Agile, Customer Journey, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Innovation, Methodology, Reflections, User Experience (UX)

Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping

After working in Sweden for 5-6 years I took the train from Gothenburg to Stockholm for the first time to attend a workshop on Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping. Since commuting across the country was a new experience for me, I chose to be 30min early for the train only to find the doors of the coach locked. Standing outside freezing, I took the time to find my ticket. I had received an SMS with my details a few days earlier, but to my surprise it said: “This is not your ticket”. So my customer experience with SJ prior to arriving at the Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping workshop wasn’t really a superb one.

Railway tracks and trains in Stockholm, Sweden.

After 4 hours puffing through the Swedish countryside, I arrived in the capital ready to join DI Akademi on a very important and interesting topic: Customer Experience (CX) and Customer Journey Mapping.

The workshop kicked off with an introduction of the participants and their roles, following a thorough explanation of what Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping is. The workshop was divided into six parts, all aiming to make content customers and employees: Strategy, Insights, Design, Measurement, Management and Culture.

The way to interact with customers and the focus on customer experience has significantly changed during the last 100 years. Back in 1913 when Woodrow Wilson was president, and USA went through the Progressive Era the focus was mostly on the product itself. However in the 1950’s the focus moved more towards the american dream and a very strong brand focus and transitioning into stronger customer relations through the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Pin up girl drinking cola in hip cafe

The focus on Customer Experience as we know is today started for real around the millennium, where new technology became available to both understand and interact with the customer. Also the consumers matured and expected more than just a product, introducing terminology like retailtainment and entertainmerce.

At its core, Customer Journey Mapping is a methodology that enable insight and understanding of customer’s with the aim of developing products or services that support innovation and business development through earning the satisfaction and loyalty of your customers. In a nutshell, I would call it a form of result oriented customer service.

The duration of the workshop was two days, at first out instructors focused on using theory to teach us how to work with Customer Experience and Customer Journey Mapping for our businesses before switching to practical application when we had grasped the basics of the concept.

The workshop was tailored to serve a wide range of people, specifically people responsible for customer experience, others were business managers, business developers, support and customer service managers, marketing managers and marketers, strategists, and product owners. Learning about Customer Experience together availed is the opportunity to create connections and offer each other insights relating to our various fields.

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I learnt that Customer Experience Management is a strategy, methodology and process to manage a customers exposure, interaction and transaction with a corporation, a product/service and a brand. The discipline that is about developing service and business models that prioritize the customer in all of the company’s business processes, thus creating favorable conditions for growth. One of the fundamental aspects of CX is taking time to understanding the customer’s experience and contact points with your company. It involves careful documentation and recording of all forms of contact between a customer and the company to the extent that at a glance the customer’s journey can be visualized and understood easily; A Customer Journey Map if you will, which is a documentation/mapping of all the customer’s contacts with you as a company.

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During the course of the two-day workshop on learning about Customer Experience, we created a Customer Journey Map for a fictitious company and integrated the results into our respective businesses. We started off by understanding Customer Experience as a business discipline and it’s concepts, what makes up a customer experience and how to understand it. We then proceeded to Customer Journey Mapping, creates models with the aid of working methods, practical steps and guidance. A large part of the workshop was focused on “learning by doing”.

We moved onto Persona and Empathy mapping, gathering customer insights, customer needs and behavior, contact points and channels. This part was more about how to appropriately gauge a customer’s response and feelings when they make contact with our business. We were also taught how to effectively record these to facilitate these to facilitate business growth modeling. Happy customer = better business!

Our knowledge on the workshop was then put to the test by presenting us with practical exercises on creating Customer Journey Map and how to measure the progress of our services linked to Customer Journey Mapping.

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The final part of the learning curve was the most delicate: Business development and business management with CX and how you can introduce change to our business specifically. We were made to understand that without actual measurable growth, the aim of the workshop would not be met. So in essence, all CX and Customer Journey Mapping should lead to measurable growth.

Attending the two day workshop armed me with a lot of new skills in dealing with customers and I learnt basic understanding of Customers and experience as a business discipline. What I consider to be the most vital lesson learnt is understanding how an empathetic approach to customers can create an atmosphere that encourages sustainability and profitability in business for your company.

With all these exciting business models, I’m quite ready and anticipate implementing Customer Experience work plan!

Thank you to Camilla Lif and Johan Sjöström for a great workshop. If you enjoyed reading about the Customer Journey or have any questions or great ideas, feel free to reach out at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com 🙂

Reflections, Retail, Sustainability

Sustainability in Retail

Let’s face it, nobody wants to be labeled as the savage who’s ruining the earth. One of the impacts of environmentalists is that they have successfully managed to make people feel that being environmentally conscious is the new cool. A similar scenario is is playing out in the cosmetics industry, there has been a big influx towards natural products. Tech and industrial giants have obviously noticed this change and adapted to make themselves to being more environment friendly. It’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that retail is shifting towards sustainability.

Couple working in a bulk food store

What is interesting with sustainability is that it pretty much involves all parts of your life, thus all parts of the retail business. This includes production, logistics, operations to employees consciousness.  Since I work mostly with store operations, I In this post I would like to focus on eco-friendly technology and how this can be implemented in the retail industry.

This brings us to the question, what is eco-friendly technology? Also known as clean tech, green tech and environmental tech, eco-friendly technology can help preserve the environment through energy efficiency and reduction of harmful waste. Green tech innovators use the latest environmental science and green chemistry to reduce the harmful impact of human activity on the earth.

Green technology is still in its beginnings, but lots of interesting innovations have been executed in fields like renewable energy, water purification and waste management, as well as in everyday consumer products like electronics and vehicles. It can be as minute as a hand-held gadget or as immense as a new method of filtering greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Eco-friendly technology often involves Recycled, recyclable and/or biodegradable content, plant-based materials, reduction of polluting substances, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, energy-efficiency, Multi-functionality and Low-impact manufacturing.

Innovations in the field of green technology have included highly efficient LED lights, which could be used to make countless other gadgets more environmentally friendly, as well as promising growth in lesser-known renewable energies like algae oil. Companies such as Dell and Google are taking steps forward with eco-friendly technology in projects ranging from plant-based packaging to vast wind farms.
Eco-friendly technology innovations such as these will continue have a huge impact on tech, especially when implemented by companies with vast consumer base.

