Regional Focus: Accenture's View from... Finland

Mauno Pasanen

The Accenture ‘View From’ series of blogs will take us to a different country periodically, giving a light but enlightening insight into those markets’ characteristics and daily challenges when it comes to implementing mobility across enterprises.

In Finland, it’s been the case for some time that 4G LTE is available in every city, and that coverage is propagating out towards the countryside. Where people may have their summer cottages in the northern part of the country, perhaps 200km from the nearest major city, it’s generally the case now that 4G coverage is available rather than fixed broadband, because the logistics for that connectivity are more straightforward. Everywhere else, 3G is the standard, so high-speed Internet is available to everyone.

Over 70% of the population uses smartphones1 and there’s little other choice in the market now. But in common with much of the Nordics region, we have an aging population, which means that you’ll often see phones with fewer features and bigger buttons advertised locally. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we also have a high penetration of Nokia devices in Finland, as loyalty to the brand remains after its sale. The fact that there’s now a realistic chance Nokia will once again start to design handsets2 (and license them for others to manufacture) means that this trend may well continue.

Stats from just under a year ago show that 45% of Finns owned a Nokia device running on the Windows Phone OS (32% of those owned the Nokia Lumia), compared to 30% ownership of Samsung, and 14% of Apple3. From observation, I would say that the numbers are starting to equalise somewhat in terms of market share, but it’s very much the case that mobile apps or any serious mobile services being developed for Finland must be built for all three of those major OS’s if they are to see successful adoption in this market, in both the consumer and the enterprise sphere.

Recession has Dampened Spirits, so Finland must Re-group for Digital

Finland is a small country of only 5.5 million people, but the impact we’ve had on the development of the mobile phone industry is global. Nokia, which famously started life in rubber, is still the largest company and biggest employer in the country despite no longer manufacturing phones, and other businesses changing the way we use our pocket computers have grown into thriving global brands too, including Rovio, the Finnish creators of Angry Birds.

Since 2008’s global economic crash, Finland has been in recession. This has impacted the culture of innovation and leadership that drove those companies’ successes. We’ve become a nation that wants to see proven results before adopting something, and as a result, digital transformation is moving more slowly in businesses here than in other European nations. According to a recent report from our Institute for High Performance, while Finnish companies think that they are ready for digital disruption (79% believe they’re at least fairly well prepared to respond to it), only 17% actually have a clear strategy in place for approaching it, which demonstrates a significant preparedness deficit.

Aside from Nokia’s old phone manufacturing business, another industry that Finland is famous for is pulp and paper. The rise of the Internet alongside the fall of the local economy have had a major impact on these operations too, as fewer people read newspapers and magazines, relying instead on their personal screens. This means that two of Finland’s major markets have taken a hit from digital disruption, so there is a real need for businesses to innovate to survive.

As parts of Nokia have been sold off, many of those who drove innovation within the company’s walls have channelled their efforts into tech start-ups, creating diverse solutions aimed at anything from managing our aging population to building new operating systems, such as Jolla. The latest figures available from 2012 show that 93.3% of Finnish enterprises have fewer than 10 employees4, and many of them are just two or three people. We will need to nurture these entrepreneurs and small business if we’re to ensure a healthy, growing economy and survival of our industries.

Slow Adoption of Enterprise Mobility leads to Being Disrupted, Not Disrupters

The long-term strategy for enterprise mobility here is very much that every business app in use on laptops now will one day run on mobile devices. However, we’re still a few years away from that, thanks in large part to the conservative approach we’ve seen take hold here since the 2008 crash. If a business is going to invest in new mobility services here, it needs to see that other enterprises in other markets have experienced real benefits from implementation. Because of Finland’s lack of investment into mobility programmes, where once we were seen as major innovators, other markets have unfortunately had the opportunity to leapfrog us.

In terms of the basics of enterprise mobility, we’re very similar here to other parts of Europe. We use our phones for emails and calendars at work, although managers might use tablets to allow them to take advantage of dashboard apps for operational oversight. Some companies are also employing tablets and mobile apps for typical sales and field force use, taking advantage of on-the-go access to data, and the ability to share reports without having to return to an office.

People here expect that when they join a new company they will receive a mobile device from their employer, and that can then become their main handset. However, increasingly, employees are receiving a laptop with their job and then just using their own mobile devices to access the networks, in part because there’s a concern that with a corporate-liable device, their activities can be tracked by employers. This caution around accepting a new device is one of the factors contributing to our slow adoption of more advanced enterprise mobility, along with the general state of business in the country.

For example, when we speak with clients, we see that the real objectives for implementing any mobile or digital technologies are based on cost-savings and productivity optimisation, rather than on opening up new revenue streams or increasing sales opportunities. This means that our businesses in every industry are at risk of being disrupted, rather than being the disrupters.

A Bright Future for Finland

As the recession persists, it is currently more about survival than growth for Finnish companies. However, the outlook is bright: our tech start-ups are starting to mature, as technology leaders become more business savvy in order to succeed, and the Internet of Things opens up opportunities that are already leading to increased innovation and potential growth, especially in industries such as industrial equipment.

Finnish companies know that digital transformation is coming, and they know that enterprise mobility will be a driver of that. Until they can afford to experiment a little themselves though, they’re content following in others’ footsteps to make it to that point.