Fortum is a nordic brand that is often associated with electricity production, something we’re all dependent on. Having said that, electricity generation is something that doesn’t directly affect your everyday life, except maybe when the electricity bill goes down.
However, Fortum is investing in a number of interesting areas in energy and circular economics. They’ve built up an exciting product portfolio consisting of green and consumer-friendly solutions, such as smart homes and electric car charging.
In 2010, Fortum launched Charge & Drive, its charging solution for electric cars, developed in collaboration with the IoT company Info24. In 2016, Fortum acquired Info24, which is also when our story begins.
Joachim Heiroth – or Jocke, as his colleagues call him – is one of the key people in this undertaking. Jocke works with Fortum's strategic technology projects. In short, he’s responsible for all the cool digital projects Fortum is currently running. I’ve worked with him for many years, even before his gig at Fortum, and I know that he’s keen on executing development projects in line with how we like to do things at Cygni – in self-driven, agile teams that use modern technology and, wherever possible, automation. In addition, both Jocke and I appreciate an open environment where technical discussions can flourish. Teams are encouraged to set up solid architecture as a basis for building good solutions.
– Joachim Heiroth, Fortum
The teams themselves should decide how they work. They know best!
When Info24 was acquired by Fortum, Jocke was given the task of building up their development department and ensuring that Charge & Drive would work with the acquisition of new customers over the long term. He discovered early on that there were plenty of challenges he’d have to overcome, in everything from code and system architecture to dev ops and release management.
At that time, an offshore team of about fifteen developers was working on the code. Unfortunately, a number of the developers were replaced and, thus, the team was lacking continuity. Furthermore, code quality was low because the team would implement solutions “exactly according to specs” instead of looking at the system as a whole. It’s challenging to get an offshore team to work together effectively, but a seamless flow of communication between the client and the supplier can make all the difference. They must be able to really talk to each other, not just share specs and bug reports.
All of this made for slow development lead time, poor quality, inferior performance, and continued inadequate communication. Simply put, it did not make for good delivery.
Fortum builds a team
Jocke decided it was time to bring in help, and he enlisted the first consulting developer, Cygni’s own Alexander. He started by revamping the release process, improving tool support, and creating an understanding of the code base. It quickly became evident that substantial engineering effort would be required to future proof the product, and Jocke started recruiting.
Alexander was soon joined by more consultants and new hires (we all know how long it can take to recruit good people). Unfortunately, the situation with the offshore team was not getting any better, so Jocke and I came up with a plan. We replaced fifteen people from the offshore team with a talent team of five people from Cygni. We call it Software Team as a Service, a way for our customers to quickly start up their own development department.
– Joachim Heiroth, Fortum
I have worked with consultants from all sorts of companies. The thing with Cygni is that they have the right mindset and the right skills to fit Fortum!
So, the Cygni team kicked off with five systems developers from our talent program, with a senior tech lead at the helm.
The Talent Program is a two-year program for university and college graduates who have just completed their technical degrees. Cygni employs and places them alongside other Cygni consultants with clients such as Fortum, who understand the importance of pursuing development projects in a pragmatic way – with a focus on agile, tech, and communication. In addition to the consulting assignment, the new recruits receive a personalized growth and development package that they create together with their mentor.
An interesting note about the talent program is that it’s quite advanced compared to other such programs we’ve come across. It’s one of Cygni's most important major investments, and we’re allocating a great deal of resources to get our young developers off to a good start in their careers.
Once up and running, Fortum could also add one of their junior developers to the Cygni team. She took part in the talent program, and she learned a great deal during our courses and training sessions. We often try to work this way with our customers – be a partner who adds value, instead of simply supplying resources. Since Fortum didn’t have its own talent program for developers, this was a win-win for both sides.
#buzzwordbingo – there’s simply a little bit of everything at Fortum and techies usually appreciate this. :)
Growing painsOrganizations that grow quickly often experience growing pains, and Fortum is no exception. Jocke had to reorganize the teams several times to gain the efficiencies and feel needed to get the job done. Cygni's talent team stood out for smooth execution throughout the project, which naturally depended on clear communication, skilled consultants, good leadership from Fortum's product owner, and, not least, on Cygni’s positive work culture. Max, who at the time was a junior developer, shone in his role and got to take lead on the mobile app development for Charge & Drive.
Fortum is proactive in terms of gender equality and diversity. They’ve managed to attract developers with different personality types and backgrounds, including our talent team, making for good traction on the project.
When we recruit at Cygni, we’re careful to screen for technical know-how, an area where Max excels. But it’s equally as important candidates can work well in different types of teams and possess good social skills. Our consultants are expected to contribute to the team’s overall performance, so we offer a lot of training in the form of dilemma games, group dynamics exercises, and sessions on topics such as presentation techniques, process and methodology, etc.
– Joachim Heiroth, Fortum
The team consisted mostly of junior developers, and it worked really, really well!
Then something interesting happened – GDPR. All of a sudden, Fortum was faced with a series of hard deadlines that were quickly creeping up. They had to quickly scale up their development, and they did!
The end result
Fortum and Jocke did an extraordinary job putting together a great product with Charge & Drive. They moved the entire platform to the cloud, worked out a robust and modern tech stack, introduced automated deployment, built a tremendous amount of functionality, while building a stable, diverse development organization. Not bad! In addition, they became GDPR compliant (on time) and transitioned from the old charging system to the new cloud-based Charge & Drive without major hiccups.
Today, Fortum is well equipped to grow the organization with more products and developers, and we at Cygni are grateful for the opportunity to have participated in a very interesting success story!
Are you thinking of starting a new team and need advice? Feel free to reach out, and we can talk about Software Team as a Service and how it could benefit your organization.
If you want to know more about Cygni, check out the info on this this website.
Contact me at [email protected], and I'll try to answer all your questions.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to work at Fortum, please visit their website.