Eco-friendly technologies to join the fight against climate change include:

Direct to the Plumbing Rainwater Tanks

The water supply that reaches most businesses may be steady, safe, and clean. The energy used in the processing and distribution phases also comes from fossil fuels and other less-than-ideal sources, and therefore, not exactly eco-friendly. Harvested rainwater directed to a rainwater tank by means of a catchment area and a number of pipes. Since rain, in itself, is clean, it should not take much to purify it. Many of the filters you need in your system do not require energy to run, so it’s safe to say that with a rainwater harvesting system, you get water that’s safe to use without all the wasted energy.

Greywater Recycling Technology

These are best set up together with a rainwater harvesting system, allows one to reuse water that was just used for something else. The water that can be reused by this type of system can be rain or mains.

Solar and Wind Harvesting Technologies

The fact that Earth Hour participants are required to switch off all their home appliances and lights for one hour is proof that the electrical power we use comes from sources harmful to the environment. It is wonderful that a number of multinational companies have made, or are transitioning, to solar and wind harvesting tech. After all, solar power and wind are renewable and clean sources of energy.

LED and CFL Lighting

LED and CFL bulbs are better than older bulbs in three ways. They are brighter, require lesser energy to function, and last longer. There is absolutely no good reason to not use them.

Biodegradable Plastic

While not exactly new technology, just like the above, many companies are still struggling with making the switch to this type of plastic. This is despite the fact that it’s a lot safer for the environment since it does break down in time.
Let us all stop closing our eyes to the effects of climate change on us and our future and join this young girl in making the world a better and safer place for all the life around us. If you don’t believe you can make big changes to your life style, start with little things like taking your own shopping bag to the mall.

Influencers

So why do we see this intense focus on the environment now? The answer is probably complex, but we cannot underestimate the celebrities and influencers putting the science into layman’s terms. Let’s face it, nobody wants to be labeled as the savage who’s ruining the earth.

Environmentalist Greta Thunberg is a major trendsetter who, at age 15, began protesting in front of the Swedish parliament about the need for speedy action to combat climate change. Her “school strike for the climate” began garnering media attention and she has since become an outspoken climate activist.

In the last year, she has become a worldwide phenomenon of the climate change movement. Promoting #fridaysforfuture alongside millions of children across the globe to demand politicians, governments and corporations make positive moves regarding climate change.

people holding up colorful wooden letter lettering forming the words fridays for future isolated on white background. climate change global warming enviromental school protest concept.

Greta has received many prizes and awards for her strides in the improvement of the environment. In 2019, three members of the Norwegian parliament nominated Thunberg for the Nobel Peace Prize. And in May 2019, at the age of 16, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

At a TEDx speech in November 2018, Thunberg said that she first heard about climate change at the age of eight, but could not understand why so little was being done about it. At age 11, she developed depression and stopped talking. Later she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and selective mutism. She added that selective mutism means that she was speaking only when she needed to and that “now is one of those moments. She said, “I feel like I am dying inside if I don’t protest”.

To lower her family’s carbon footprint, Greta insisted on becoming vegan and give up flying. She said she persuaded her parents to give up eating meat by making them feel guilty. “I kept telling them that they were stealing our future.” Thunberg says her teachers are divided in their views about her missing class to make her protest. She muses: “As people they think what I am doing is good, but as teachers they say I should stop.” She was also quoted saying, “Sometimes the world makes so little sense that the only thing to do is engage in civil disobedience—even in a country as attached to its rules and regulations as Sweden is”.

Young woman demonstrating against Climate Change

Siv Skard, Associate Professor at Kristiania University College researches consumer behavior. She highlights that people are always concerned about how others look at them and judge them. This is a great point that can be taken advantage of from a business perspective.

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People are self-centered and if they notice that they are being watched, you can promote concepts like ‘go green’ or ‘go healthy’ which people tend to buy.

So, we might move into a greener future for the wrong reasons, but most important is that we are on the right path!

If you are interested in hearing more about the future of retail operations, feel free to contact me at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com 🙂

Commercial, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Gunnebo Retail Solution, Innovation, Reflections, Retail

Norwegian Trade Conference; BOPIS + BORIS = True

I had the opportunity to attend the Norwegian Trade Conference in Oslo 24th September featuring some of the most interesting retailers in Norway, and even a couple of international speakers. The focus for this years conference was BOPIS + BORIS = True, but some of the keynotes also focused on traditional retail and omnichannel.

Trade is never a dying concept but rather a constantly changing industry. This rapid change and advancement bought in two e-commerce acronyms to the market. This is none other than BOPIS which is abbreviated for buy online and pick up in-store facility and BORIS which is bought online and return in-store.  So what does this give your business? How does it support customers to have a better shopping experience? These are the questions we intend to answer by the end of this article.

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These new purchasing behaviors have widened the scope of shopping gives more flexibility and convenience to your business. Let’s dig in deeper and see what advantages these new Omni channels provide you with.

From apocalypse to renaissance?

Trade would never reach an apocalypse. Rather, it gives new beginnings just like the renaissance. So, it can be related to it as well.  There is one question that many have in mind when it comes to engaging consumers and maintaining relationships with them further with regards to trade and business. Is trade all about customer experience or it solely based on price? 

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Old rusty cash register on the floor of an abandoned store in Pripyat – Chernobyl nuclear power plant zone of alienation.

Recent statistics that mainly focused on Norwegians show that Norwegian shoppers who shopped in physical brick and mortar stores in Norway increased by 16% from 2012-2018 and those who shopped abroad in physical stores increase by 76% in the same time frame. 

On the other hand, Norwegian shoppers who purchased from Norwegian online stores increased by 101% and purchasing from international stores increased by 146% from 2012-2018.

It also revealed that 50% of consumers preferred physical stores whereas 20% preferred online stores. However, 30% did not really have a particular preference. 

Therefore, these facts show that customer service is not just a department or a small fraction in the trade industry. It plays a bigger role as the main purpose is to build a loyal member and focus every aspect of keeping the customer in the center. Simply said, the customer is the boss! Not to forget while the store is 50%, delivery is equally important and takes about another 50% nowadays.

From apocalypse to relevance

Peterson was the speaker of the year during “The Big Show” in New York in January and has about 30 years of experience as a retailer, strategist, and speaker. His innovative approaches to modern retail and strong expertise in cultural trends are his specialty. 

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Lee Peterson – EVP: Thought Leadership & Marketing – WP Partners

It was pointed out that retail closures were more than openings in the USA and the sole reason was shoppers were looking for more facilities than just shopping. Whilst shopping, they looked for eating spots and food halls are a great technique. They also look into children’s play areas, fitness centers, green spaces to relax, farmers’ markets, places to buy household items and other facilities. For example, farmers’ markets have 3985 in 2014 to 9027 in 2019 as buying fresh fruits and vegetables has increased over the years and a consumer on average spends about $16 per visit.

