Living in the past, unwillingness to change?

Last year I took a trip to seven different Asian countries. This was part of my self-study to relocate in Asia and have a look and feel where I would like to live and work in future. I knew that my job and position will be ended at the end of year 2014 in Helsinki, Finland, so I had plenty of time to adapt and make my own movement. I would say that in old European societies this kind of possibilities are very useful, but it’s only from the individual point of view. For sure if you’re stuck in your life and a certain country, it’s not simple.

I checked out for example Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong. I also visited South East Asian countries but I didn’t have such a good feelings as I had since beginning of my arrival to Taiwan. It has been now also studied that Taiwan is 8th best country to relocate for an expatriate (see this article). I must say that this country could be even higher if you think about also your life outside work.

But this posting isn’t about my current life, rather a story why I’m really concerned about the future of Finland. I recently read a story by a Singaporean who did her exchange in Finland last year (read her posting here). She pointed out very well how Finnish behavior turns out to be for a foreigner and especially for an Asian. We Finnish people want to be open and also welcome foreigners but I have also experienced some barriers while I was acting more openly, didn’t see changes problematic or people with less experience qualified. Actually when I applied some jobs in Finland earlier, some people thought that I might be too young for the positions I applied. At that time I already had 10 years of working experiences in demanding positions and also my outer age was over 30. But yes, in Finland you must be over 40 to be experienced and qualified. I don’t agree that point of view. You can also check out how Indian companies who offer services in Finland act: their top directors or managers tend to be less than 40. Are they successful, do they have good business opportunities? Yes they do. I’m not an age racist, I think an older can be qualified but also someone younger can be better than past experience.

I want to point out a couple of articles which proof in my opinion some wrong decisions or assumptions in Finnish policies.

Digital economy. According to Harvard Business Review article, many northern European countries have a great history in digital economy but they are no longer doing well. There were many, many events I participated last year promoting new digital strategies and tools for companies but it was a pity that almost all events had the same examples and same companies presenting. We had some examples of public sector (yes, one Tax administration) process and service changes but way too little. I have experience only from one organization but an attitude towards real business process re-engineering is usually very limited. The big changes tend to be organizational, small changes to processes and just copying the old processes with only a couple of changes. I’m not even so sure how digitalization of services in Europe is working: I have seen more customer self-services without added value. Also the communication with customers is more likely to be marketing, but not really making an impact to the service offering. My old example Finnair vs. Cathay pacific airlines is still valid: the service design isn’t the new paint on the plane or Marimekko tissues, it’s the experience of getting into a plane and feeling the attitude, the entire offering since you book a ticket. So how does Cathay pacific work? At first they put their strategy in employees (people they make an airline) and also acted in a way which encouraged people to do better and serve better. This happens everywhere, on their online services there are great customer relationship managers who answer all the emails and are able to make changes which make customer's life easier, at the airport they have capable employees in every desk and if anything needs to be changed, they can make a decision and on the air the special in-flight managers take care about the service level and make decisions if something unexpected happens. Maybe a year ago they changed the slogan to Life well traveled, which basically put it back to what they are and how they serve customers. To my mind flying isn't just the thing you take a flight from place A to place B, it also matters how the company carries it out. I don't mind staying a bit longer on my way, if I can do it in a quality way. Recently they introduced a lounge scent which means that everywhere you enter a Cathay pacific lounge, there will be the familiar, special scent (it’s not available yet everywhere, they are refurbishing the whole network). For me, I’m not in the highest level of their Marco polo club but I can still enjoy a lot of benefits. Actually I was in an equivalent level with Finnair but the service was still very lousy and no special care on my requests where ever paid to me or even made a small adjustments. By this example I want to say that instead of just making great online services, take care that also other parts of your product or service is linked to it. I don't have to mention that Cathay pacific online services are world class, it's the baseline where they start. For Finnair instead I think they concentrate to online services but forget other parts of their offering. Maybe some people appreciate that but for me, things I take as an assumption aren't counted. As a conclusion, in Europe true digital strategies nearly never exist, they are marketed as lower costs rather than how you can serve better with the same costs. Paperless billing is almost a standard in Finland, but for a customer costs don't go lower, usually after a short time even raise.

Education. To my mind Finnish education system is basically good but there could be better results as well. In this year’s world university ranking the first Finnish university is in 103th (see the results here). Singapore is in population same size as Finland and they have 25th and 61st positions for example. Another example shows that there are no Finnish MBA programs in top 100 in the world (see the results here). In my opinion this ranking is more related to country success because usually when you work a couple of years, after that you consider to upgrade your qualifications. The difference between Finland and many other countries is that we usually already do a master’s degree when we enter the university. In some cases a master’s degree isn’t actually needed. I graduated in 2008 but I collected experience during my studies and many positions offered very good education or training after graduation. Maybe we should change a bit also education politics but as long as experience is the same as your age, it wouldn’t help at all.


