‘Companies must change the culture of their workforce to think digitally’

5 Feb 2021

Heikki Nousiainen. Image: Aiven

Heikki Nousiainen of Aiven discusses how businesses can be successful with digital transformation and the data trends he sees coming down the line.

Digital transformation is a key topic for modern companies. The Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated this transformation, but how can companies be truly successful when it comes to becoming a digital-first company?

Heikki Nousiainen is the CTO of Finnish open-source technology company Aiven. Here, he talks about the importance of changing the company culture and constantly considering transformation.

‘Digital transformation is misunderstood as something one does or pays for but it’s so much more than that – it’s a mindset’

Describe your role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

As CTO and co-founder at Aiven, a technology company combining the best open-source technologies with cloud infrastructure, I ensure that our customers in retail, entertainment, manufacturing and more see ROI with our services and can meet their goals of utilising open-source technologies to drive insight and value.

My responsibilities include overseeing our product development and IT strategy and working closely with clients on their technology implementations.

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

We provide real-time stream processing and cloud-based tools for our customers, and to exceed their expectations and meet client goals we also must constantly innovate internally.

As an open-source provider and believer in the power of software development, we also naturally invest time and effort in new open-source projects and products that will advance digital transformation across the entire market.

How big is your team?

We have offices spread out across the world, including Helsinki, Boston, Berlin and Sydney. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, we had a highly distributed workforce. Our teams at Aiven utilise efficient, cloud-based tools to allow remote work and collaboration even from different sides of the world.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation?

Contrary to traditional definitions, the process of digital transformation is ongoing and constantly changing, especially as new services hit the market. This has become especially critical during Covid-19.

Companies who were able to adapt quickly to remote work and rely on digital tools, keeping both customers and employees happy, have seen a much more steady 2020 and have actually been able to advance business goals. If it wasn’t clear to organisations before the pandemic that the future of work relies on innovation and modernisation, then it is definitely clear now.

Digital transformation is also misunderstood as something one does or pays for but it’s so much more than that – it’s a mindset. Using this mindset to drive innovation and adopt a digital-first strategy across your organisation and your partnerships is the best way to see true transformation and compete in today’s market.

A typical project should involve buy-in from stakeholders across all departments and a mutual agreement of common goals. For example, the digitisation of processes should prioritise where the most need is, whether it’s streamlining data collection, automating IT services or migrating workloads to the cloud.

By changing the culture of an entire workforce to think digitally, and working with partners who think similarly, organisations will see more success in their digital transformation projects.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the future of work?

Stream processing is having a huge impact on the future of work from behind the scenes, and many business leaders don’t even know it. By processing data in real time, rather than batch processing, services like Apache Kafka or similar open-source tools are providing more options for companies to digest and utilise data in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Companies such as e-commerce giants and entertainment providers process thousands of data points daily and need the ability to source this data from multiple streams, which then allows teams to analyse data quicker and more effectively.

With open-source stream processing, real-time data collection and analysis is not only possible, but it’s already being used to advance innovation and push markets to new boundaries. The future of work depends on how we use the data that is at our fingertips, and this culture shift will only make the democratisation of data even more important moving forward.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect our data?

Security is a huge priority right now as a result of the pandemic and transition to remote work. Employee devices and company systems are more vulnerable to ransomware attacks and leaks – mostly as a result of weak infrastructures and an increase in hacking activity.

To combat this, companies can better protect their data by validating services with a third party, implementing automated checks and continuous system monitoring, and working with a trusted partner who shows a security-first mindset.

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