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How Telia engaged its workforce to build a successful and sustainable business

“Telecom is a really exciting space because it moves so fast. We are under constant pressure from incumbents and start-ups looking to steal market share.”

Ivo Kukavica

Innovation Catalyst


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Telia is a multinational telecom company headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. It operates the most comprehensive network in the Nordic and Baltic regions and the top-rated internet backbone in the world serving hundreds of millions of customers. Whether you want to stay connected with your friends and family or need to maintain connectivity across enterprise-grade applications, Telia’s network delivers fast and reliable service.

The company likes to say, “We’re big enough to do the job, but small enough to care,” which is important when competing with telecom companies an order of magnitude larger. With 20,000 members of staff globally, Telia needs an Agile methodology to ensure that they can harness the innovative potential of each employee to adapt to an increasingly connected customer, bring services to market faster, and achieve sustainability goals that will make the world a better place.

Telia Body

The Challenge

Since 2015 the Telia Company has run an innovation program but the remote and offline initiatives were not inclusive and the home-grown solution proved hard to scale, providing good results but stifling the speed of innovation the company needed to compete in the telecom space. If the company was to ramp up as fast as the rapidly-growing mobile market and be able to support the exponential growth of the internet, it would need to adopt an innovation program that is as dynamic as the employees of Telia.

In 2017, Telia outlined ambitious plans to consolidate country-based businesses into a global operation, expand business services, and spin up a venture arm to invest in promising technologies. The changes were revolutionary and the innovation team needed to be just as forward-thinking if it was going to support growth in each area and take on the incumbents and startups that were trying to steal market share. Telia partnered with WDO to consult and scale up their innovation efforts.

The Solution

Ivo Kukavica, Innovation Catalyst at Telia, realized that the only way that the company was going to achieve the ambitious goals it set was if the entire company, from top to bottom, was engaged and empowered to drive innovation. This would require more than a home-grown solution and posters in the breakroom. Telia would need to employ a world-class platform that fostered collaboration, provided transparency, inspired everyone to collaborate remotely across many locations and countries, and enabled Agile cloud-based ideation.

“We saw the greatest engagement and best results with very focused campaigns to solve specific business issues.”

After establishing a common innovation agenda that supports the overall strategy at a corporate level, Telia chose Brightidea’s platform to manage the process to collect, vet, and manage ideas. The platform provides the opportunity for participants to collaborate on submissions and vote on the quality and impact of ideas. The top-rated ideas are then evaluated by a panel of subject matter experts for viability, scope, and return on investment. The vetted submissions are prioritized by the innovation team and eventually implemented.

The Results

Among the dozens of brilliant initiatives that Telia has run since 2017, one of the most important to the direction of the company involved the Nordic CEO Challenge. Telia was part of the Nordic CEO Working Group which included members of the largest companies in the Nordic region. The Group knew it wanted to work on social and environmental challenges in order to make the world a better place, but the group had a tough time coming to a consensus on the specifics. If the Group was to outline their plan to government officials on the upcoming scheduled date, they would need to decide on specifics quickly, no small task wrangling the leadership teams of 15 multinational companies with competing priorities and stakeholders.

“If we didn’t have the Brightidea platform, we would not have been successful.”

Telia volunteered to host the Nordic CEO meeting to set the agenda. By leveraging Brightidea, Telia was able to find consensus on agenda items in real-time and iterate on items that needed clarification. Through the mobile app and cloud-based portal, participants could vote and comment on proposals, revise and resubmit ideas. What had stalled after months of negotiation found agreement in less than a day. The Group committed to improve gender equality and diversity across the region and create sustainable supply chains to reduce the impact on climate change, all within an ambitious ten-year timeframe.

While Telia’s innovation program helped steer Nordic CEOs to a focused agenda that helps fight social and environmental issues, internal success in supporting the corporate strategy by creating an innovation pipeline was just as important to justify the resources that Telia has invested in a world-class innovation team. The results are piling up—the company has successfully defended against competition and grown market share thanks to thousands of active users collaborating on more than 1,600 ideas resulting in millions of Kronas in projected benefits. The Brightidea platform tracks the activity and engagement of employees to gauge the interest in each initiative which gives insight into what challenges to launch next. Brightidea also allows the tracking of business impact—finally, you can measure the impact on the bottom line, the value of idea submissions, and compare projected and actual cost savings or new revenue that result.

Office Telia

In an industry that moves as fast as telecom, from an increasingly connected customer to rapidly evolving technology, it’s vitally important that a company can move just as fast. The shift from a top-down leadership approach to an empowered workforce that embraces Agile work means that an innovation pipeline is essential to maintain momentum. Telia is a shining example of how a well thought out innovation program can multiply the impact of each employee, propel the company forward, all while making the world a better place.