(Article originally published in March/April 2017 edition)
Tell us about yourself.
I am Norwegian and a graduate of the Norwegian School of Information Technology (NITH). I also hold a bachelor’s degree from BI Norwegian Business School and an executive MBA from the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH). Prior to joining KONGSBERG I held management-level positions in several leading technology companies and was CEO of both Microsoft Norway and Geodata. My expertise is in business development, change management, and growth and expansion strategies.
What is Kongsberg Digital?
Kongsberg Digital was established in 2016 to serve as the center of digital expertise for all of KONGSBERG. The company has always been highly digitalized, but we realized we had several software operations in different business units within KONGSBERG. At the same time, the market was rapidly changing with increasing industrialization, the Internet of Things, automation and robotics – challenges as well as opportunities for many of the important industries we operate in, including maritime, oil and gas, renewables and utilities. We wanted to provide innovation in the form of next-generation software services and digital solutions to these industries but also to others – and to digitalize KONGSBERG in the process.
How many offices and employees are there?
KONGSBERG has about 7,200 employees located in 100 offices in more than 25 countries around the world. Of these, approximately 500 are Kongsberg Digital employees – all highly skilled with leading competencies within the Internet of Things, smart data, artificial intelligence, and automation and autonomous operations.
What are some of its major products?
Kongsberg Digital offers a broad range of software products and services for the energy sector including oil and gas applications, windfarm solutions, hydropower solutions and maritime simulation. In addition, KONGSBERG has a number of applications in areas like vessel and fleet performance, remote services and condition-monitoring. We see significant potential for our maritime customers to reduce costs and increase value through new products and services. In the near future, for example, we anticipate lower costs and the increased availability of connectivity and data transfer services, meaning new opportunities for increased efficiency in areas like port operations and fleet performance.
To ensure that our customers and partners get the most from the opportunities in this digital transformation, we decided to merge our software solutions across several of our industries into one digital platform. This will be launched soon and will be an open ecosystem for customers and partners.
Why an open ecosystem?
To provide maximum benefit for our customers and partners. The new digital platform will integrate a number of applications to optimize business processes for maritime, oil and gas, renewables and utilities. There will be numerous KONGSBERG products at the top of the platform, but it will be an open and innovation-driven ecosystem to encourage participation and sharing. Applications can be added by KONGSBERG, a customer or a partner. Cyber security, customers’ ownership of their information and data integrity are at the core of the ecosystem, but we have made it easy to add and integrate both KONGSBERG applications and third-party applications.
Okay, tell us more about the maritime applications.
The maritime industry is already moving rapidly toward the adoption of digital ecosystems. Bunker prices, geographical positioning (AIS), sea charts, weather information, trade benchmarking and many other external sources are being commoditized and available for a forward-thinking shipper. It is thus crucial that our digital platform is able to securely integrate shore- and vessel-based data within a wider ecosystem or combine these information sources into our own or partner-developed applications.
We believe there is no single best solution for all shippers in the world apart from the fact they need to trust their suppliers to securely transmit, store and enable applications on top of their own information. This ensures that the value from each individual data source is maximized.
Why is there so much emphasis these days on digitalization? GE, Maersk and other global companies have all jumped on the digital bandwagon.
We are at the very start of the technological revolution, and a growing number of industries and companies are going through major changes and digital shifts. Digitalization provides unique opportunities, which many see as a golden opportunity for new products and services. It’s about taking ownership to one’s value chain, which is becoming digitized.
“Providing the Full Picture” is a slogan used in much of your advertising. What does it mean?
The “Full Picture” means we will stand out in our field and at the same time give our customers the assurance of dealing with a company that knows its business inside and out – from providing innovative and reliable products and global support to ensuring ease of operation. It is our core proposition to the market and unites each of our business units. “Providing the Full Picture” is also at the core of our digitized delivery. By applying our solutions or utilizing our platform we can provide a full picture of operations instead of a fragmented picture from several sources.
What impact has the downturn in the offshore market and other maritime sectors had on Kongsberg Digital?
It’s been a rough market for many of our customers and partners over the past couple of years, and this has also impacted KONGSBERG. However, we’re constantly adapting and seeing the opportunities that these changes generate. The downturn in the market is driving change, new constellations and increased technology adoptions to cut costs and increase efficiency. The technology is now at a mature level when it comes to decreasing maintenance costs, increasing productivity and building new value-added services. So there can be significant value in deploying new technology in a challenging market.
Where do you see the company in five years?
We have high ambitions, and our goal is to contribute to strong and profitable development for KONGSBERG and its customers across all our industries. We are still in the early stages when it comes to exploring opportunities with technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, but we are already seeing significant results. Data science is a new profession that’s emerging to extract value out of Big Data and perform advanced analytics, so we are increasing our capacity in this field to ensure that we can build industry-specific algorithms to benefit our customers. And we will likely have automated and semi-autonomous operations within the next five years, and I believe we are well-positioned to serve our customers in those areas as well.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
Building up a new business unit is a balancing act and in some areas comparable to a startup. Our main focus is market orientation and exploring opportunities with our customers. We plan to invest more than 20 percent of our annual turnover in R&D over the next several years to ensure high-quality services and solutions and, given the rapid development in this field, we have been in constant hiring mode while ensuring good onboarding processes.
It’s really all about the people. To provide great value to our customers and partners we need strong domain competence in combination with innovative digital competence. Market engagement and close collaboration with our customers are also critical in this rapid transformation. Our company culture with its core values is what guides us: Determined, Innovative, Collaborative, Reliable. Our vision is clear: “World Class.”
How would you describe your management style?
I have a genuine curiosity and like to be involved. To be a leader in this rapid transformation, you must allow yourself to delve deep into the details now and then because if you don’t you will distance yourself from what your business is all about. I believe in giving the people I work with the freedom to manage their jobs and their time themselves, but in return I expect them to take responsibility and deliver. Micromanaging is not my thing.
What do you like most about your job?
I think it must be the opportunity to influence the direction the company is taking while at the same time working with great people, both internally and externally.
Tell us about some of your extracurricular activities.
I have been widely engaged as a speaker at external events to introduce the opportunities that the digital transformation holds and how to start exploring those opportunities.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Family, friends and skiing.
Is there one final message you’d like to leave for our readers?
There are significant opportunities to increase productivity, decrease costs and improve operations with the new technology that is now available. We are entering an era of transformation across our industries that requires insight and strong partnerships to navigate. Don’t miss out! – MarEx
Jack O’Connell is Senior Editor of The Maritime Executive.