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A pipette is a key tool for Jari Rautio (left); after all, it’s important to stay in touch with research work. Anna Viljakainen couldn't get by without a recorder for recording conversations during various meetings. The work of an Executive Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, involves contacts in all directions. This makes a telephone indispensable for Mika Toikka.

Ambassadors of service-mindedness

Text and photo: Sami Turunen | 15.12.2017

VTT is well on its way towards a more commercial approach and customer-oriented working culture. Service-mindedness needs to be strengthened throughout the organisation, say VTT staff who ponder customer work on a daily basis.

Anna Viljakainen is in charge of the 'Customer-oriented service models and development of sales work' programme. This will help VTT to transform itself into a service business.

– Our strategy comprises five so-called 'lighthouses': Future climate, Sufficiency of resources, Good life, Overall safety and the Renewal of industry. We have top-level expertise in these areas; in the programme, we are focusing on how to bring such expertise to the renewal and growth of companies, says Viljakainen.

– The strategy emphasises service thinking – the idea that we produce knowledge and expertise for the benefit of other parties. We talk about customer orientation. This is the ability to understand the changing world of our customers, and our role in providing services that enable them to better serve their own customers.

VTT should not simply be a 'yes man'.

– Our world-class expertise enables us to tell our customers what they need, rather than what they want to hear.

Viljakainen explains that VTT must not be confined to certain technologies, but both internal and external expertise should be combined in a visionary way. Customers, too, need new competencies. They should learn to buy the services and value VTT provides, rather than just technology. Digitalisation is a core element of the production of value added.

– The key issues are smarter services and the results they bring, rather than technical solutions. Wärtsilä, for example, promises lower fuel consumption through its solutions – for customers, the key issue is savings, not technology, Viljakainen explains.

This Doctor of Technology has worked in areas such as sales and commercial research in the media sector. At VTT, she wanted to explore applied research, the common ground between universities and industry.

– The high point is when research findings genuinely improve current practices.

Viljakainen was recently engaged in research at Cambridge University. There, all students and doctoral candidates are expected to consider the benefits of their research: useful and commercially exploitable ideas should arise from the end result.

Anna points out that there is a continuous need for a 'VTT' to promote the success of Finland.

– State ownership and a large size inevitably create a certain amount of bureaucracy, but this is just a matter of fixing internal processes. VTT has always been engaged in serving Finland and Finnish companies, which makes this a fantastic organisation.

ANNA VILJAKAINEN

  • Senior Specialist
  • Ph.D. awarded in 2015: Exploring the transformation of media sector through the lens of service-dominant logic
  • Previous workplace TNS Gallup
  • Joined VTT in 2008

Helping customers, saving the world

Jari Rautio has 20 years of varied experience of VTT, including as a Masters and doctoral dissertation writer. In 2015, he returned as a Senior Specialist and Team Leader and finally as a Key Account Manager in charge of industrial biotechnology.

Like any company, VTT has changed hugely in the last twenty years.

– The greatest change is the strengthening of the commercial side and the dedication of staff to sales and marketing, Rautio says.

Rautio's own work involves winning customers for VTT.

– I help customers to understand why it's worth partnering with us. This requires marketing planning alongside research teams, as well as contract negotiations on project content and patent licensing.

Rautio is interested in the commercialisation of technologies and inventions from lab desk to finished product; he states that VTT is Finland's number one organisation in this.

The new strategy requires that more and more staff can communicate naturally and quickly with customers and engage in internal coordination. It also requires learning new things from customers.

– Many customers listen to new ideas with interest. There are still differences in the level of preparedness to take R&D risks, or making decisions on a balance sheet basis – i.e., can the bottom line on an investment be accurately calculated in advance.

Between spells with VTT, Rautio has worked for companies in roles such as product development manager, as a CEO engaged in sales and marketing, and as a private-sector consultant on financial issues. The transition back from entrepreneur to wage earner was easy, upon being persuaded by a colleague to return to VTT.

– This work is little different to the role of a CEO, since it involves a wide range of responsibilities. The biggest difference is that I'm sure to be paid each month, Rautio says with a laugh.

Rautio is inspired by continuously learning new things at VTT.

– My job provides a good overview of what's going on in the world and how VTT can fulfil the needs of industry. It's inspiring to match our world-class expertise with the needs of customers.

A Key Account Manager's area of expertise includes forecasting emerging and trending business areas:

– In the future, food will be made from air, with proteins being produced from gas with the help of suitable micro-organisms. Since there is insufficient arable land to feed the world's growing population, new technologies may include food-producing bioreactors, even in people's homes, Rautio speculates.

– It's motivating to be involved in big issues at work. This is how we can save the world.

JARI RAUTIO

  • Key Account Manager
  • Ph.D. awarded in 2007: Biotechnology. "Development of rapid gene expression analysis and its application to bioprocess monitoring."
  • Previous job: Biotech Start-Up Management, Business Development Director
  • Joined VTT in 2015

Not magic, just another day at the office

Mika Toikka is a new VTT employee. Mika started as Vice President, Sales and Business Development in February and has been delighted by his first half-year at VTT.

– VTT has been an even more positive experience than I expected. I was excited about getting back to work after my first summer holiday, says a smiling Toikka.

Toikka points out that VTT gets to be involved in solving major problems such as those related to the climate, resources and quality of life.

– I was inspired by these issues earlier in my career. I can now help to solve them in practice.

The issues are also strongly highlighted in VTT's strategy.

– You don't need a crystal ball to see that they involve major sectors of the future. We need to pick out some of these issues and turn them into good ways of doing business, says Toikka.

Toikka is excited by VTT's spirit and ability to grasp big issues. He believes that the organisation is genuinely unique.

– VTT is different to many organisations in terms of how open, optimistic and universally oriented towards the future it is. VTT also provides strong support for individuals and diverse perspectives.

Its roots lie deep in the state's sometimes inflexible practices, but it is becoming more comfortably customer-oriented with every day that passes.

– We should recognise and appreciate our roots and history. Anyway, we have many people who are highly customer-oriented. Now is the time to wake up to this on a wider basis. The seed has been sown and we are growing well in this sense.

Toikka promises to support the spread of customer-orientation in every way – there is no magic trick to this.

– It's just about identifying and highlighting examples of everyday work which were genuinely customer-oriented. Personally, I almost take this approach to the point of obsessiveness. Of course, obsessiveness alone achieves nothing, but customer work is never off my agenda.

Toikka has worked as a management consultant, developed the customer experience at Telia Sonera, built commercial operations at Outokumpu, and has led Outokumpu's and Paroc's global marketing. He brings strong experience of customer work to VTT.

What kind of gap would he create if he left?

– The kind that could certainly be filled, but some kind of challenge would be involved in finding a torch-bearer for this kind of customer-fanaticism, Toikka says with a laugh.

MIKA TOIKKA

  • Vice President, Sales and Business Development
  • Previous workplace: Outokumpu Group
  • Joined VTT in 2017

 

 

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