I had to read this article on Tietoviikko (in Finnish) three times to realise that no, it's not an April fool's joke at all. It was published today and is apparently and very unfortunately true. The article is in Finnish, but it's about the government creating a strategy group to form a new strategy for the Finnish ICT-industry for the future. There are three really big problems in this approach. The first is that most of the people in the strategy group are the wrong people for so many reasons (hint: take a look at how their companies are doing). Secondly, just as no business plan is able to survive customer contact, no strategy is able to completely survive market contact. It's all assumptions against market forces. Thirdly, all the truly growing industries that work in the digital space have been left out, no matter how you cut the definition of ICT.
Let's dive in.
The Finnish Ministry of Economy and Employment released the list of people behind the strategy group that is lead by Pekka Ala-Pietilä. Pekka Ala-Pietilä is a former Nokia executive, but also one of the founders behind Blyk. Ala-Pietilä is by far among the best choices on this list.
Other people on the list include Esko Aho (Nokia), Elisa CEO Veli-Matti Mattila, Pekka Soini (Nokia Siemens Networks) as well as Sami Luukkonen from Accenture. In addition, the former TeliaSonera country director of Finland Anni Vepsäläinen is on the list as well as Pertti Korhonen (formerly Nokia, currently Outotec's CEO).
And just as in any proper government run strategy group - you need to bring in views from local communities. Tuula Antola (Espoo), Leila Helaakoski (Northern Ostrabothnia's ELY Center) and Antti Rantakokko (mayor of Salo).
Furthermore, union representatives Pia Björkbacka (SAK) and Sari Taukojärvi (Akava) are also in the strategy group as well as the managing director of The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries.
And just to make clear - the task of this group is to come up with a new growth strategy for Finland by the end of the year.
There are a few really interesting groups of people represented in the group. First of all, Antti Rantakokko is the mayor of a city that has suffered a lot from Nokia's layoffs. Furthermore the city where Nokia's headquarters are situated, Espoo, is represented in the group. Elisa, the company Veli-Matti Mattila runs - is a customer of Nokia Siemens Networks, which of course is by part owned by Nokia.
The business relations between the people are so obvious that one really has to question, how neutral and innovative of a strategy are these people really able to create?
If you look at some of the big companies represented in the strategy group - they have all more or less suffered in the recent years, due to their own misfunctioning strategies.
Also - is it completely correct to look at the ICT industry by itself?
Wikipedia defines ICT as:
an extended synonym for information technology, but is usually a more general term that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications (telephone lines and wireless signals), computers, middleware as well as necessary software, storage- and audio-visual systems, which enable users to create, access, store, transmit, and manipulate information.
Because if you're only focusing on the true definition of ICT, you are assuming the most jobs in the digital space will be created inside that industry. What about other industries that are currently putting Finland on the global map of growth companies, like games, mobile applications, etc.? Surely Rovio would have a word or two to say about such a strategy, not to mention the hundreds of companies that are in dire need of resources this year to keep up their growth.
Finally, if this is solely for the ICT industry as quite specifically defined by Wikipedia - why do the tax payers need to pay for the strategy work of a few larger companies?
Finnish government, seriously? Is this the best you can do?
Image by Paolo Camera
Update (4.4.2012): Since a few people have asked my opinions on who should be in the group, I'm listing a few possibilities here. First of all, the groups should be as diverse as possible and have representatives from different industries. Here are a few names I would preferably like to see on the list: Artturi Tarjanne (chairman of FVCA), Mårten Mickos (Eucalyptus founder,CEO), Sami Inkinen (Trulia founder), Tuomas Syrjänen (Futurice CEO, Co-Founder). Furthermore, it would be great to see more representatives from the software industry and from the companies that have truly driven growth in the last 5 or so years.