We will remember 2021 as a year of continued strong growth and astonishing successes. Our strategy worked and we were successful in its execution in terms of all of the key objectives. Our earnings increased by a whopping 36 per cent during the year, when examining our most important results indicator, adjusted EBITA. Net sales, in turn, increased by 34 per cent compared to the preceding year, to EUR 104.5 million. 

In compliance with our strategy, we experienced strong organic growth. The year was challenging in terms of the labour market owing to factors such as the personnel turnover rate within our business segment. This notwithstanding, we managed to attain a solid organic growth percentage of 13 per cent, propelled by successful recruitments, re-design of the organisation and enhancements in operative efficiency. Particularly the 18-per cent growth in the latter half of the year was a stellar achievement. 

We also continued our growth through corporate acquisitions. In early 2021, we welcomed CCEA into the Group, providing us with Finland’s strongest change management expertise. The preparations for the Devecto acquisition started during 2021, and we got to start the year 2022 with the acquisition news about Devecto reinforcing Gofore’s intelligent industry offering and customer portfolio. Corporate acquisitions support Gofore’s strategic direction and, in the long-term, our sustainable growth. During the year we also consolidated our ability to continue our inorganic growth going forward, when we carried out a directed share issue in April and further reinforced our organisation with competence related to corporate arrangements. 

A focal element of our growth has been our expansion from public sector customer accounts to the private sector. Developing our offering and providing partnership has proven its strength and our private sector net sales increased by 82 per cent during the year. The public sector accounts for 65 per cent of our total net sales, while the private sector accounts for 35 per cent. We are delighted that our customers are placing their trust in Gofore as their strategic partner in digital transformation. 

Our business in Finland has developed particularly well, but we have also made progress outside of Finland, where our key customer accounts have developed as anticipated, with the emphasis being on our internationally operating private sector customers. We have increasingly succeeded in exporting our public sector expertise abroad, particularly to Europe, and we have developed our sales competence required for same. International business accounted for 8.7 per cent of our net sales during the year. It would appear that the demand for Finnish digital transformation competence will be on the rise in the future. 

The Gofore culture is our backbone and fostering same while our company is growing requires particular attention. We strive to ensure that everything about our operations supports openness, transparency and agility. Our ability to cultivate and foster our unique and award-winning company culture is something we truly cherish.

We transferred to the official list of the Helsinki stock exchange and reinforced our international shareholder base 

In March 2021, we took a significant step and migrated from the First North Growth market place to the official list of the Helsinki stock exchange. In April, we raised EUR 19 million through an issue of 1 000 000 new shares directed to institutional investors. With this, we wanted to support the execution of the company’s growth strategy through corporate acquisitions and organically, and also to implement a controlled change in the company’s shareholder base. The proportion of our foreign shareholders has increased in double digits following the migration to the official stock exchange list.

We strengthened our ethical sustainability 

We are striving towards being a pioneer in ethical digitalisation, particularly through our actions. During the year, we launched a collaboration project, which will result in us creating a model for the further development of the ethically sustainable operations of our working community. In its scope and impactfulness, the model is first of its kind within the technology sector in Finland. Developing ethical operations also provides our experts with means for considering ethical aspects in customer work and facilitates the resolution of societal sustainability challenges.

CCEA brought us people-driven change expertise 

Successful corporate acquisitions comprise a key component of our growth strategy. In 2021, our team was reinforced with people-driven transformation expertise, as CCEA’s team of 50 experts joined the Gofore family. The corporate acquisition effected in February enhanced our ability to combine technological and people-driven transformation management. The integration has progressed well. CCEA contributes to our ability to help customers succeed even in the most demanding of transformation projects. 

Recognition as an employer 

People are at the heart of digitalisation, and also Gofore’s success comes down to its top talent. We are constantly doing our very best to ensure our attractiveness and employee experience are in check. We want to hold on to our top experts and attract new talent to join our crew. 

