Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Helping organizations perform

During my career I have helped many organizations to improve their performance. Mostly in product development, but also in service provision and occasionally also in sales. I have worked with big companies like MicroLink, Elion, TeliaSonera, Eesti Telekom and others, but also with small startups. Currently I am implementing Lean Startup methodology and thinking in Sonera in Finland.

Now if there is one thing I would like to point out in improving performance it is that there is no one thing that makes it happen. There is no ONE tool, method or process to boost organization's performance. No one silverbullet. Naturally there are good methods and tools like:
- Getting customer insight with www.recommy.com
- Lean Startup for product development

- Coaching, Time management training
- Process management, etc.
But each one of them itself does not make it. You also need to work with people getting along, economical constraints, mindsets and traditions that have produced un-effective processes, legacy systems, bad overview of data, etc., etc. Sometimes the office setup creates problems or there is a core IT system that makes everyone hate their job.

So improving the performance of organizations means usually implementing a lot of different things, building different relations in the organization, getting the right decisions and methods in place. Usually the task of finding the performance bottlenecks itself is a detective endeavour that takes many (face-to-face) meetings, trying out things and finding the walls by hitting your head against them.

Any thoughts? Write me at mart.ridala@pilveraal.ee

Friday, September 18, 2015

Huge remote working test in Finland

The Finnish trade unions organized a huge remote working test today. In order to really test the limits the office workers were forced to work from home by totally shutting down public transport in Helsinki. Even some kindergartens were closed to test how working from home can be arranged with children jumping around. The ones opting out of the test could do so only by losing their days salary.

The results showed a huge success! Video- and telemeetings went up, traffic went down. There were virtually no trafficjams and all the work got down. The environmental impact was huge as the nation used substantially less electricity and gas.

As a result of the success the Finnish government is planning to launch a program to promote teleworking and move people away from Helsinki to towns were they actually could afford their own home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How to succeed in the sharing economy

Fastcompany published a very good article how the sharing economy, that everybody believed in five years ago, has pretty much died. With the notable exeptions of AirBNB, Uber and the likes, that is unfortunately true. The businesses that enable you to lend your powerdrill to your neighbours have not been successful. However, we should not yet bury the idea of the sharing economy! As if we analyse the success and failure of the businesses there are some clear differentiators that make the businesses fly. I would list here three of the most important ones:

The more expensive the shared item is, the better. Appartments (AirBNB, Booking.com) and cars (Uber, Autolevi) are good segments. Powerdrills costing 30 euros are not good for sharing. Essentially the cost and hassle of renting should be marginal compared to the cost of the item.

Renting out the item should be sensible as a business and attractive for small investors. People do not want strangers to use (and break) their own stuff, drive with their cars or stay in their homes. Investing into items with the purpose of renting them out is a completely different thing, but then the income needs to be bigger than the depreciation + cost of the hassle of renting.

Finally and maybe most importantly the key success factor is the possibility of shortcuting some taxes, (unnecessary) regulation, insurance costs or similar. I am pretty sure that in many countries the AirBNB appartment owners have the advantage of optimising VAT, income and other taxes compared with ordinary hotels. Same goes for Uber in many countries. The lack of this benefit by the way is the main reason for Uber's mediocre success in Tallinn.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Starting as a product development consultant

From the first of September 2015 I will be working as a full-time consultant offering my services in product development of ICT. My primary focus are cloud services, but also other IT and telecom services. I am based in Tallinn, but I offer my services regionally in the Nordic and Baltic area. You are most welcome to contact me if you see my experience fitting your needs or you would like to co-operate. Here is a post about my experience and what I offer.

My contacts are:
mart.ridala@pilveraal.ee
+3725134833

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What does "No jobs" actually mean

There is a lot of talk - especially in Finland - about unemployment and what to do about it. Based on my experience of working in Finland, Sweden and Estonia I think I can make some comparisons and comments about it.

Firstly it is important to understand that "no jobs" does not mean that the need for work has dissappeared. No! What "no jobs" means is that there is a mismatch between what organizations (and their customers) are willing to pay for a certain task to be done and what the unemployed people need/want for it.
 For example I would be happy to hire someone to take care of all the upgrading and fixing of the technology I have at home, but I am only willing to pay a few tens of euros for that, whereas a skilled IT professional would cost 200-300 hundred/euros a month.
 Another more relevant example is a recent event where a big IT service provider closed its customer support unit in Finland and then hired tens of finnish speaking support agents in Tallinn.
 In Tallinn there is really no unemployment in principle. You can walk to any supermarket and they would hire you in a few days. The problem only is, that they pay you something like 300-500 eur/month net.

