Digitalisation: Empowering and Engaging Employees Through Digital Transformation – Mikko Tepponen

Mikko Tepponen is the COO and CDO at FLSmidth where he heads up the ongoing digital and IT transformation of the full flowsheet technology and service supplier to global mining industries. Mikko’s background lies within executive leadership roles with a focus on digital transformation and innovation as well as implementation with a change leadership focus and orientation.

What does digitalisation mean for you and your company?

If you look at it as a topic, typically it has multiple dimensions. From an internal view, it involves optimising IT systems and tools to increase effectiveness across the business in terms of operations. However, at its core it must change the way you do business and how your business model adapts to move from selling physical assets to offering services enabled by digital solutions. This transformation not only changes how we operate but also how we interact with customers as we shift towards a service-oriented business model.

What were the most important steps and actions in your digitalisation journey?

I think it’s really to do with how your digitalisation journey is supporting your existing operations whilst also exploring the transformation into new avenues. For us, we aimed to leverage digitalisation to enhance our business model, particularly by emphasising advanced services. Initially we prioritised technical aspects like Internet of Things (IoT) and data collection and we’ve now shifted that focus towards commercial elements such as sales strategies and value propositions. Moving forward I would say our key priorities are now scaling our efforts and addressing associated challenges both technically and operationally.

What were the main goals when you started this journey and how do you measure its success?

When we set our goals, we looked at both the internal simplification and the business model transformation. Internally, we aimed to streamline our processes, improve responsiveness to customers and measure success through metrics like response time to customer inquiries. From a business transformation perspective, our key goal was to increase profitability. This would be measured through metrics like profitability improvement and other business KPI’s so we can see the direct impact that digitalisation is having on our operations. On their own, digitalisations metrics are insufficient in measuring success, true success lies in positively impacting the core business metrics.

What are the major benefits and challenges of digitalisation in the context of industrial companies, and how did you address these challenges?

Digitalisation presents a significant cultural shift for industrial companies like ours, so there’s going to be some opposition during this transformation. The main challenges that we face are overcoming this resistance to change and ensuring buy-in from stakeholders. In order to overcome these challenges, it requires thorough explanation, demonstration of the value of digitalisation and highlighting its potential benefits. We can also align digitalisation efforts with business goals and integrating digital capabilities into existing operations, thereby mitigating resistance and drive meaningful change.

How did you engage and empower employees at all levels of the organisation to embrace digitalisation and contribute to its success?

We initiated a shift from a centralised digital team to embedding digital expertise within various business units, integrating these digital capabilities into the business rather than treating them as standalone events. In doing so, it ensured that digitalisation became ingrained in the organisations culture and operations, fostering widespread adoption and employee contribution to its success.

How do you see technology evolving over the next decade, and what role do you envision it playing in the digital transformation of your company?

The evolution of technology, particularly with the advent of generative AI, represents a significant opportunity for our company and we have already made strides in AI and predictive models to optimise operational parameters. Moving forward, generative AI promises to further revolutionise our internal processes, enabling us to simulate solutions, optimise operations and drive innovation, ultimately redefining how we work and unlocking new possibilities for digital transformation.

What is the impact of digitalisation across the supply chain?

By increasing digitalisation across the supply chain, we’re enhancing transparency and predictive capabilities which ultimately enables better planning and agility. For example, we as customers expect full transparency when we order things online, from shipment to delivery at our doors, we don’t have this full transparency in the business world. The other impact is that by leveraging AI-driven predictions, companies can mitigate risks associated with geopolitical tensions and supply-chain disruptions. We have to be agile and responsive therefore adopting digital technologies ensures the continued efficiency and operational resilience amidst global uncertainties.

What 3 key pieces of advice would you give to other COOs contemplating or at the beginning of the digitalisation journey?

The first thing I would say is to start with small, impactful initiatives to help build momentum and demonstrate the value of digital transformation. This will establish the worth of digitalisation across your business and get your employees on board with the transition. Secondly, identifying key business metrics that digitalisation can positively influence and aligning these with strategic goals, will help to solidify the purpose of your digitalisation journey. Finally, focus on embedding digital capabilities into the business, breaking down silos between digitalisation and other departments to drive meaningful business model transformations.

If you would like to discuss any if the topics raised in this piece or if you need support with your leadership resourcing strategy, please get in touch with Alex Catana on