Our success in recruitments was commendable. As I am writing this, there are already over 1000 Goforeans in our community. Together, we represent the cutting-edge expertise both in technology and in human-driven leadership – the very aspects in which the digital transformation of all organisations require competence and support. 

Our strong company culture is built on six strengths: transparency, trust, ownership, development, communality and caring. We were, for instance, one of the first technologysector companies in Finland to have devised our very own company-specific collective agreement. 

We are actively working to develop our employee experience and employer image. The efforts we have exerted are consistently demonstrated by the fact that our employer reputation is being acknowledged in a variety of ways. Gofore was selected the employer brand of the year in the Rekrygaala, recognising the best operators and actions within the recruiting industry. In addition, we ranked seventh in the Young Professional Attraction Index (YPAI) 2021 survey, listing Finland’s most attractive employers.

We thrive on customer success 

A happy customer is an important source of growth and work satisfaction for us. During the year, we conducted two customer satisfaction surveys, indicating that overall satisfaction remained high throughout the year. In the survey conducted in the fall, overall satisfaction scored 4.3 (on a scale of 1–5), while in the spring it was 4.2. In their feedback, our customers especially value our customer orientation, reliability and co-operative mindset. The Net Promotor Score for the fall survey was 54 (scale -100 / +100), while in the spring survey it amounted to 61. According to the company that conducted the survey, the NPS for reference companies was 37, which means Gofore places among the top companies in the comparison. 

A thank you – and our journey continues stronger than ever 

In 2022 we will be celebrating Gofore’s 20th anniversary, because the business of the company incorporated in 2001 commenced in the fall of 2002. A company founded by four friends has over the years grown into an international corporate group employing more than one thousand employees. I would like to once more thank all of our stakeholders and, especially, all Goforeans and our customers for the year 2021. It was a busy year, but we were, once again, successful through our collaborative efforts. Thank you!

 

CEO’s review has been published in Gofore’s Annual Report 2021.

Read the report here

Mikael Nylund

Mikael is the CEO of Gofore’s. He has worked at Gofore since 2010 and, during that time, helped several organisations on their path toward digital business. Mikael thinks that we can create a better future with technology used on the people's terms.

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All of us humans – also us digital transformation professionals – are more than just our technical skills. Technical skills are naturally in focus when you’re hiring someone to help you with a specific problem or task. They are, however, only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full human potential of the person. “OK, that’s nothing new” you might think but have you ever thought about all the potential under the technical surface?

By the hidden potential of any professional, I mean the transferable skills. These can also be called core skills – something that resides and grows in our core and can be utilized in any situation regardless of the context, role or subject being discussed. Depending on the reference there can be found a bit different lists of transferable skills but here’s a list I find valuable for professionals helping their customers drive their initiatives:

  • Communication skills such as listening, writing and presentation
  • Interpersonal skills like empathy, flexibility and emotional intelligence
  • Organizational skills such as time management, goal setting, prioritizing and research
  • Analytical skills such as critical thinking and problem solving
  • Leadership and teamwork skills

I bet these are all skills that you’d like to see in people around you (as well as in yourself). They are also skills you should be looking for in any professional you’re about to hire either to your own company or to help you as a consultant. Technical skills are the easy ones to compare and in many cases, they become the ones the hiring decisions are based on. Transferable skills are, however, the skills that ultimately define the success and pleasantness of your co-operation. High potential of transferable skills predicts longer and more productive co-operation.

How to discover the hidden potential and how Gofore is doing that

“I got your point but how can I know if someone possesses a mountain of transferable skills?” -you probably think next. That’s something where you need to spend time talking with the person and finding hints and clues. You should pay attention to how people behave, what they are interested in talking about, how they approach problems, what do they have to say about other people, what they like to do in their free time, and so on.

As a fresh Goforean I’m really glad about the recruitment process I just went through. There were two phases and in my opinion they were in the right order. The first interview was purely about having a talk with a couple of potential future colleagues to find out my “cultural fit” with Gofore. That interview served also the purpose of getting to know each other and thus having the important clues about the transferable skills I’ve been talking about in this post. Only after having that talk and both parties willing to move forward together, there was the second interview focusing on the technical skills and previous professional experience.