 So it is a mismatch between the cost of labour and the willingness to pay for it by organizations and their customers! (e.g. How much would you pay for a pair of jeans? How much would the pair cost if it was made in the Nordics?)

 The solution to unemployment therefore is making the costs lower or increasing the value of the work.

 An important factor to note here is that "the cost" is not only the salary and even the taxes. It is much more. The cost also consists of: risk premium for potential layoff costs, vacation benefits, bureaucracy, people management, insurances, hiring processes etc.
 The cost is also driven higher if the unemployed person receives social benefits and loses them when he takes up a job.

 There is another important factor that the unemployment discussions never consider. The cost of living. Looking at Helsinki and Stockholm from Tallinn for example makes you wonder why:
- You always need to buy a very expensive home insurance?
- Why does big must-have repairs (putkiremppa) of appartments in Finland cost 500-1000 eur/m2?
- Why are there only like 4 construction companies who manage to build new appartments in Helsinki and Stockholm and therefore the prices for new appartments cost approximately 5000-7000 eur/m2?
On the other hand:
- Why do bank transfers in Estonia cost more than they do in Sweden?
- Why is electricity in Estonia more expensive than in the Nordics?

I am not claiming that there one system is better than the other, but I would propose some ideas from this picture:
- Solving unemployment might involve surprising activities. E.g. kill the construction business monopolies in Stockholm and Helsinki, that makes housing cheaper, that allows people to decrease their price of work.
- Paying money as a social benefit should be avoided if ever possible and substituted by social services (e.g. free schools, kindergartens, children's hobbies). This way working and earning 100 eur/month also starts to make sense.
- There are a lot of measures that do not cost much and are not painful for anybody that would help. For example stoping the need for all types of insurances and lessening bureaucracy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gmail and Google Calendar

If you use Gmail then by default you also get Google Calendar. If you then book a hotel from Booking.com or a place to stay from Airbnb or the airline reservation system Amadeus sends you a confirmation of your flight tickets then these stay-s and flights are automatically inserted into your Google Calendar. This is quite convenient - you don't need to insert them manually. But.....

...but this also means that Google reads through all your e-mails, analyzes them and creates a database of all your travelling plans. So not only does Google know where you are - it also knows where you will be! Who knows what else the automatic e-mail parsing software detects, maps and registers?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The value of The Brand

A T-shirt is produced in China, a multi-national fashion brand prints a logo on it and buys it for 2 euros. The shirt is shipped and put on sale in a fashion boutique in Stockholm, Berlin, Paris or Milan. A Chinese tourist buys the shirt that is now called Gant, Tommy Hilfiger or Ralph Lauren for 30 euros. Who are the winners and who are the losers in this model?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Google Analytics IQ

I managed to pass the Google Analytics Individual Qualification exam. If you need help in measuring and improving your websites commercial performance just ask me!


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The startup investment boom

Lately there have been many positive news about investments coming to Estonian startups. For example $1,2M in VitalFields and $1,8M in Monese. This is very good for the Baltic-Nordic and European and especially for the Estonian startup scene. With the interest rates at 0 and the stock and real estate markets already overvalued the world changing startups are indeed a viable option for investing.

However I would still urge to keep the feet on the ground and get more focus on real business like revenue, paying customers, net profit and dividends. Think about the following questions:

- Why does getting an investment make such big news whereas getting a bankloan does not? After all an investor expects 1000% return (a bank 10-16%/year).
- Why is offering a free socialnetwork service to million users seen as good business whereas giving out free apples on the street to million bypassers seems a very stupid idea? After all apples do grow on the trees also for free.
- If three people have worked on a business idea for 12 months and are offering 10% of equity for 300 000 euros (which seems to be a quite common case for the first investment round) then have they really created something worth 3Meur? That is 83keur per month per person?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Places to find ICT specialists and to find work for ICT specialists

A few months ago a Swedish ICT consultancy marketplace opened its new service at www.resrc.se. Mainly it has jobs for consultants living or at least speaking swedish (or danish or finnish), but you can probably find also work if you are fluent in english there.

For the Estonian market I started a LinkedIN group here. So if you are an ICT specialist or need one then you are most welcome to check it out. Here is also a link to Work in Estonia IT jobs page.

Please write in comments if you know other websites or places for the Nordic and Baltic ICT consultancy market!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wrong focus in the startup buzz

Following the startup buzz - the news, the mentorship programs, the blogs - one easily gets the impression that the most important things for a startup are pitching, finding capital and creating an exit strategy. Well, in my experience this is wrong and perhaps one of the reason for over-emphasizing these topics is the hunt for news.
 The event of getting funded is usually presented as a huge success story in the press. It is rarely mentioned that the investors do want their money (x20) back, the sooner the better and it is the startup who has to deliver that. Getting funded is rarely presented as giving 3 drops of blood to the VC, but in a way it is so.
 Similarly controversial is the buzz around Exits. The Exits do make good news as someone makes millions with them. At the same time the news do not mention that for a successful exit the company needs to maximise the income from customers (short termp profits prevale), minimize personell costs (keep only the employees needed for day to day operations) and sell the whole thing to a corporation who then merges the employees and business to its big machinery.

