September 19, 2019

Futurice makes sure digital is humane to humans

Although a majority of Futurice’s revenue comes from coding, the company has been able to harness the tech part to serve the needs of people through service design.
Although a majority of Futurice’s revenue comes from coding, the company has been able to harness the tech part to serve the needs of people through service design.
Futurice

Technology has outrun the human capacity to think of ways to use it. It is no longer just a question of what can it do but also what can we do with it. These are questions Futurice has been answering for the past 18 years.

We often talk about the rise of new technologies, gadgets and apps that will transform our lives in some way. Digitalisation, by definition, excludes human agency of the transformation – it is merely the process of converting something into digital form.

But before answering the what, we first have to ask the how. How do we, as humans, adapt to the changing surroundings?

Futurice’s multifunctional teams have considerable autonomy in making decisions that best serve the client.

Futurice’s multifunctional teams have considerable autonomy in making decisions that best serve the client.

Futurice

Well, ponder no further since Futurice – aside from its main revenue stream of coding  – also specialises in combining the human and tech elements of digitalisation in pretty much every industry imaginable: telecom, manufacturing, finance, insurance and retail, to name a few.

“We help our customers create a digital future,” states Teemu Moisala, the CEO of the Finnish digital innovation company. “It’s a question of providing the concrete digital tools, as well as developing the culture, the company personality.”

A big piece of the puzzle is having the hard skills to be able to develop software and technology. Human-centred design is more about how the puzzle should look like to best serve people. Combining the two is where Futurice’s solutions are providing the most value to clients.

Given Futurice’s track record of 18 years in the business, over 3 000 projects and eight offices in five countries, and 50 million euros in annual revenue, it may be on to something.

Transformers

The company has the building blocks for success.

The company has the building blocks for success.

Futurice

So, how do you change a work culture and adapt to a digital environment? Futurice is committed to leading by example: it has been chosen as the best place to work nationally and in Europe, twice. A lot of the methods offered to clients have their origins in how Futurice functions.

“Trusting people, enabling them to learn and empowering them to take ownership of their work give a sense of purpose, an idea of how their tasks relate to the bigger whole. These have been our core building blocks from the get-go.”

And out of people, teams emerge.

“In dealing with complex issues, you need developers, designers, business strategists and data scientists working together from the beginning in multi-functional teams. The old way of compartmentalised functions just doesn’t work any more, or at least it’s not very effective.”

More than a concept

Futurice engages its clients in developing the new culture through experimental teams and demos, according to certain structured processes. Hard skills in technology go hand in hand with culture reform; they enable new ways of doing things.

It is in these sandboxes with some trial-and-error leeway that a new way of doing and collaborating often first takes shape and from which the new culture begins to spread in the organisation.

“In the early days of Futurice, we learnt by doing and, well, failing,” chuckles Moisala. “But it was worth it, I believe we gained an abundance of knowledge on the hows but also the whys, which eventually led to a people-centred philosophy that a lot of others are just finding out.”

In the early days of Futurice, we learnt by doing and, well, failing

A recent example of Futurice walking the digitalisation talk is a project with the Finnish Tax Administration (FTA), which wanted to try new and agile ways of working. The reform began at the team level by experimenting with multidisciplinary teams that were equipped with Lean Service Creation , an agile methodology that has been developed by the company over the years.

The new multiplex teams worked with internal clients according to organisational needs and managed to produce higher customer and employee satisfaction, as well as more efficient lead times.

“I believe that impact is at the very core of creating trust between the new culture and employees,” Moisala says. “You have to be able to show the results and benefits of the new way of doing things on a micro level.”

The job is not done after gaining the trust of the employees. It is rather a continuous journey of learning, where people’s feedback influences how the culture should be tailored to further serve its goals.

Keep on keeping on

In changing a culture, you cultivate people according to a new way of working that has digital tools built into its processes, rather than throwing new digital tools at old ways of working.

Information flows and decision-making don’t have to be top-down. In multidisciplinary teams, it is possible to deliver services in an autonomous way. The role of management is to make sure the people are empowered to be their very best individually and as a group.

The people have spoken! Futurice’s employees find meaning in social responsibility and have stacked up the volunteer hours to show for it.

The people have spoken! Futurice’s employees find meaning in social responsibility and have stacked up the volunteer hours to show for it.

Futurice

This brings us back to the question of what can we do with digitalisation. Moreover, what should we do with digitalisation?

“You have to ask your people,” says Moisala. “At Futurice, there was clear feedback from employees that we need to be helping the common good.”

What followed was the Spice Program, a not-so-typical corporate social responsibility programme.

“Through the Spice Program our employees contribute to positive social-impact projects through open-source coding,” explains Moisala. “We encourage our employees by paying 15 euros an hour for a maximum of 30 hours per month to make the world a better place.”

Futuricians contributed a total of 22 250 hours of volunteer work between 2014 and 2018 through their Chilicorn Fund and Spice Program. The Chilicorn Fund consists of pro-bono projects that aim to produce digital services for NGOs and communities that may not have the resources for them.

“We’ve loved working with Save the Children and SaferGlobe Arms Export Report projects, which I feel make a positive impact on the things I care about,” says Moisala.

Text: Samuli Ojala

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