Therefore, many shoppers looked for an all-in-one place to get all that they need. Therefore, incorporating this concept shows that shopping is not dead yet, but rather the way shopping is done must be changed. This is where BOPIS and BORIS become two famous traditions that are followed these days for customer convenience. 

BOPIS and BORIS

BOPIS

Unlike earlier days, people are less patient and expect instant gratification. Thus, BOPIS is very useful for people who are stuck in workplaces or traffic and do not really have the time to choose items in shops. Through this, they get the option of choosing the goods they need online and picking it up on the store. This saves time for people with busy schedules to smoothen their shopping. On the other hand, when customers pick their goods, 75% of them also purchase additional items while in-store.

Looking at the near future, the use of technology will be more heavily incorporated into shopping. For example, having 3-D views of products and being able to visually shop their stores and getting it delivered. 

BORIS

This is another option where you could buy online and get it delivered. However, if you want to exchange or return to a physical store, you can do so. So the hassle of return shopping is eliminated and is a convenient service. The benefit of it is that when customers visit the store to return goods, there is a high chance that they might exchange or even buy additional goods.

But these innovations won’t mean it is the end of shopping centers because having physical stores gives delight to people which virtual stores cannot give. People like to touch, feel or smell which online stores cannot give because those sensations can induce spontaneous purchases.

The line between physical stores and online stores will get thinner and thinner day by day and a new concept will come known as a physical store which will create a fluid web-to-store system with a smooth customer experience. Therefore, many different methods will be used with different approaches to reach different audiences.

How to create total seamlessness between the web and the store?

As Hauk Landsverk, Digital Director of  Elkjøp expressed, to create a seamless integration between web and physical store is through these omnichannel approaches like BOPIS and BORIS to create a link between physical stores and mobile, telephone or computer devices.  Through these, customers will enjoy the benefits of technology which will simultaneously cater to their needs as well. It will be customer-centric rather than product-centric where it is based on the customer’s journey and experience which is a fundamental factor.

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It speeds off the web

Siv Heleen Grødem, entrepreneur and owner of the Suser i Sivet highlights certain strategies to enhance the shopping experience such as instead of selling individual clothes,  you sell a full costume. Apart from that other factors like social media promotions by stores, online presence and personal services like cash on delivery are a few aspects that also enhance the shopping experience. 

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Suser i Sivet also won the prestigeous award for retailer of the year: “The winner is the result of hard and planned work over many years, a willingness to invest and dare to try out new things and excellent marketing in social media. The result is a modern, forward-thinking business that masters the demanding art of combining online sales and physical store in an excellent way.”

Different industries, same customer – how to meet future customer needs

Ingjerd Blekeli Spiten, Executive Vice President of  PersonMarked highlights modern payment options like mobile banking and paying online as new developments that make purchasing more easier and convenient. Most banks and online payment gateways are trustworthy and reliable where almost 90% of people trust their banks and 20% of the people trust global payment systems like PayPal.  There are few others as well that rely on social media payments, IT companies or mobile companies.

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Keeping up with the consumers – how Zalando aims to become the starting point for fashion

David Hejgaard, Regional Lead Nordics of Zalando reflects on Moore’s law stating evolution is much faster than ever where customers tend to shop anywhere at any time of the day. Most physical stores have partnered with virtual stores where people can choose the color and size of what they need. If this is available in the virtual warehouse, they can purchase it. 

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How to prepare for a different future?

Truls Fjeldstad, Director of marketing and business intelligence at NorgesGruppen is a charismatic guy who mainly focuses on sustainability. He believes that classical stores where you pick and pay will continue to exist and never halt. Thus, to prepare for this, new features and services must be introduced to support the traditional brick and mortar stores. These include personal assistants, IoT, automation, and delivery as well. 

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How to leverage customer data and not just collect it?

Anton Nytorp, Head of CoopX at Coop Norway is a firm believer in heat mapping. This is a great technique to understand customer’s purchasing behaviors in the store. These analytics show actions and what your customers usually like. It is a good way to record data in a way that can be interpreted rather than just merely collecting it. 

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Furthermore, placing similar products of different vendors is another great technique so consumers have many options to choose from if they don’t like a particular product type or brand. This also shows and helps identify which products are more likely to be bought.  Having an unmanned- store in Norway is also on the bucket list as it will show what customers actually want and not forced or induced to buy sales representatives. 

Symbolic consumption and self-concept

Siv Skard, Associate Professor at Kristiania University College researches consumer behavior. She highlights that people are always concerned about how others look at them and judge them. This is a great point that can be taken advantage of from a business perspective.  People are self-centered and if they notice that they are being watched, you can promote concepts like ‘go green’ or ‘go healthy’ which people tend to buy. 

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How to create results online from the first click?

Rune Kjeldsen, General Manager at “Hekta på Tur” began his first business at the age of 22 which was sold to a Dutch company. He then began an online store called Hekta Pa Tur which has steady and stable growth. Today it is a leading profitable store.

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Thus the moral of the story is when the wind of change blows, you must build a windmill if you’re a winner because losers will build wind-shields instead.

The customer experience is what will differentiate you from the competitors in the future. 

Always keep in mind that customer experience is far more important than having a good customer service system. Thus, to ensure smooth and efficient customer experience, it is necessary to indulge in profitable and sustainable business models inclusive of Omni channels like BOPIS and BORIS. These strategies are what gives customers a better overall experience.

Sveinung Jørgensen, Associate Professor at INN and Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen, Associate Professor at NHH research on sustainable and profitable business models working closely with Norwegian and international companies. They have published a book together called ‘RESTART 7 Roads for Sustainable Business Models’. You can read more about them at www.JorgensenPedersen.no

There are a few ways to enhance the customer experience. You can Redesign the business model and approach focusing on a customer-centric fashion model as it is important to see through the customer’s eyes.

Controlled experiments is another process of understanding customers and to see their issues beforehand. You can see the usability of the products, how well people can use and their overall experience and impression of the particular product or service.

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Another method is Circular processes which are usually adapted by product-oriented companies who have sought ways to give in a service and benefit from it. For example, you purchase a washing machine and pay in a cycle whereas the manufacturer will ensure that it works properly and service it when needed. Service logic is quite similar to a circular process and is relatively new which focuses on exchanging services than just goods.

