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Nordic CIO interview: Roland Grunéus, Intrum Justitia

Roland Grunéus, the CIO of Swedish-founded Intrum Justitia, reveals the credit management services group’s efforts to make better use of data

After 15 years as an IT management consultant, Roland Grunéus joined Swedish-founded credit management services group Intrum Justitia in 2010.

He was hired as enterprise architect, and worked on creating an understanding of what the company’s IT landscape looks like as well as a range of IT management issues, he says.

Things got more interesting in 2013, when Intrum Justitia decided to work more actively with data and information. “Just like banks and online companies, Intrum Justitia is very information-centric, and the information is one of our biggest assets,” says Grunéus.

In addition being an enterprise architect, Grunéus became head of data management. “This new field took up most of my waking time. It is a very exciting area. You have to be creative when you try to figure out what value you can get out of the data.”

Last year, the organisation’s CIO, Harry Vranjes, became regional managing director for Western Europe.

“We needed a new CIO, and I got the role,” Grunéus says. ”My new area of responsibility is, of course, much broader. For instance, I did not have much to do with infrastructure earlier, and I am involved in more systems and areas in the company now.” He adds that now he is responsible for a bigger organisation his administrative tasks have also increased.

CIO by any other name

Grunéus’s formal title is CTO rather than CIO because at Intrum Justitia the CIO is the chief investment officer. “We are a financial company, and people expect the person with the CIO title to be a financial person,” explains Grunéus.

“I do exactly the same thing as the chief information officer does in other companies. But the development of new technologies is also my responsibility, just as for a traditional chief technology officer.”

Intrum Justitia has 3,850 employees, and the central IT function consists of nearly 200 people. “They take care of the infrastructure, and manage development and maintenance of our IT systems. We have an additional 200 people spread out over our 19 countries. They take care of the daily IT operations, such as service desk and management of some local systems.”

The local IT personnel report indirectly to Grunéus. “Every country within the group is its own business unit, so we discuss their projects, problems with systems, and so on. And they have the knowledge about the data generated, and how it could be used.”

Intrum Justitia has outsourced some IT services, such as HR-related systems in some countries. “We are also using external partners for some of our development. But when it comes to our core business, we have not really outsourced any of the daily operations.”

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The IT landscape at the company used to be decentralised, according to Grunéus. “Our over-arching IT strategy is to try to find ways to take advantage of our size, find similarities between the businesses, and harmonise parts of the IT landscape. But we in IT cannot tell the countries exactly what to do since they are their own profit centres.”

Differences in laws, regulations and financial processes between countries also mean that different IT systems are needed in different countries, says Grunéus.

One of his biggest challenges is to make the company’s IT better, faster and cheaper, which he admits is not a unique challenge. “We are also putting a lot of effort into making sure the IT services are available, and I think that also holds true in many other organisations. What might set us apart is how much time and energy we are putting into getting value out of data.”

Business intelligence

This is partly done through traditional business intelligence (BI) solutions, according to Grunéus. “We are also using different kinds of decision analysis models. For example, we are trying to predict the cash flow for different customer segments 12 months in advance. Big data technology is the foundation, and then we are building applications on top of that.”

The platform is composed of standard components, such as open source software framework Apache Hadoop. “But we have developed the glue to put it all together ourselves. And then we have a group of analysts who are trying to come up with which applications we can build and put in the hands of the businesses, to enable them to make smarter and faster decisions.”

“We are trying to predict the cash flow for different customer segments 12 months in advance”
Roland Grunéus, Intrum Jusititia

For example, Intrum Justitia has built applications showing how customers are acting over time, Grunéus explains. “In an organisation with a centralised customer relation management system, this is easy. But for us it has been a challenge.”

Grunéus and his colleagues make good use of any feedback they get from the businesses. “We have discovered that when we are putting data in the hands of people in the businesses, we get the best new ideas. So we use those ideas to create custom-made tools.”

Going forward, Grunéus is excited about predicting future incomes from different services and customers, and connecting that with exact information about what it really costs to produce different services. “We are using data from a very low level – for example, what telephone calls have been made for a specific customer case. This makes it possible to see totally different things than if you were to use only ordinary numbers from the economy department,” he says.

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