise its core processes – staffing, scheduling and matching employees with customer sites. “We will have to buy new IT systems to manage this, and also develop some IT systems internally,” says Stigendal. “To support this, the IT department is going to hire some new people.”

Stigendal wants to create a flexible IT infrastructure to enable Samhall to easily change standard IT systems when needed. “We will focus a lot on integration to try to create this new infrastructure, which will act as a hub for different standard systems. We do not want to develop big and expensive IT systems ourselves, but I still do not know how realistic my vision of this new architecture is,” he concludes.

Read more Nordic CIO interviews from Computer Weekly

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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