Alliances are equally important to engage with your customers and communicate with them throughout their shopping journey. You can get information such as feedback, their experiences. Knowing these you can adapt means to ensure customer’s expectations are met. Another important aspect is Results that are obtained by different analysis will help you identify loopholes and fix any issues to enhance the overall customer experience.
The three dimensions of customer experience are segregated into three elements. The first is a success where the customer is able to get what he/she requires and also see if the interaction was successful or not. An effort is analyzed to see how much effort the customer had to personally put to get a successful interaction. Lastly, emotion is whether the overall interaction left the customer delighted or disappointed.

The changeover process in the green shift

Anita Sørlundsengen, Retail Director and  Øyvind Andreassen, Senior Region Manager at ST1 Norway highlights the importance of the green shift in the modern century.  Gas stations have now transformed into energy stations with new concepts constantly developing. See how ST1 / Shell at retail director Anita Sørlundsengen and retailer Thommas Landsem have created the energy station of the future with special emphasis on good customer experiences. 

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From market leader to challenger

Lars Kristian Lindberg, CEO / Managing Director at Gresvig emphasized that Gresvig was in need of a change or an advancement from a strong national brand to a more profitable international brand. Ole Sauar, Founder and CEO of Jollyroom stated that social media and influencers are a great method to grow your business in an international platform. Also having playing zones is another key idea. 

Also keep in mind that nordic countries who balance between socialism and capitalism have better economic efficiency and growth and thus, investors must carefully consider this aspect as well.

The key is to hit the emotional muscle

Sondre Gravir, CEO of the SATS group which is a leading fitness center chain in the Nordic region highlights that rather than focussing on getting in participants to the gym, the focus must be on getting the customer to the gym.

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New business models

Emilie Stordalen, daughter of Peter Stordalen and part owner at Strawberry Group is a charismatic and down-to-earth personality. She currently works to develop and operate digital platforms. The specialty about her is that she focuses on individual people such as Amanda, who is young and modern to Anders, who is a bit aged and classical which gives a more personalized experience to customers. 

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Another strategy used is that they tend to use low-quality locations such as basement rooms and give high-quality experiences like LED walls where you feel like you have woken up in a rainforest. These minute details are very important to create a positive image about your services or goods to the customers.

If you are interested in hearing more about the future of retail and IoT, feel free to contact me at bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com 🙂

Holiday, Reflections

Finally Vacation :-)

Finally it is vacation time again – and I can spend some precious time with my family 🙂

17th May Celebration

The summer starts (as always) with the celebration of the Norwegian Constitution Day – the national day of Norway – and is an official public holiday observed on May 17th each year. Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as syttende mai (lit. “seventeenth May”), Nasjonaldagen (The National Day) or Grunnlovsdagen (The Constitution Day).

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The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17th in the year 1814. The constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom in an attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after Denmark–Norway’s devastating defeat in the Napoleonic Wars.

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The unique tradition of the celebration of the 17th of May brings some complexities. That is the reason why it is often confusing and hard to understand for a new-comer to Norway with all the fuzz during the day. The children carry flags and march together with bands. Ice cream, hot dogs and other goods to eat are abundant. The buildings are decorated with Norwegian flags and women and men of all ages dress in their Bunad, or national costume. Graduating high school students wear their russedress and celebrate the approaching school year’s end. The sound of loud music is heard from every corner. Understanding of all these 17th of May traditions requires some historical and social background knowledge.

Sweden Rock

Working in Sweden, I had the opportunity to attend the Sweden Rock festival. Classic rock, hard rock, metal and even some blues – something for all tastes. Clean and neat, safe and secure. Ocean-near location, cozy grass hillsides and real lavatories. But most of all, a really friendly and good-natured atmosphere. Like one big family, with members from over 50 countries. The best audience in the world, quite frankly.

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The festival ran from Wed, 5 Jun 2019 – Sat, 8 Jun 2019, and I had a really great time in one one of the most exhilarating festival in the world. It promises to be a good time.

Tons of Rock

Lagends like Kiss, Def Leppard and Satyricon played at Tons of Rock, and I was overwhelmed to attend this great event!

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Dream Theater had a great show, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the masterpiece “Images & Words” with us at Ekebergsletta.

Maintenance and Spring Cleaning

Spring is the time to roll up the sleeves and fix whatever the long winter has torn down or wore out. Painting the house, cleaning the back yard and of course applying antifouling paint on the boat to keep the sea-weed away.

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I also took the time to fit out the shed with a hardware lab, so the family and myself can work on mechanic repairs outside. The first task at hand was to fix the injection fuel pump for the boat as this had corroded during the winter.

Sun and Sand in Spain

This year (as always) we will go to Orihuela Costa in Spain. Orihuela Costa is a coastal region situated on the Costa Blanca in the province of Alicante. It sits close to the border with Murcia, near La Manga and the beautiful Mar Menor. Despite its name it is actually around 20 kilometres away from the main resort of Orihuela.

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The region covers several resorts including Punta Prima, Playa Flamenca, La Zenia, Cabo Roig, Villamartin, Campoamor and Mil Palmeras.

Orihuela Costa is an ideal destination for those looking for a beach family holiday, with 16 kilometres of diverse coastline. It is also an excellent choice for golf holidays; in fact Orihuela Costa is well equipped for all needs, with lots of amenities, facilities and leisure attractions

Cartagena Roman Theater

The theater was built between 5 and 1 BCE, and for centuries was covered by a cathedral built over the upper part of the the theater’s “cavea,” or seating area. The first remains were discovered in 1988, and the theater underwent restoration, completed in 2003. Today the ancient arena still holds performances, and there is a museum at the site displaying the finds from a series of archaeological excavations.

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Alicante Castle

Alicante boasts many treasures. And among its most prominent is indisputably the Castle of Santa Bárbara, which stands on Mount Benacantil overlooking the city. Hewn from millenary stone, this fortress has witnessed centuries of history in this ancient city and even played a leading role in several chapters.

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Leisure and Activities for the Kids

Not living the kids out, there would also be fancy events and activities they can do to make them enjoy this holiday. I understand that visiting some of these places can be a bore to them, and some places may even be over exiting..

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Music and Entertainment for the Dad

Every Tuesday and Friday I will go to the lunch jam at El Rincon Del Tio Cali where the local musicians will entertain and involve us in fantastic musical experiences. I most likely would be visiting here on my own probably after the kids have gone to other fancy places to catch fun time.