 While pitching, funding and exits get a lot of attention in the startup buzz then one rarely sees any coverage about people management. It seems that management, coaching, training and developing the team are something only the big companies need and that are irrelevant in startups. And this, of course, is absolutely wrong. I have managed a number of different teams and I have never seen a person who just works. Everyone wants to know where is the company going, what is his/her personal development plan and wants to have his/her say in how to organize the work in the best way. These, among with topics like handling relationships, communication in the team, solving problems and finding the best way eveyone can contribute, are areas where startups and all other businesses do need mentoring and focus also.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Suomi nousuun!

(This post is meant as a motivational to Finnish politicians.)

I have visited Finland for a couple of times in the last weeks and talked to finns living both in Finland and Estonia. For some reason there is a note of depression whenever the topic of Finnish economy comes up. Government deciding nothing for 5 years and Russian sanctions tend to come up. It is far from the optimistic bostadsbubbla that one sees in Sweden. The most amazing was a story of a Finnish IT startup with only finnish employees and customers that had just moved to ....Tallinn, because of the energy they feel in Tallinn.

So what might be the reason for this? One might guess that taxes are one, but actually it is not only that. It is the bureaucracy, non-business related costs, insurances and all type of licenses and rules. Let me shock the finnish business community with the following prices and facts about Estonia:
- Accounting services cost 50-70 eur/month for a small company and that includes making the annual report.
- Bank costs and services are the same as for ordinary people. That means 2,5 eur/month for a bankcard I think.
- There are not very many mandatory insurances...actually none for most of the businesses
- There is no corporate tax on your revenues if you don't take them out as dividends
- With e-residency you can do all the transactions online from wherever in the world.
- Most of the paperwork can be done online. In fact I have not seen the accountant of my little company for 5 years now and I have never visited the tax or other authorities physically. You can sign all the documents and reports digitally.

So here is what to do in the IT business! Incorporate in Estonia. Buy resources from all over the world, e.g. India, Belarus, Poland. Put it all together to a service in Estonia and sell it to Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. (I can give a few tips on how to do it) ...or maybe the Finnish politicians will cut down the bureaucracy? ...and the Finnish insurance and banking sector will cut down their prices for businesses? I do hope so, because I love Finland.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Services

Connecting business and technology to develop and grow new services.

Success in the ICT business happens when good business ideas are realized with good technology and people are led to make it happen. This is where I have a lot of experience and I offer my knowledge as a service.

I am based in Tallinn, Estonia, but I work regionally with projects in the Baltic and Nordic region.


My experience in Business:

  • I am a co-founder in www.recommy.com and know how tough business and sales actually is. I definitely know a lot of things that do not work.
  • I have analyzed numerous business cases in TeliaSonera, Elion, MicroLink and Estonian Telekom.
  • I have developed and sold ICT services to big corporate customers and to TeliaSonera daughter companies from Denmark, Sweden and Finland to Nepal.
  • I have turned bankrupt or non-growing activities into success
  • I have a cum laude MBA degree
  • I am a member in the Estonian Business Angel Network (EstBAN)
My experience in Leadership and People:
  • I have worked as a manager for more than 14 years. I have managed teams from 1 specialist to 50 specialists and worked also as a manager of manager. I think managing people is quite interesting and doing it right is the biggest source of success for your business.  
  • I have worked as a project or virtual team leader for different business areas.
  • My experiences also include working with subcontractors, partners and co-ordinating IT workshops for European Innovation Agencie's
My experience from Technology:
  • All the projects I have worked with have had an IT or telco component.
  • I have worked as a software developer and database modeller so I have a foundation of knowledge on how IT systems work
  • I have worked as a IT infrastructure architect and designed numerous server-storage-network architectures for big IT systems
  • I have a bacalaureate degree in Computer Sciences
My personal skills:
  • I am a very international person and I see that working with people from different nationalities and cultures is a value in itself.
  • Besides Estonia I have also lived in Finland and Sweden so I know how things work in the Nordics.
  • I speak 5 languages: english, estonian, finnish, swedish and russian. There are workdays when I actually need to use all of them. :-)
  • I like presenting and regularly hold presentations on seminars.
  • I have 3 children and would say that leading a team is peanuts compared to getting the children to clean their room.
If you see that you have a business or project where I can help then please contact me at mart.ridala@pilveraal.ee or +3725134833