I belong to an employee union which might sound a bit weird but it’s also because you can reduce the fees in your taxation and it’s also an insurance in case you get fired and need a substitution (it’s not needed to belong to an union just for that). Anyway, my union made a survey recently and they asked about salary and working hours and for us who work in another country for working, they also asked about the situation on your life conditions, the questions was pointed out in a very Finnish way, compared to Finland is it lower or higher. I put higher, because even if you earn about half the salary abroad, but you pay less taxes and pay less for a dinner in a restaurant, you name it, the overall value of your money becomes higher. Finnish parliament member Elina Lepomaki gave a great opinion and story why many things can be different in Finland, the story is in Finnish but on her example I could easily say that here in Taiwan I’m able to use many services with my salary, even if I get less but because my higher salary compared to others is very much more valuable. And from her example, it must have a great value for this society , too (employment rate is around 4 %, in Finland nearly 10 %).

Location matters

Location mattersIt’s always fun to make changes in your life and get to know new areas of business.  I’ve been recently thinking a lot about location, location based business strategies and everyday use cases of different applications. If you are using a smart phone, you probably share your location to enhance your user experience of a particular application and also your fees are based your current location. Maybe this has become so normal that you’re no longer thinking about a decision when any of your installed application asks to have access to your location.

It has been estimated that location based services market share will be $43.3bn by the end of year 2019, driven by context aware mobile services. In comparison year 2014 this number was $12.2bn. The most common applications are social media related, of course the traditional map or navigation applications too, but what it means for a business owner usually comes by knowing your customer better and making suggestions on his or her current location. This kind of services are marketing related but can also be a value-adding product extensions. I would be more than happy to get a trigger when my car is going to run out of gas soon and there’s a gas station on my route while using a navigator in a new city. I’ve been a couple of times abroad trying to find a nearest gas station when there looks not be any of them closed to me.

I’m particularly interested in human resources related solutions for example possibilities to automate time management based on my location or complete expenses while coming back from a business trip to home office. I know there are some solutions available but usually not so smoothly automated (yet). Usually a stamp for time management should be completed with a reader. Also if you’re using your company mobile for both business and private, there could be an automated switching to different modes based on the location and time (for sure this depends if you’re in your regular locations or system knows you’re taking a business trip).

In general these solutions need some sort of background processes to work as designed and not the simplest ones. Any data which is collected is a part of the solution but the enhancements are the ones which make them better. I’m making a list of different questions based on your location and linking them to data areas: 1. Who – demographics, 2. When – time, date, 3. Why – earlier behavior, 4. What reason – places nearby, 5. How often – earlier behavior, and 6. With whom – application meta data, patterns.

Not all of the data is available to anyone or any application and you might have done some configurations for example to reset your historical data once in a while. Or this data isn’t in your hands. Combining these areas to public data sources can be an interesting exercise.

If any company is going to use the data they also have to consider questions which are related to: 1. How to maintain trust and loyalty, 2. What kind of information can’t be used (privacy), 3. Which part of data is useless, 4. Which strategy to choose: a) digging the gold or b) shooting randomly,  and 5. How much effort to give compared to what kind of profitability analysis is to be done.


As a conclusion, any business case must be analyzed case by case before. There are tools available for profitable business cases, it’s a question with whom you’re going to do it and what kind of readiness the product you’re considering has.

Management by 50 top principles?

Sometimes you are in a need for something useful reading. Those days I go to local book stores or libraries and try to find something new or exciting. Last autumn I was on my holiday in Bangkok and had had a rush to go to the airport in Finland and forgot to take anything to read with me. I bought a book by Edward Russel-Walling called 50 ideas you really need to know management. This book doesn't contain a lot new for me because of my studies in industrial engineering but sometimes it's worth while to go back to basics and memorize things.

Boston matrix, The 80:20 principle, experience curve and the four Ps of marketing are in this book. It also contains ideas on empowerment, globalization and japanese management. For me it was useful to check out again for example core competence (helps yourself also to focus on your everyday doing, maybe find yourself in a situation you can do something very well) and learning organization (a lot to think if your current organization works well in this area). To my mind this book is also nice way to check if your organization's current strategy and vision are built on theories, at least very closely.

I've not been so into quality management and by reading this book I now know more on six sigma, benchmarking and diversification as a way to keep my eyes on quality. Marketing, branding and other ways to do better communication are also useful for every project manager. I do projects but do I really concentrate on customer expectations, stakeholders and other important decision makers who might think the project goals are not met. Because this was a management book I must put the ideas on my own framework and think outside the box what am I really doing right now.

Getting into better project management


Project manager's portable handbookI'm on my way to a project management sertification. This all started last spring when I rolled into a project management course which lasted several months. During that course I decided that I have to make a sertification within next year. On my way, I read a book called Project Manager's Portable Handbook (written by David L. Cleland and Lewis R. Ireland). This book is intended to be a good starting point for anyone on project management. It has some references to Project Management Institute's PMBOK but they are not competitors. If I want to have a PMI sertification, I'll have to get that other book, too, and read it. It's maybe true that if you work in a project management office, you know a lot but for a sertification you have to use the correct terminologies.