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Leyendas del Rock

Leyendas del Rock is a rock and metal festival that takes place in the city of Villena, Spain. Now celebrating their fourteenth edition – and the seventh consecutive year in it current location – the festival has become a respected date in the calendar of heavy metal fans thanks to the lineups of the scene’s favourites.

With more than 60 performers spread across four days and five stages, the high-octane display of hard-hitting rock sounds will this year be headlined by Australian four-piece Airbourne and legendary Irish rockers Thin Lizzy, among others.

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So, have a nice vacation everyone – I will see you again in 26th August 🙂

Commercial, Fashion, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Innovation, Microsoft Azure, Reflections, Retail

Microsoft Pivot: Envisioning the Future of Digitalization

May 29th, Satya Nadella CEO of Microsoft invited Nordic customers and partners for a small conference in Sweden, putting forth his ambitions for the future. This was Nadella’s first ever visit to Sweden, since stepping into the shoes of the company’s CEO. He touched upon issues of today’s tech world, but most importantly made Swedish people aware of his company’s firm belief in global digitization and describe what the future holds in store.

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Photo: Brian Smale/Microsoft

Self-discipline & excitement-seeking are two pillars of Satya’s personality, which has made this Indian-origin techy an intellect worldwide; from Asia to Europe we all treat him with the warm welcome.

Dinner with Microsoft’s ISV Team

A day before the Nadella’s address, I was invited for dinner and socializing hosted by Joanna and Martin from Microsoft. ISV stands for Independent Software Vendor and present individual or companies those who develop, market and sell software running on third-party hardware and software platforms such as the Microsoft.

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The term ISV is prominent in the tech world, used by most tech companies including Microsoft. To understand this from a layman’s term, when Microsoft was in the pursuit of developing windows, its partnerships with numerous companies/individuals to take their project forward both on the technical and non-technical front.

Next Morning, I had the opportunity to see some of the companies that has implemented their solutions on the Microsoft platforms at hotel Berns. There we received a pep talk to Microsoft and partners on the future and what efforts we need to put to make sure it is heading the right direction.

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The Microsoft tech show commenced in style with the tunes of Sweden’s most renowned DJ and Saxophone artist Andreas Ferrronato. His soul-soothing set the mood 🙂

The Volvo Group Digitizing its Operations

Hillevi Pihlblad from Volvo Group talked about how employees hate change and across the globe it is not easy to adapt to changes. Further, she illustrated how the Volvo Group has translated the changes into something positive and made people understand why embracing change can make their lives convenient.

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The H&M Group And The Use of AI To Serve Their Customers The Best

A senior executive and business leader of the H&M Group, Arti Zeighami talked about how the company is investing in Artificial Intelligence technology to tailor store offerings. Heading the Advanced Analytics and AI function, he gave a presentation on how H&M Group is implementing advanced algorithms to scrutinize sales an returns. Further, helped them more efficiently predict the needs and demands of their customers.

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Satya Nadella, The Man of the Moment Taking The Center Stage

Then, finally came the moment when Helene Barnekow introduced Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella. He was treated with great warm claps from the tech people present.

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Nadella who took over the job role of CEO from Steve Ballmer in 2014, is globally renowned for his dynamic leadership and a true passion for technology innovations. Prior to being the company’s CEO, Nadella was Microsoft EVP of the cloud and enterprise group.

His journey as a CEO has transformed Microsoft in terms of technology, also accentuating the company’s business model and corporate culture.  His emphatic leadership abilities steered Microsoft from struggling smartphone strategy to focus on other technical aspects such as the Augmented Reality and Cloud Computing.

He was also responsible for the purchase of Linkedin, a network of professionals for around $26.2. Did you know since taking over as CEO, company’s stocks have increased by 150%?

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The theme of the address by Satya Nadella was how communities and companies are uniting together for the digitized future of Sweden. This speech was largely about Microsoft’s own digital products and services, and how they can drive the world forward.

On his address to the tech people of Sweden, he threw light on various segments of technology-the Artificial Intelligence, Digital Transformation & Innovation. The American giant was in Stockholm to make a big announcement about setting up data centers in the country.

“We have the ambition that the data centers we build in Sweden should be among the most sustainable in the world, this is another step in strengthening our position as a long-term digitization partner for Swedish businesses”

Key Highlights from Nadella’s Address

“It would be wrong for me not to talk about trust. Because in the end, it is something that will be very important to us – not only to create new technology but to really assure that there is confidence in the technology that we create” he says on stage and continues “We need to create systems that handle personal data and security as a human right.”

Satya Nadella talked about the recent investment his company is making in Sweden. Among all the tech things, Microsoft two centers to be built in Gävle and Sandviken, they will be the most sustainable in the world.

“We will use one hundred percent renewable energy. They will also be completely free from operational emissions. We set a new standard when it comes to the next generation data center. It starts here in Sweden,” said Satya Nadella.

Apart from the data centers, Satya Nadella also highlighted the recent key partnerships during his speech at the China Theater. He further talked about company collaboration with Kiruna, this city makes use of Microsoft Hololens and AR to plan the city’s underground infrastructure.

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Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO Put Forth Examples of Company’s Interest in the Country;

”There have been huge breakthroughs in the last three years, regardless of whether we are talking about object identification or voice recognition. This must be translated into infrastructure. Here we invest heavily.”

“Take Spotify who has a new very cool podcast tool. It lets anyone do their own podcast and they use our speech recognition to convert speech into text. The most interesting thing they do is that for anyone who wants to modify their podcast, they can enter and edit in writing and that the podcast then automatically changes. It shows how to use AI to make it more efficient”

Ending the Visit on a High

Later in the day, Nadella visited the Samhall innovation Days, a hackathon with the aim of “creating the conditions for people with a diagnosis within the autism spectrum to come into operation”, in the company’s press release.

Last summer, Microsoft announced two data centers in Norway to take their cloud computing services to entire Europe.

“By building new data center regions in Norway, we facilitate growth, innovation and digital transformation of Norwegian businesses – whether large companies, the public sector or some of the 200,000 small and medium-sized companies that together create the future of Norway,” said CEO Kimberly Lein-Mathisen in Microsoft Norway when the Norwegian plans became known.

Nadella declared that both the data centers will run on 100% renewable energy, so this project is in the welfare of the country, creating an ocean of newer opportunities for the locals. He also talked about his company’s association with the tech companies/communities in Sweden; one is the Kiruna city and other being the Sandvik Company.

