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How Nokia developed new business with uOttawa’s PDI

Keeping pace with rapid technological advancement is a challenge for everyone these days, even for a 150-year-old multinational tech company like Nokia.

Recognizing the imperative to pivot, Nokia strategically aligned itself with the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute, forging a partnership aimed at optimizing their workforce investment and streamlining their human capital development initiatives.

The Professional Development Institute’s Business Community & Influence (BCI) program, conducted in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering, sharpens engineers’ skills in identifying and addressing business-driven customer needs.

With the help of BCI program principal Trevor Wilkins, Nokia has trained an elite team of professionals who are not just committed to client service excellence, but also to discovering and driving new business opportunities.

“As a high-tech networking company, many of our customer-facing teams are made of engineers that love and are entertained by technology,” said Andres Belloni, Nokia’s head of product management.

“We identified the need to improve and uplevel the skills of these teams to articulate the business value of our product and services beyond technology, from conception to the point of selling.”

How the BCI helped Nokia

Wilkins always starts by turning one of the company’s own into a BCI expert, who helps design the learning path and deliver the in-depth training program. 

At Nokia it was delivered over a one-year period to 92 staff from their Network Automation Business Unit, including participants from development, sales support, product management and delivery to name a few. A key to the project was creating a central repository of ‘Buying Drivers’ for each of their offerings – for use by everyone, not just by sales

For Ryan Pleckaitis, who transitioned into a solutions architect role a little over a year ago, the BCI program came at the perfect time.“I was lucky to have this training early on in this role because it’s perfect for what I do,” he said. “I learned a lot about digging deeper into customer needs, asking the right questions and the importance of seeing the big picture to ensure we are delivering the right solution.”

By training cross-departmentally, the program not only analyzed the company’s product lines through the lens of the BCI, added Pleckaitis, but provided Nokia’s professionals with practical tools, techniques, and insights focused on customer engagement.

Time zones, silos, jargon and use cases

One of the biggest training challenges facing a multinational company is the impact of time zones, which in Nokia’s case included areas in Canada, the U.S. and India. 

“As a global company, most of our sales and customer facing teams are organized by regional geographies,” said Belloni. “It’s important to Nokia to have a unique and consistent method across these regions to bring to market our products and services.”

The BCI team helped Nokia solve that problem by forming two online training groups combining people from different departments.

From there, it was time to tackle some other common challenges: silos, industry jargon, and the need for that central repository of buying drivers – why customers are buying Nokia products. 

The silo problem was solved by training the teams cross-departmentally, while breaking the jargon barrier was addressed with the foundations course, compulsory for all participants. 

Once everyone is speaking the same language, the work of building a central repository of buying drivers can begin. 

“Nokia already had what they called a ‘Use Case Catalogue’ or UCC,” said Wilkins. “While it included many beautifully crystallized reasons to buy or a description of the delivery process, it was slowly being taken over by technical descriptions and language.” 

The tool Nokia’s staff needed to beef-up their UCC with buying drivers started with the first three letters of the alphabet: The ABCs. After applying this analysis to the existing catalogue, it is now a powerful problem-solving tool.

“Whether it’s a list of Precision Questions for requirements gathering, or the Value Narratives that we’ve created, being able to put those all on paper and connect them to a particular customer solution has been fantastic,” said Pleckaitis.

Nokia’s professionals also quickly learned powerful “Needs Elicitation” skills to draw out and develop problems or desired outcomes effectively – enabling teams to understand customer needs, preferences, and pain points more clearly than with conventional meetings  – which helps the company tailor its products and services to meet those demands effectively.

“In May, we’ll have the opportunity to measure the results at our upcoming annual product planning session in Ottawa,” said Belloni. “I’m confident we’ll see good results around the younger, more technical members of the team.”

With the help of the BCI, Nokia’s employees can now deliver truly useful business solutions that align with the strategic goals of the company, no matter their function within the company. 

“I know I’ve seen myself improving after taking the program and I think other people have seen us improve as well,” added Pleckaitis. “It’s no doubt a tool that we will continue to use and apply to all facets of our work. Every day.”