Competence consists of knowledge, skills and attitude after Cleland and Ireland. This means that you have to compile your working life from all of these. Knowledge may be concepts, methods or tools which you can read from a book. Skills are something you have a capability to do, for example a capability to lead a project. A good project manager also combines these two and takes care of stakeholders. In a good project, you can start by making a linear responsibility chart (LRC) where you identify who has the power to make decisions and what kind of roles there exists in some specific questions (for example conflicts, decisions, acceptance or supervision on tasks). You must make a difference on de jure power which means that it is written and on de facto power which means that it comes after experience. Usually the first one is easier to identify.


Managing a project means a process where you plan, organize, motivate, direct and control work (tasks), goals, benefits and people. To my mind you don't usually take your eye a lot on motivating people. After I read this book I realized that it's possible that motivating may have a positive or negative affect on people. I mean that you do it naturally but don't think a lot about this both way affection. It's also important to classify stakeholders: there are primary and secondary of them. A good project manager identifies, manages, is prepared and knows what kind of impact or power stakeholders might have his/her project.


There was also a chapter about project portfolio management. A good project portfolio consists of projects that have strategic goals, solve operational needs and enhance organizational competence. Of course it's important to have a good balance of different kind of projects. I have seen that there exists project portfolio management but it's not so easy to make changes to projects after certain alert levels (something is too high, something isn't on a desired level). I just ask a what kind of portfolio are you managing if you can't make decisions that also kill projects which don't link to strategic goals, don't have operational impact or don't build organizational competence?


A project manager both leads and manages. Important aspects as a person in a good project manager are that he/she understands a general technology, takes care that project team and stakeholders reflect trust, loyalty, commitment and respect, is able to see ”systems”, understands management process, is able to make and implement decisions, is able to produce desired results and has a holy combination of knowledge, skills and attitude. Leadership is a combination of purpose, direction, motivation and coaching which makes people comfortable to work and gets the high performance results. A project manager has to understand influences – not just positions but also relationships between people.


A project plan includes many kind of parts. There has to be a scope statement, a work break down structure, a schedule and a budget. Other things you have to take care of are a risk assesment, an interface plan, a work authorization plan and a logistics support plan. On my opinion two very important parts are a communication plan and a procurement plan. A quality plan has to be written, human resources should be listed, stakeholders have to be visible (a plan) and after all you must also make a project closeout plan and a product commissioning plan. Sometimes these different parts may be a one chapter in a master plan but these should be taken care of. All projects have a statement of work, a technical spesification, technical goals, schedule goals and cost goals. If I can do a project plan, I take a lot of time to identify goals and make plans on how we achieve desired results. If the results are identified and scheduled, it's much easier to communicate them to stakeholders.


What is a project control system? It consists of establishing standards, observing performance, comparing actual performance and taking corrective actions. To my mind it was a quite shocking to read that if a project has too little risks, a project isn't pushing the thresholds for cost, time and technical performance. This is true after Cleland and Ireland. We usually try to identify less risks than necessery; we are avoiding to recognizing them. To my mind we must be brave to speak them loader. If you don't identify risks, you can't make corrective actions or mitigate them.


Different parts of a project management system are an information subsystem, a control subsystem, techniques and methodologies, a facilitative organizational subsystem, cultural ambience, a human subsystem and a planning subsystem. For a good project there must be all of these but the most important is the planning of a project. You must also measure your achievements (control) and have good ways to motivate people and take care of everything outside a project. I think a lot about people aspects. In this book it stands that an effective team understands its individual and collective roles and responsibilities. It could be said that competency of a project team (or anything) is the ability to perform.


There was a chapter in this book about new and old managers. What kind of diffences these two have? A new manager must earn a permission to manage, lead the team. Nowadays we work on teams and we all have different areas. A manager then combines us all and knows the right person to do a task. If he/she doesn't have the right to lead, a task won't be done. Leadership in a new management environment consists of economical, psychological and social satisfaction. Good organizations have taken into action with a project management maturity models (atleast they know something about their level on it). This kind of models usually mean that an organization takes care of processes, has methodologies, standards and techniques in use and has tools (IT systems, usually) and skills training for better management.


When I reached almost the end of this book, it became very interesting. There's a chapter of project instability. Usually instability means that a project isn't well planned (a plan is either too simple or there are unspecified parts), a lot of changes are made (reworking and a lot of silent times), a project is poorly managed (more attention should be paid on change management and stakeholders should be involved) or requirements aren't understood (they aren't clearly specified in plans). On my career I have seen good and bad projects. These reasons are easily recognized afterwards but on an active project you somehow feel blind to see this kind of problems. That's why a control subsystem should be in place and someone from outside should be available and able to tell if something is wrong.


As I conclusion I could say that this book has everything I might have thought when it comes to project management. A lot could be learned to manage or lead better. A lot more could be done but after all, we all have a certain amount of hours in a day and projects have different schedules. To work better, you have to learn something everyday, take care of your and your mates well-being and do a very good project plan.