The address at the China Theater in Stockholm by Microsoft’s top boss, Satya Nadella was like a pep talk. He gave his viewpoint on a variety of technology aspect. Most importantly, he announced the company’s program of building two data centers in this Nordic country.

Gunnebo Business Solutions, Innovation, Reflections

InnoTown 2019

Finally the day is here, and it is time for another InnoTown in my beautiful hometown Ålesund. Ålesund’s Art Nouveau architecture is known far and wide. The myriad of turrets, spires and beautiful ornamentation are like something from a fairytale.

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Photo: Sponland Foto AS

The InnoTown Conference, arranged over two decades has brought speakers that have skilfully entertained the audiences with their unique stories. Their talks contain a rich blend of deeply motivational personal journeys and exceptionally practical business cases. They leave us energized and confident to capitalise on new ideas beyond the tried and tested. Ålesund is also the centre of one of the most innovative and dynamic regions in Norway, with a long history of groundbreaking innovation.

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Photo: InnoTown

This year Monica Parker moderated and narrated the event. Monica is an ex-homicide investigator, organisational behaviorist, speaker, author, workplace nerd, status quo challenger and founder of HATCH Analytics guiding businesses through change.

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Photo: InnoTown

Monica has fifteen years experience in understanding the influence of environment and processes on human behavior. Monica specializes in an evidence-based approach to change, using social scientific methods of data collection grounded in a pragmatic and commercial foundation.

“I have always been interested in human behaviour, my background as a homicide investigator in the U.S. gave me an analytical mind and a broad understanding of behavioral psychology.”

What is Creativity?

Fredrik Haren talks on creativity, innovation and idea generation – and on how to develop a global mindset and build a truly global company.  His speeches help the audience understand how valuable it is to think in new ways and how difficult this is to achieve. He also speaks on business creativity and human innovation, on embracing disruption and change, and about the importance of having a global, human mindset. Fun fact about Fredrik is that he owns three private islands and he invited the InnoTown audience to join him there 😎

Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Creativity is a combination force, it’s our ability to tap into our ‘inner’ pool of resources, knowledge, insight, information, inspiration and all the fragments populating our minds that we have accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world and to combine them in extraordinary new ways.

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Photo: InnoTown

Talking more on creativity, Fredrik spoke about how great nations have been able to remain relevant with amazing ideas. Over the years,  USA have come up with grand and great ideas and creative innovations such as Tesla, SpaceX, Microsoft, Apple.

For Japan, creative small incremental changes have been key. All of these incremental changes add up, and make a significant positive impact on organizations. One approach to continuous incremental improvement in japan is called kaizen. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers.

China economy find it’s niche in mass manufacturing, and this lead to huge market of copying in Chinese economy. China, copy and copy right has led to a lot of good products and huge revenues for China. 

Mongolia nomadic mindset has been very important for the development of such a small nation. The Mongolian people belong to one of the oldest nomadic cultures in the world and still highly regarded as a major part of the fabric which is Mongolia and commercial success of Mongolia. They move to where the business is.

Iceland is probably the most improved nation in Europe this century, and they have gone about this by simply getting out and getting inspired in all facet.

Philippines creativity became widely known in 2010 when inmates in Cebu prison  were recorded dancing to Michael Jackson’s thriller. The dance performance took place in a prison on the Filipino island of Cebu and the purpose was to showcase the island’s proud dance tradition

The value of travel, let go of parts of your identity and embrace other cultures and mindsets. That way you might become a fountain of ideas.

He concluded by saying in order to put in the hard work to acquire a skill, you need to believe that the activity really is a skill you can learn. When you believe the activity is a talent then you don’t bother to work hard at it, because you attribute any limitations in your performance to your lack of talent.

Sustainable Energy

What are the structural changes that are needed in the financial industry to align the business models with the Paris Climate Agreement and United Nation Sustainability Goals?  Sustainability has become the fundamental to resilient business. It is about trust and the ability to provide long term value creation. Sustainable energy is a form of energy that meet our today’s demand of energy without putting them in danger of getting expired or depleted and can be used over and over again. Sustainable energy should be widely encouraged as it do not cause any harm to the environment and is available widely free of cost.

This energy is replenishable and helps us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and causes no damage to the environment. If we are going to use fossil fuels at a steady rate, they will expire soon and cause adverse affect to our planet

Thina Margrethe Saltvedt is a senior advisor Sustainable Finance at Nordea Bank. Before joining the Sustainable Finance group in January 2018, she worked as a chief analyst macro/oil for 10 years. Thina is a member of the Minister of Climate and Environment’s Climate Council.

Sustainable development gained traction after the Brundtland commission definition statement, created on behalf of the United Nations in 1983 to reflect about ways to save the human environment and natural resources and prevent deterioration of economic and social development: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Also the Norwegian Pension Fund focuses on a sustainable investment profile and how they seek to reduce financial risks associated with the environmental and social practices of companies in their portfolio.

Thina spoke about how Sustainable energy management is a key issue for companies today. She said long-term strategic thinkers and energy entrepreneurs must be closely involved in these practices. They must play an important role in helping their organizations make more sustainable energy choices. Energy entrepreneurs must support energy consumption reduction efforts with their in-depth knowledge of energy costs. And they help steer management towards the right decisions for using renewable energy. She reiterated that sustainability is a business approach to creating long-term value by taking into consideration how a given organization operates in the ecological, social and economic environment. Sustainability is built on the assumption that developing such strategies foster company longevity.

As the expectations on corporate responsibility increase, and as transparency becomes more prevalent, companies are recognizing the need to act on sustainability. Professional communications and good intentions are no longer enough. Also, investors today avoid taking on climate risks. Making short term decisions in the wrong direction might involve costs and risk for the investment.

A Missed Opportunity for the Maritime Community

The super yacht Industry! How did this Norewgian-born end up designing custom motor yachts for an international clientele? What is the super yacht market like and what does this mean to Norway?

Espen Oeino first involvement in yacht design is the popular ECCO yacht, and he hasn’t looked back since then. 

Photo: Staale Wattø / InnoTown

For over twenty years Espen Oeino has been hard at work. The world recognized designer, founded his technical and design office specializing in yacht design, naval architecture and engineering related disciplines in Monaco. With a multicultural and multi disciplined staff of 20, based in the yachting capital of Monaco, the studio has left a significant imprint on the new build market and is today considered one of the world’s leading design studios for large bespoke motor yachts.

Espen Oeino talked on the world of interior superyacht design and how it has been largely dominated by a small specialized group of yacht stylists, interior designers and architects. He also gave opinions on the mindset of the yacht designers.