Now – I mean really now like in five minutes – I want you to do one of the following things:

a) Beam yourself to Join the Crew, find your position, try the recruitment process yourself and join the Gofore crew!

or

b) Face your pressing digitalization problems, find your first contact here Get in touch and let’s start a smashing project together!

Mikko Skyttä

Mikko is an expert in Business Architecture and a Lean Six Sigma veteran who sees things in a holistic way with customer value in focus. He wants to really listen to and understand the viewpoints of other people and to emphasize the importance of human component in achieving sustainable high-performance goals. Snow and water sports make him tick. At Gofore, Mikko works as a Senior Service Architect.

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Communication is part of our daily work. In every industry and every job. We discuss daily and plenty – even in professions like mine where stereotypes falsely suggest we are more introverted. Verbal and visual communication is a deeply human trait and our modern culture, our economy, and our wellbeing depends heavily on clear and good communication.

But since the pandemic, our forms of communication have been deeply disrupted. Many of us went from face-to-face to online-first since the outbreak of the 2020 pandemic and the following stay-home orders. I am here to discuss a little about the impact I see on communication in online meetings and how to make the best of it, based on one typical example.

Being the presenter these days

Many of us have already been in many virtual meetings long before the outbreak of the virus. It slowly (very slowly) became a thing. But since the pandemic, this process accelerated, and attending online meetings became a necessity. I have been working remotely before the pandemic, but still, the number of online meetings increased since then.

Perhaps you have recently been the presenter in one of those meetings. Sharing your screen, thereby losing the view onto the webcam-faces of your colleagues (if they even have their webcams switched on).
In your meeting, you bring up important topics. You want to be heard, understood and maybe spawn a constructive dialog because you put all your effort into this topic. You – like me, may have felt disconnected sometimes from your online audience – because in the online meetings it has been quiet when you don’t speak. So very quiet. You start wondering what is going on.

Maybe the participants…

  • are disagreeing with you
  • have zoned out
  • went to the toilet
  • didn’t understand you and are too polite to ask
  • have lost their internet connection

All these can and probably have happened already in meetings we participated. So at the end of the last sentence, you say “right?” or “any questions so far?”. And no one answers. Now you start thinking you were going too fast or you spoke utter nonsense and people are afraid to tell you. Or they just didn’t listen as they worked in parallel on something else. After all, deadlines are pressing (as always).

Being the audience these days

Let’s shift the perspective for a moment to your audience. You have been in that position lately a lot, so you know: the facilitator of the meeting is likely doing a great job and is not boring. The audience probably listened.

Of course, some listeners zoned out, others are too shy to ask their questions, or are too afraid of the awkwardness when people speak over each other (this has increased a lot). This is not a big deal, it happens also in real meetings. But in real meetings, we have learned to use some form of etiquette.

When I speak to my colleagues as a presenter in a physical meeting, I try to look them into the eyes, thereby I receive feedback from them. This is what my parents taught me as common sense.

As a member of the audience, ideally, I try to do the same: sometimes I nod or engage by asking a question. In a face-to-face meeting, my physical presence makes me visible. It makes me vulnerable but this also involves me.

Even a snoozing audience gives a lot of feedback to you when you are in the same physical space – more than you get in many online meetings these days. Interestingly, I have seen people snoozing away in meetings more than once. But in any face-to-face meeting, listeners usually give some communication cues. Looking into the eyes or quietly nodding is an excellent way of being a good colleague and supportive with our more social tasks. This happens only to a very limited extent in online meetings. Interestingly, we were not born with an “active-listener” etiquette (at least I wasn’t). But many of us worked on becoming good communicators during school, career, or further formation. These learned methods might not be perfect, but they are proven to work.

Since then we have technologically evolved into a more remote-centered civilization, but our behaviors have not yet been adapted to this change.

Do we need to act?

