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Scaling up digital innovation

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Emerging technology presents exciting new opportunities, as well as giving us new ways to optimize what we already do. Digitalisation is also an important driver in the transformation that Stora Enso is undertaking, which will be the foundation for another 700 years of success. But the big challenge is turning promise into large-scale business. Getting it right takes vision and the right resources, as well as a significant culture shift.
Stora Enso has come a long way as a digital pioneer, and we’ve discovered some keys to success along the way. Before you can get anywhere, it’s essential to understand how your digital approach fits into your overall business strategy.

We have a group strategy based on four cornerstones: customer insight, structural processes, motivated employees and innovation. Everything we do in the digital realm has to be closely tied to these. They are always top of mind when evaluating any new technology.

Naturally, experimentation is an important element. We have to try things out to see how they could work. But we have also found it is essential to create the right ecosystem for exploring these new possibilities.

Stora Enso’s unit for Digitalisation accelerates and simplifies the process of testing new ideas. There are five essential elements to the way we do this. The first is funding. We have established the DigiFund, a resource of €10m per year to fund exploration of new technology. Anyone with an idea can apply; in the last two years, we have received 250 applications and funded 118 promising projects.

The second element is our engagement with the external innovation ecosystem, from emerging startups to global technology giants, which enables us to find the very best partners needed to deliver on the idea. So far, we have involved 87 partners to deliver our exploration projects and screened more than 600 startups globally.

The third element is active talent development. This includes developments such as our Learning Academy, which provides online education on digital topics across the whole company. Our aim is for everyone at Stora Enso to feel knowledgeable and positive about using digital technologies in their work.

The fourth element is our cross-organisational workstreams for innovation activities, ensuring that great ideas and best practices are widely shared and benefit the whole organisation. This is critical – new solutions must be adopted across several units if we are to achieve a significant impact in global business.

Underpinning all this is our fifth element: the technological building blocks that make it possible to develop an idea easily. Examples include our shared cloud-based development and data platforms, reference architectures for artificial intelligence and internet of things and our design system for creating visually consistent user interfaces.

This five-way approach removes many of the barriers to innovation and implement ideas on a large scale. One successful example of this is our use of robotics to automate business processes. We have already automated 57 processes across the whole organisation and the number is increasing every month. To make this possible, we run a cross-organisational development program. Through this, we educate all units about process automation, harvest ideas across the company and then use common technology and partners to implement robots.

Ultimately, the goal is to build digital innovation into the fabric of our company. It’s essential to have engagement throughout, from plant operations to management teams, ensuring that digital becomes a natural part of how we work and generate value. This is central to our goal of increasing the percentage of revenue from new products and services, which in turn is key for our long-term success and leadership position as a renewable materials company.

To truly succeed with digitalisation, you have to see it as a foundation for broader business goals and a way to aid people in their work. We’re not interested in technology for its own sake, but for how it can make life better for everyone.


Samuli Savo

Samuli Savo

Samuli Savo is a business executive and a strategist who provides thought leadership in digital business strategies, innovation management and organisational transformation. Currently he is Chief Digital Officer for Stora Enso, driving and enabling Stora Enso’s digital agenda globally. He heads Digitalization and New Services business development unit and manages group level funding for digital experimentation. His past roles cover both business strategy, complex change programs, M&A activity and P&L responsibilities in technology businesses (Enfo, Gartner, Fujitsu).
Photo by: Maaseudun Tulevaisuus / Hanna Linnove

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Digitalisation in Stora Enso