16 Years of Digital Transformations in the Nordic Region
Leif Ohlson in Conversation with Suren Nanayakkara, the new CTO of Pyxle
The COVID-19 pandemic has left much of the world paralyzed in recent months. Businesses have suffered massive financial losses; many were forced to downsize, some have closed their doors for good and others have used the crisis as an opportunity to innovate, work smarter and help others rise to new heights. Digital consulting firm Pyxle is an example of the latter.
Pyxle focuses on helping customers to grow and adapt to changing landscapes with custom-designed, digital transformation strategies. In April this year, Suren Nanayakkara joined the Pyxle team as their Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Nanayakkara is an ideal fit for Pyxle, especially due to his extensive experience in the Nordic/Scandinavian region leading companies through digital transformation journeys.
Pyxle’s partner, Leif Ohlson, (Founder/Best of Sri Lanka in Sweden and Secretary-General/ Sweden Sri Lanka Business Council, SSLBC), sat down with the new CTO recently to discuss his experiences living and working in Sweden.
Leif Ohlson: How many years have you been working with Scandinavian clients?
I have worked with Swedish and other Nordic firms since 2004. During my 6-month stay in Stockholm, I was engaged with a software consultancy firm and went on to help Swedish investors launch an offshore consultancy in Sri Lanka. I became their first employee and worked my way up to being their CTO. Over the past 16 years, I have travelled to and worked in various parts of Sweden and visited Norway, Denmark, and Finland several times.
Leif Ohlson: What did you most like about Swedish work culture?
Sweden values a work-life balance – and the Swedes have an informal, non-hierarchical approach to their organizations. This contributes to the input and involvement of all employees being recognized. Everyone’s opinion counts, from the most senior to the most junior person. There’s also very little bureaucracy and a very friendly atmosphere in workspaces.
Leif Ohlson: What has been the greatest challenge for you?
I think the biggest challenge I met was in understanding user interface (UI) preferences in the region. I had to know how to design UIs to meet with Nordic tastes. This meant I had to learn how to leverage on visual preferences and cultural appeal specific to the Peninsula when deciding on everything from colours to fonts, and from images to icons.
Leif Ohlson: What are the advantages in fostering partnerships between Swedish and Sri Lankan firms?
High-quality engineering at affordable rates. Sri Lanka has some of the most ingenious engineers and our friendly culture makes it easy for us to adapt to different cultures.
Another advantage is Sri Lanka’s high English language literacy which enables a comfortable off-shore working relationship from the get-go. Both countries firms also foster a quality over quantity approach. Swedish companies usually look for team sizes of 4 to 20 members, while Sri Lankan IT companies are also better positioned to work with small to midsize projects, instead of big 100+ member projects, which are more common in the US and Indian markets. Sweden expects very high-quality engineering, which other large outsourced designations such as India and China often are not known for. Sri Lanka, however, has unique highly talented, multi-skilled engineers who fit the Swedish needs. As the region is going through a lack of engineers to fill the demand, tapping into Sri Lanka’s capacity and skills is an advantage.
There is also an ideal time difference between the countries; just 3.5 hours apart in summer and 4.5 hours in winter. This is ideal for a long-distance outsourcing engagement since it’s neither too far nor too close.
I believe the diplomatic and business relationships between the countries thus far has also been a good sign – and many Swedish brands are well known for decades in Sri Lanka for their quality and reliability.
Leif Ohlson: What aspects could be improved?
That’s a great question, and a tough one. Of course there are always little ways in which we could improve any working relationship. Generally speaking, I’d say that on the Sri Lankan side, our technical teams could, for one, be more flexible to learn and adopt new technologies to keep their skills fresh in an ever-changing software industry. Secondly, early career engineers could work on overcoming shyness and learn to voice their opinion with justification during meetings. What do we expect from our Nordic counterparts? I think this goes for all our overseas customers— in my experience, I’ve encountered some customers who start working with partners like us in Sri Lanka in an Agile engagement and who do not understand the level of commitment and the importance of frequent customer communications, which can sometimes lead to project delays and cost overruns when customer input and feedback is sluggish.
It is very important to have timely communications to avoid delays and maintain the project momentum. These are general impressions. Of course each engagement is different. The best way forward is to create the right culture, instill a growth mindset, and establish clear and open communications and governance structure at the very start of every project.
Leif Ohlson: Which businesses shouldn’t consider outsourcing to Sri Lanka an option?
Nordic companies looking for big teams shouldn’t consider outsourcing to Sri Lanka. The island’s IT firms are about small, skilled teams and high-level thinking. Additionally, Nordic companies who are not in the habit of daily communications with their offshore partners won’t be a good fit. Long-distance relationships require a substantial amount of conversation to be truly effective.
Leif Ohlson: You visited Sweden many times. Which part of the country do you love best?
I lived and worked in Sweden since 2004 and have visited many times since. While my most visited city is Stockholm, I especially like Uppsala. It’s a youthful and lively university city with a good blend of new and old architecture and lots of lush greenery.
Leif Ohlson: What kind of Swedish companies are an ideal fit for Pyxle?
We’re interested in high-growth, middle-market companies. This includes tech startups and consultancies who are looking to subcontract their work to balance off seasonal variations. We are also eager to engage with firms looking for high-quality engineering to build a product or expand a service offering of an early-stage tech product. These companies should work with us because Pyxle has the experience working with global clients for over 15 years, including the Nordic region We have incorporated industry best practices, standardized processes, and embedded high-end tools to effectively manage outsourced engagements.
Leif Ohlson: How can Pyxle be a partner to Swedish companies going for digitalization and/or digitization?
Pyxle has years of experience, mature processes, and a proven track record of working successfully with long-distance customer engagements. We provide services to clients globally and have fine-tuned our processes over time to be effective and efficient for these engagements. On the resourcing front, we have an exceptional team of engineers, BAs and architects who are multi-skilled, communicate with ease and are always eager to learn.
Therefore Pyxle can become a strategic digital transformation partner for Swedish companies to plan and implement different projects under their digitization roadmap. These companies could be early-stage startups, mature startups, or long-established companies in the market. Whatever their level of operations might be, we can do digital advisory to analyse their needs and their model of operation, and then propose the best-fit approach, technology, and teams to engage and deliver. As required, we can additionally take ownership of the digital roadmap and own program management to execute the roadmap.
With the use of our experienced TechOps and IT infrastructure engineers and consultants combined with the time advantage of Sri Lanka, we are positioned to offer exceptional managed services and infrastructure support to Swedish and Nordic companies who are looking to outsource their managed services, application support, and infrastructure support operations.
Leif Ohlson: What do you miss most about Sweden?
I miss walking around Gamla Stan (Old Town) during Christmastime, with all the lights and decorated shops; the Christmas trees, the carollers, and shopping around the Christmas market.