Espen Oeino also gave an honest opinion on yacht designers offering both exterior and interior design, explaining that some clients prefer to entrust their yacht’s interior to a different designer.

Initially, your designer of choice will want to find out your ambitions for the yacht where you’ll sail, who with, and what you plan to do aboard. This information will inform their designs, and these discussions will often involve reference boats  other yachts you have admired, and showcase vessels you have seen at boat shows around the world, or in the designer’s portfolio. For constructing each Superyacht up to 1.000 people can be employed for up to four years.

Finally, he gave an insight to how yachts are constructed explaining that no yachts are built from A-Z in the Nordics, even if the competence is there.

The Generation Gap

For the first time in history we have four different generations competing in the workplace and marketplace, all with separate ways of working, communicating and expectations of these relationships. Forget the outdated emphasis on Millennials, the biggest challenge facing business now is how to manage and maintain a multi-generational and diverse workforce and consumer-base.  The Generation Gap is becoming an increasingly difficult issue for business. It is a difference of opinions between one generation and another regarding beliefs, politics, or values. In today’s usage, generation gap often refers to a perceived gap between younger people and their parents or grandparents.

Dr. Paul Redmond specializes in ‘Generational Intelligence’, helping companies and services navigate the complex generational developments within politics, society and the workplace.

Paul educates companies on long-term generational trends on how business can adapt, not only for Millennials and Gen Z’s needs, but crucially across the generations. His aim is to smash some of the misconceptions and generalisations that come with speaking about the generations.

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Dr. Paul Redmond talked on how Generation Gap is Caused by Collectivism and Individualism: Whether in non-western countries or westerns countries, when there are changes in politics and societies, families and individuals are affected greatly. In many non-western countries such as China, Japan and Korea, collectivism is considered as one of the most significant values in the cultures, whereas in western countries such as the United states, individualism is emphasized. However, from the middle of 19th century, a great number of Asian people immigrate to the United States.

He mentioned how the generation gap is growing for each generation, and every generation has its own approach to life and work. At the risk of stating the obvious, the interactions between generations have profound effects on families and their businesses. Today, Boomers are mostly in charge and getting hit with the new wave of change brought in by the Millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2004.

Change and how to Embrace it..

Monica Parker, the moderator, comes back to talk about change and how it can positively impact lives. Change is a big part of being successful. Not only is change good, but it’s accelerating at an increasingly rapid pace.This means that you need to keep adapting. It’s both a survival skill and a success skill

Monica Parker the moderator talked about change and how it never stands still in real life. It’s not like the movies where characters can freeze-frame and the writer takes the viewer on some tangential story. In real life, change happens constantly. You can fight it or welcome it. It’s your choice. Change will occur regardless.

Monica explained how all companies are tech companies today in the age of IoT. The total installed base of IoT connected devices is projected to amount to 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025, a fivefold increase in ten years. 

She told the story of how China uses AI to monitor people and India use AI to reunite orphans with their family, and in 2018, the Chinese government has installed close to 200 million surveillance cameras across the country, which amounts to approximately 1 camera per 7 citizens.

Monica also gave an insight on how change is going to affect employment rate, explaining how Kids growing up today will have 17 jobs in 5 different industries according to a research from McKindle.

She rounded up by explaining how the decisions to vote Trump and Brexit is a backlash for globalization.

What are you Great at?

René Carayol is back and this time he shares the magic and simplicity of the SPIKE philosophy. Spike is the product of some 30 years of supporting the growth and development of individuals and businesses of all shapes and sizes. The vital and essential ingredient of the Spike methodology is that absolutely everyone has at least one inherent strength.Sometimes, it’s hard to see these things in ourselves. Our natural abilities/talents/gifts come so naturally to us that we often don’t even notice them! We tend to assume that our gifts come just as naturally to everyone else, therefore, they aren’t special or unique, nor are they particularly useful. But that assumption isn’t accurate because we all have multiple gifts and something to offer the world it’s just a matter of getting clear on what those things are so that we feel confident in sharing what we have to offer.

Rene gave his opinion on humanity. According to him, humanity is plural, not singular. We embrace the diversity of humanity and all it brings to innovation. Because the best way the world works is everybody in and nobody out.

Finally he spoke on the concept of “Challenge up, support down”. “Challenge up” is when people honestly disagree with ideas and policies that come from top management. Once final decisions are made, they “support down” by standing behind the decisions and making them work in the department and the community. This philosophy is important for greatness.

Carayol is one of the world’s leading business gurus specialising in leadership, culture and transformation, drawing from his own unique experiences on the boards of the biggest British and American organisations. He has had the privilege of working closely with some of the world’s prominent leaders; from former US President Bill Clinton to the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Sir Richard Branson.

 

Read more about InnoTown here: InnoTown
Read more about Ålesund here: Visit Norway

 

Gunnebo Business Solutions, Holiday, Reflections

Happy Easter :-)

It’s the time for Easter, a time for a vacation. Many of you are eagerly waiting for Easter week which is always celebrated on first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon following the Vernal Equinox. It gives us the chance to welcome the spring after the prolonged dark winters. Although Norway is predominantly a secular country, the arrival of spring is always welcomed by people to spend time with their loved one. It’s a time for a family reunion and a needed break from work and schools.

Easter is special for me; I look forward to Easter candy and Sunday dinners. I will cook leg of lamb stuffed with garlic and served with root vegetables and potatoes.

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Why Paint Easter Eggs?

Painting Easter eggs are easier than trying to wallpaper them! Well jokes apart, but eggshells were decorated since ancient time. Ostrich eggs were decorated and engraved in ancient Africa dated 60,000 years ago. Eggs especially ostrich eggs are associated with death and rebirth. During the pre-dynastic period of Egypt and early cultures of Mesopotamia and Crete, decorated ostrich eggs with gold and silver, were placed in graves of Sumerians and Egyptians.

Influence of ancient Egyptians and Sumerians is seen on modern Christian and Islamic religions. Also, ancient influence like cultural, political and mercantile is seen around Mediterranean areas.

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“Easter egg” for me defines a “secret feature” than the painting of eggs. This term originates from the 1979 video game called “Adventure”. It was coined for the Atari 2600 game console which was programmed by an employee “Warren Robinett”. Fearing competitors would steal his employees; Atari didn’t acknowledge employees names in the game credits. Warren Robinett who didn’t agree with his senior over lack of credits secretly and unknown to others, he inserted the message “Created by Warren Robinett”.

