On this episode of Wonderful Work, we chat about intelligent automation and future of digitalization with Ilona Ylinampa, Deputy Managing Director & Head of Sales Fujitsu Finland. Ilona is on the list of Finland's top 100 IT influencers and is the vice chairman of TIVIA.
Learning business skills from nature
There are an estimated 22 billion trees in Finland, so it’s no surprise that Finns are known to love a bit of forest frolicking. But Ilona takes Finland's fondness for ferns further by owning her own forest in Lapland.
"Owning a forest teaches business leaders all about patience," Ilona explains. The business world is a fast-paced and hectic environment, but life in the forest is about thinking about the next 25, 30, or even 50 years.
Ilona's childhood dreams didn't involve business
Ilona had many childhood ambitions, from actress to ballet dancer to doctor. However, her main ambition was to be the president of Finland.
"When I was in kindergarten, we had an Independence Day party. I wanted to play the president and host the evening, but the kindergarten teacher said that I couldn't be the president because I was a girl. Instead, they wanted me to play the First Lady."
I'm happy that things have changed," Ilona says. "Nowadays, it's much more about diversity and equal possibilities, not just with different genders, but with different nationalities, too."
Ilona's start in technology
Growing up in the north of Lapland, Ilona dreamed of traveling to other countries. Starting as an exchange student in South Africa, she later won a scholarship to study in Canada. After that, Ilona returned to Finland to study political science at Jyväskylä University. This was when her passion for business was born. After studying economics, commercial law, and accounting, Ilona landed a job at Future Group, a value-added distributor of Autodesk, which created AutoCAD.
"That's how my technology and IT career began," Ilona explains. "For the past 15 years, I've worked in various roles and IT environments related to sales and business."
Ilona's definition of digitalization
Ilona is well known in Finland as a technology and digitalization spokesperson.
Gartner defines digitalization as "the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value to produce opportunities." We asked Ilona to demystify this definition.
"Gartner is quite wise in their words," Ilona says. "But I believe digitalization is everywhere. All companies, whether finance, manufacturing, healthcare, etc., are involved in digitalization. We're developing fantastic things which people can utilize in their daily lives. I believe people's perspective of digitalization is based on where they work or live. It impacts society as a whole."
Data security and digitalization
“Organizations such as defense or healthcare cannot have data on a public cloud. So, we need to have on-premise solutions and a private cloud for data security reasons.” According to Ilona, not all organizations can move toward the cloud straight away.
"However, even these types of industries still want to see the big picture, and of course, our customers are excited about what cloud technology can do for their business. They like to know if it can boost efficiency and safety, decrease manual work, and what benefits they'll gain from it. We must speak a sort of business language to explain the return on investment and savings they can expect," says Ilona.
Successful digitalization requires successful implementation
Implementation and effective change management is the key to successful digitalization. Ilona explains that "McKinsey estimates that 60 to 70% of all transformation projects fail." This is mainly due to poor implementation. Organizations must consider how digitalization will change individual roles and everyday operations.
"At Fujitsu, we use OKRs (objectives and key results) as part of our strategy implementation tool. We think about how we can apply it to everyday operations to help every team create their own OKRs to get them excited about everyday operations,” says Ilona.
Public-sector IT projects vs private-sector IT projects
"In many ways, the public sector is ahead of the private sector, especially with things like electronic procurement and electronic resourcing," Ilona says.
At a time when most private sector companies were still doing these things on excel or ERP, or a combination of both, the public sector was using more advanced technology. The procurement tendering process makes some things a little bit more complicated. But there are a lot of highly skilled professionals working in the public sector," says Ilona.
However, Finland shouldn't rest on its laurels, as the world is moving very rapidly. Estonia, for example, is doing fantastic things with its electronic citizenships. "The country is currently attracting more companies than Finland. We should really look at what the Estonians are doing. They're really doing a great job."
Digitalization in healthcare
"I believe that digitalization in healthcare will bring tremendous opportunities, especially as most of the world's population is aging. It's important to remember that digitized healthcare should be about making the workplace better for hospital staff, improving patients' lives, and preventing serious diseases."
Ilona's view on the Finnish IT sector
Ilona attributes Finland's success to technological experience and excellent infrastructure. Finland has worked with technology since the 60s, so it's really a good place for global companies to come. For example, Google has a data center in Helsinki. "I warmly welcome other companies to open offices in Finland. Finland is home to highly skilled workers such as engineers, so there are many possibilities here. But, to stay competitive, Finland really needs to increase immigration."
The importance of Finland's Professional Association for Information Processing
"TIVIA offers a fantastic network for people from various industries, including IT, infrastructure, software, and many more. TIVIA is not a labor organization. It's a society where people can learn, meet new people, join in training activities, and get involved in discussions."
A human-centric information society based on data
Ilona explains that "A human-centric society is about making everyone feel included, i.e., the elderly and those who don't consider themselves highly skilled in IT. They should be able to use the best part of the technology to a level they feel comfortable with".
Major technology trends to focus on in the next five years
Ilona believes that the metaverse will one day become a reality." The metaverse is not only about how we'll use social media. It will also help us build factories and fix machines." Ilona also predicts that Web 3.0 will make the metaverse more secure. "But to have these things, we need IT infrastructures such as 5G or even 6G in place."
How business leaders can prepare for the future
"Stay close to your partners," Ilona advises. "Ask companies you work with about their vision on future trends, look into your yearly reports, and challenge yourself. You don't have to be the forerunner for everything. But stay hungry for information."
Ilona's tips for starting a career in technology
Ilona advises anyone wanting to start a career in technology to find a mentor and to learn new things constantly. "I always ask where we are heading, what we will learn next, and how we can improve," she explains.
Ilona's final thoughts
Ilona recommends listeners of Wonderful Work to learn more about different versions of the metaverse, whether that's the B2C, enterprise, or industrial metaverse. "We might not have smartphones in the next ten years. We might be doing something totally different. So, stay tuned and look out for what's coming from there," she concludes.
The Wonderful Work podcast
If you'd like to learn more about Ilona and her views on digitalization, check out Ilona's and Lari's full chat on the Wonderful Work Podcast.