Perhaps dear reader you disagree with my call to action. I give you my opinion on some potential criticism.

  • “This will just solve itself”
    Sure it will somehow. But I think we can do better than just somehow. With “somehow” it will not be as good as it can be. This will shape our human interactions for years to come and I want us to strive for something better.
  • “Just be confident as a presenter, even if no one gives you direct communication feedback”
    I think growing your confidence as a professional is an important lesson to learn and this new challenge can help us with that. But I want to think that we are not only professionals but also humans. After all, we are supportive when we communicate in real life and we are deeply social beings. So let us try to fill that gap of social interaction that has opened itself in front of us.
  • “It is better if we can zone out in unimportant meetings”.
    I understand your point. Heck! I have to admit that I was taking some notes for this article while on another call. In some form, this can be a great opportunity to increase productivity AND employee satisfaction. Let us find means to leverage the new ways while also engaging in a human-supportive communication style. We do not need to be authoritarian about it.

Thinking about solutions

This is me as a member of the audience in Slack.

How does this compare to being in a physical meeting? In my opinion, being a member of an online audience, I have a feedback deficit.
Often there is zero audio and visual feedback. That makes things so much harder for the presenter and other people involved.

No technology lets us look into each other’s eyes through Slack or Teams yet or let us experience the feeling of physical presence and I think that is also ok. Maybe there has not to be a single technology. Perhaps there are other ways of doing this.

My firestarter suggestions to ignite a change:

  • Give visual feedback through emoticon reactions (see image)
  • Give visual feedback through a webcam (just quietly nod or put a thumbs up in the camera)
  • Give verbal feedback (audio feedback IMHO works better in online meetings, but can cause overspeaking)
  • Give any other multi-modal feedback
  • Ask specifically for the opinion of the more quiet participants
  • Use interactive collaboration tools and encourage the use of “gamification” (e.g. encourage the use of emoticons in a Miro-board)
  • Involve people from the beginning of the meeting by asking some warmup questions
  • Experiment with the quietness: let it happen and see who jumps in
  • Do not call people or the audience out on their passiveness
  • Involve individuals to state their opinion, but…
    Instead of ending your sentence with “…what do you think, Achim”, say “Achim might have something to say also – …” and then continue briefly to elaborate on your point. Achim can then prepare his contribution.
  • Generally: keep your webcam on as much as it makes sense

This is not a comprehensive list of possibilities. I do not think I alone can come up with such a list, nor probably can you alone. I am convinced, the etiquette we have today for face-to-face meetings also did not emerge from one person’s mind, but over time. This post is also about challenging everybody, to think and act thoughtfully about it. I am sure that over time patterns will emerge that we can all use.

It’s all about caring about communications culture that helps achieve goals

Admittedly, none of the above-mentioned suggestions are yet perfect or wholesome. Probably never will we have a solution that gives us all the benefits of remote work and on-premise work, without any of the downsides? I sense that through the year 2020 and continuing, our industry went secretly through a major change of our communication forms, without thoughtfully adapting our habits and communication etiquette. We went from default face-to-face meetings to default online-first meetings.

At Gofore, we genuinely care about the culture in our company and how we can help our clients with achieving their goals – technically and culturally. Perhaps what we need is that each of us adapts our communication patterns on a small scale. Every one of us needs to be aware of the specialties of our new communication forms and apply new forms of how to deal with them, for example, those seen above. This should compensate for the loss of approachability and connectedness. Following that, we should continuously encourage others to do the same.

By doing so, I believe we can create a culture of good communication patterns that can eventually become the socially accepted way of good online meetings and form a generally accepted etiquette. We are now in a unique time to make this happen, by inspiring the cultures of the organizations we work at.

Achim works as a Senior Full Stack Software Developer at Gofore in Madrid. He has a background in Computer Science in Media as well as Human-Computer Interaction. As a software craftsman at heart and a passionate agile advocate, he supports our clients in the field of web-development, architecture, cloud, and test-automation.

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