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If need be, we'll defend you from yourself


Ilkka Rämö

Principal Consultant, Columbia Road

I can't really say I would know that much about creating good products. I've been in this business for around a decade, and almost daily I realize how long a journey I still have ahead of me. However, I've learned some valuable things during my trip and would like to share some of them with you.

I believe that people want to fall in love with the work they do. I've noticed that when I'm about to do something, I want to make sure it makes a difference. I want to understand the real reasons behind ideas and challenge them in order to find the best possible solutions.

Creating great products is a matter of saying "yes" to good ideas and saying "no" to ideas which aren't necessarily as important. In order to be proud of the end result, you need to be able to say "no" to many things. Simple is beautiful. Not everything is valuable.

Additionally, as humans, we're not always working in an optimal way. We spend our limited resources on unnecessary things, things that will not generate any value in the long run. As with the ideas about the product, we need to say "yes" to some working methods and "no" to others.

We want to improve together with you

In last week's blog post, Petri pointed out the importance of learning in software projects. However, we shouldn't limit learning to just the products we develop, but expand it to include how we work as an organization or team. By continuously inspecting our ways of working with a critical eye, we can strive to break free from the status quo in order to build even better products in the future.

Everyone has their own way of thinking and understanding. When people work together, they need to find a way to share their own thinking with other people. This leads to conflicts; it's not easy giving up on your own idea and accepting the changes that others suggest. Look at it on the bright side: conflicts are inevitable, so let them provide us with a good way to learn together. Resolving them is vital for understanding how we work together and how we can find better ways to work in the future.

It takes two to tango, and only by being open and responsive are people able to tune their behaviour to meet the common understanding with the peers in their group.

It's all about communication

One benefit a consultant has is an outside perspective. We are not used to "the way things are done around here". Thus it is sometimes easier to see the communication barriers and typical assumptions our clients have. It doesn't mean that we don't have these barriers ourselves — we're on a learning path here and need to think about our communication on a daily basis.

More often than not, information is hidden in functional or organizational silos. Not everyone who is supposed to have a take on a subject has access to all the information regarding it. This easily creates friction between people talking about the subject, since people tend to form their own image in their head about it, and that image becomes the only possible truth for that person.

For us as a partner, it's ever important to try to cross these silos and involve all the stakeholders in discussions. As we come from outside, we don't initially know the reasons behind decisions or processes which lead to decisions. We want to understand these in order to be more valuable for our clients.

To be able to improve ways of working, we need to know about and understand the current ways.

Collaboration: good times, bad times

We don't want to separate ourselves from the people we work with. We believe in collaboration between smart individuals. We want to succeed together and feel the pride of creating cool new things hand in hand with our clients. Sharing success with someone else is much more rewarding than doing it alone.

However, we also want to live through the hard times with our clients. Change is always painful. Old habits and ways of working die hard. We believe that the only way to help in relieving the pain is to experience it ourselves.

We don't know all the answers, and don't even pretend to know them. Instead, we're willing to be part of the status quo and embrace continuous improvement, together with our clients. That's our way of telling that we really care about them—as we do about our work.

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