It was designed in such a way that, during a particular part of the game if the avatar of a player is moved over a particular pixel, the secret and unofficial message “Created by Warren Robinett” would appear.

After Robinett’s exit from Atari, the specific Gray Dot and the message which were unofficial were exposed by players. This discovery was soon informed to Atari. Atari’s management wanted the message to be removed but this would cost them a high price. Steve Wright, then the Director of Software Development at the Atari Consumer Division, proposes to keep the message and encouraged the insertion of such kind of messages in upcoming games, and coined them as Easter eggs for the players to find them.

With this “secret Easter egg’s”, I am hoping for a sunny weekend. Happy Easter to all, tune in next week for a new and exciting post 🙂 .

Reflections

Say hello to Robbie! (April Fools Post 2019)

As you all know Gunnebo Business Solutions AB are currently recruiting software developers in multiple fields. We need to strenghen our team with both JAVA, C# .net and Node.JS developers to work on our new and exiting GBS and GRS platform.

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Since hiring is a lengthy process, Gunnebo in cooperation with our pristine partners and cloud computing power, has come up with a genious solution. Based on commecially available cloud AI services we have created a computer software program that can actually generate computer code. Based on information available in our document management system, Azure DevOps Epics, Features and User Stories and the vast amount of code publicly available on GitHub – this piece of computer software can actually perform on the level of a quite decent software developer.

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Currently the product owner will register the user story with acceptance criteria into Azure DevOps and then Robbie takes over. With advanced Artificial Intelligence and first hand knowledge about our business process, it will take the requirements and turn it into .NET Core microservices.

With Robbie, we would let our mammal employees focus on confirming the accemtance criteria where the AI and robotic solutions would not cover up the human efforts.

We are even going to the extreme with this innovation by making sure that Robbie can be a cognitive robot, such that it will be emotionally intelligent to deal with human as social animals as well as being able to understand human moods. We know the implication of this to the labor market as well as how a lot of software engineers out there will be affected, but we have concluded that this is the next step to take in other to elevate our operations.

To increase customer value, we will actually move most of our staff to work in an augmented environment with Robbie interacting and validating the User stories to get as much value for the dollar as possible.

Not only is Robbie a skilled developer, but also implements the full DevOps methodology. So when a user story is completed, Robbie will make sure that Azure DevOps performs unit testing, integration testing and system testing prior to depoloying the service into the production environment.

Another great thing with Robbie is that it never gets sick.. I mean computers doesn’t get viruses right? Only problem we have had so far is it mixing up Halloween and Christmas Day, why? Because 31 OCT = 25 DEC..

Also, Robbie would not order for vacations and sick leaves, and it would not come to work late on some days since we can control everything about its movement unlike some of our staffs.

Hope you all have prepared your mind for these hard times ahead?

NB: Sorry if this rattled you or made you feel uncomfortable. If you also believed all of these, it’s the first day of April, and the jokes are on you!! This is my APRIL FOOLS POST TO Y’ALL!!

 

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What is next for Gunnebo Business Solutions? Follow my BLOG to see the future of security and retail 🙂

 

Communism, Reflections, Travel, Ukraine

Fire in Chernobyl Zone Again

The news about wildfire raging in Red Forest reminded me of my visit to Chernobyl this February – and of even more distant past when I first learned about this place.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/chernobyl-fire-2018

https://www.vg.no/nyheter/utenriks/i/1kGA1B/skogbrann-herjer-i-tsjernobyl

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Newspaper front page from 1986

I was eleven then. The news about the disaster was shocking. It got etched in my memory forever. Together with the first disgraceful truth that I learned about communism. For several weeks, people in the Soviet Union were unaware of the accident, which led to thousands of needless untimely deaths. And who knows if they would have learned at all if the radioactive cloud hadn’t crossed the borders of the USSR. It was an unforgivable lie.

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The hotel where we stayed during our summer holiday of 1987

And the lie permeated the communist regime through. I learned even more about it a year later, during my visit to Bulgaria. The country belonged to the Soviet bloc then. There, for the first time, we violated the law by participating in illegal currency exchange – well, there actually were no other options, as the regime exchange rates were half than we could achieve on the black market. Communism forces people to lie and makes the crime the only way to survive: it is much easier to rule the people who feel insecure, scared, and guilty.

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Me, my brother Jon Helge and my cousins Svein Erik and Hanne

“Divide and conquer” – that’s another motto of this regime. The Iron Curtain, which separated the countries of the Soviet bloc from the rest of the world, created myths. It stressed and exaggerated differences. For decades, people of the Soviet Union were limited in their contacts with the rest of the world. Neither Europeans were welcomed in the USSR. We also could learn about many things only from the newspaper.

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LADA, most probably the same model that my grandfather Asbjørn owned

That’s why when, during my visit to Kyiv this winter, I was proposed to visit Chernobyl zone, I agreed, of course. The visit started like any other work-related trip. Meetings all day with our partner Trembit in Kiev. Trembit works with large organizations as well as startups utilizing Agile methodologies to deliver full-featured functionality. Trembit has been a partner for us in Node-RED for quite some time, and you will find many of our projects here on this blog.

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Duga (Russian: Дуга) was a Soviet over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system used as part of the Soviet anti-ballistic missile early-warning network. The system operated from July 1976 to December 1989. Two operational Duga radars were deployed, one near Chernobyl and Chernihiv in the Ukrainian SSR (present-day Ukraine), the other in eastern Siberia.

After thirty years, the place still reminds the desert. Very few people live here. Dilapidated houses, derelict yards… looters stalking in the search of pickings. It’s a post-apocalyptic world in the miniature.

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Fair at the Pripyat city outside Chernobyl.

Though, very slowly, Chernobyl is coming back to life. The nature revives. Wild animals here have forgotten about danger and aren’t afraid of humans at all. You can see a fox or even a deer crossing the street in a broad daylight.

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And when I recollect my visit to Chernobyl and my childhood memories, the question arises in my mind again and again: can we totally prevent such disasters in the future? I believe the only way to it is by joining forces to spread and strengthen European democratic values – openness, collaboration, and freedom of voice all around Europe and around the globe.

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I have worked in Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania, Russia, and Poland – most countries of Eastern Europe. People are the same everywhere. Of course, post-communist echo can sometimes still be heard in the countries of the former Soviet camp. But there is a great potential for cooperation. Western and Eastern Europe working together is our only chance to build the society in which Chernobyl will never repeat.