Service suppliers such as banks, insurance companies, electricity companies and broadband and mobile telephony providers are among the most vulnerable and we are now seeing changes to their core activities. They are doing this by redefining and adapting their own role and growth strategy. For instance, within energy you can try to adopt a position as a complete service provider for the customer’s home, property, family and life situation. Within transport, mobility is the key. Here we see how two of our customers, Fjordkraft and BOB, are preparing for this type of development.
How do Nordic companies approach the new ecosystems?
Nordic companies cut costs and streamline work processes; including robots (RPA and chatbots). They develop self-service solutions and prioritize good digital user experiences. They strengthen their innovation skills and build an innovation culture. For the time being, however, we have not seen that many Nordic enterprises building digital ecosystems based on the collection and interpretation of large amounts of data. However, our partners NSB, Fjordkraft and BOB are exciting exceptions.
Fjordkraft’s customer base represents a real opportunity
Our partner for many years, the electricity supplier and mobile telephony company Fjordkraft, is well positioned in an increasingly complex market, and can see that IoT, the Internet of Things, enables a range of new services for which there will be market demand. “But we won’t own or sell hardware. Fjordkraft will capitalise on the fact that we are an extremely effective factory for intangible services,” says Christian Kalvenes, who is responsible for private customers at Fjordkraft. “In short, our substantial customer base and ‘nearest to the customer’ position provides access to new, relevant partners. We can build our services on top of that ecosystem. That’s what’s behind the ecosystem concept: a good customer-facing platform and our services on top to satisfy our customers, ourselves and our partners.”
“Currently, we have a number of apps and will soon have a double-digit number of digital interfaces, but we have too few synergies between them. Our ambition now is, together with Knowit, to develop a Fjordkraft universe containing any number of great customer experiences. Although we have a digital debt to our customers, during 2019 we will get up to speed and provide our customers with the best digital opportunities out there.”
What challenges are involved when the organisation evolves?
“We are clearly experiencing growing pains, but we’re still building a large and attractive customer base. This started as a strategy project, but now there are a great many people involved and we have an important sales job to do internally. We have been earning good money for many years, and it will always be the case that a lot of people abide by the approach of ‘never change a winning team’. Credible and necessary storytelling helps motivate and foster understanding among our employees, ensuring that they are ideally placed to take ownership of the new strategy. The rationale that we need to create competitiveness through innovation is rock-solid. I see a great deal of consensus that we need to provide our customers with the best digital options, and that it is not possible to simply sprinkle digital dust onto our existing solutions. Digital must be more than technology. It needs to be a mindset; a way of doing things. In the long run, we won’t be the preferred option if we don’t deliver a superb customer experience. We need to be patient and can’t be the best at everything, but we can make sure that our customers get access to the very best.”
“We must convert big data into a relevant, personalised customer dialogue”
“In order to gain insight and genuine customer feedback, we need to test, test and test again, which should enable us to launch a strong foundation as soon as possible. We are constantly undertaking sprints to secure feedback from the market so that we can begin developing an MVP (minimum viable product) – in other words, the product that provides the greatest return on investment in relation to the risk. Today we are sitting on enormous amounts of data and reports, but we are also facing the challenge of converting all this into relevant initiatives.”
“That’s why we need to define our customer experience in all the channels we use. We need to map all the contact points our customers use before, during and after a sale, or to put it another way, design a uniform digital customer journey. Developing a relevant, personalised and brand-differentiating dialogue would then be a tangible proposition for us.”
Fjordkraft is surrounded on all sides by leading international players with a completely different approach to classic electricity retail. Do you think that they will sell electricity and mobile services in the Nordic region, or will Tesla look for partners, such as an electricity supplier with a solid customer base?
“Time will tell, but we believe that international players will seek local partnerships in the electricity industry, rather than try to launch as an electricity supplier themselves. We also see small disruptive companies and other non-competing players looking for partners like us. Of course, they are interested in our customer base,” says Kalvenes.
External framework constraints impose new business models
Another of Knowit’s partners is BOB BBL, Norway’s third largest provider of home-building services. BOB has more than 75 years of experience in the construction, development and management of residential communities. It has nearly 70,000 members and the company manages close to 24,000 homes. BOB is also a major manager of commercial property and currently operates and manages around 900,000 m² of property.
“We are currently seeing both the market and society making new demands for service development and, not least, service innovation,” says Anders Daniel Brekke, Head of Innovation and Business Development at BOB. “We are now reorienting from a linear business model to a platform-driven model. Our current model is under threat, in part from politicians threatening to abolish the right of first refusal, something that is currently one of our most important value propositions for the market. If we are to continue to be considered relevant in private markets following a probable legislative amendment, we need to develop new value propositions. Another very exciting development lies in the potential for data-driven property operation and management.”
“In order to meet this development head on, the goal is to develop our own ecosystem in addition to making ourselves appear attractive in other such systems. We are the initiator of the PropTech Innovation cluster and we are currently working with completely different players than previously. BOB’s vision is to build communities, and in this respect an issue such as mobility can be key. Mobility is something that goes beyond construction and operation, and so we will participate in other ecosystems in addition to developing our own.”
What types of companies would it be natural to invite to join such an ecosystem?
“Technology-driven companies are essential. As I mentioned, we see huge potential in the use of new technology when it comes to the operation and management of property values. Today we are a partner in Plug & Play, and we regard an incubator role as a natural and interesting development for us. We also need to cooperate with technologically forward-looking and industry-leading companies. Knowit is a good example of that.”
Almost two years ago, Knowit organised five meetings with an expanded group management team at BOB to establish innovation skills and prerequisites for internally developing a culture of change and innovation. How has that culture evolved?
“Among other things, we have established a separate area – an ‘innovation cube’ – which we are actively using. This is where people working on innovation projects meet with colleagues and not least senior management. BOB also holds its own innovation week, which all employees participate in. This has become a truly exciting arena for generating ideas and input. It’s where we talk about what innovation is, why and how we focus on it and also which resources are working on it full time.”
“The greatest challenge is the existing management culture. After all, what we are doing involves a change of course for many employees, systems and procedures. One useful approach we have introduced is to measure the degree of innovation in all departments.”
Does BOB believe that the large, cloud-based global players will compete or look for partners?
“Both. A great many of them want to cooperate with us. Within banking and finance in particular there is a lot going on nationally. When it comes to international competition, we want to face it with a strong brand, good partners and a large, expanding customer base,” says Brekke.
Platform as a strategy – an explanation
A platform-driven business model and marketplace is based on a link logic – ideally, links between professional companies (suppliers) and private individuals, between businesses, or between individuals.
Successful companies have a strong brand, a growing customer portfolio, the most relevant datasets, seamless user experiences, and the best and most relevant partners. The brand will help to determine whether companies can manage to capture the ‘nearest to the customer position’ and their ability to establish partnerships with manufacturers and distributors will be critical.