Promoting learning and change

Posted: 30 April 2018 | | No comments yet

Mats Berglind, Interim Head of Innovation and Digital Innovation Manager at Swedavia, reveals how a swift proof of concept process can help airports to promote positive change and ultimately become more efficient.

Promoting learning and change

IT IS very common for speakers in this day and age to talk about Kodak and the company’s fall when the digital camera took over the market. “They didn’t understand that the market was changing…” To this I say that I think they did – but it is one thing to see change coming and another to actually change the company accordingly. Today, many companies know that ‘what got us here, won’t take us there’, but what does that mean? What needs to be done differently? And what new abilities does the company need?

At Swedavia we concluded that it was crucial for us to understand new products, services and customer behaviour in our own, and in other, markets. We have had, and continue to have, a great market insight team which scans the markets for new trends and compiles competitive analysis. What we needed was to quickly gain insights through learning. We needed a methodic way to do fast proof of concepts and experimentation. Swedavia was inspired by the Lean Start-Up methodology, and based on this, we created a new entity which we named ‘the Function Factory’. We have now been using it for almost three years and are currently completing a new proof of concept every month.

So far, we have tried out and learned about indoor wayfinding and asset tracking, having artificial intelligence as a co-worker, new ways of managing app rides (e.g. Über), self-service kiosks that only print bag tags, self-service kiosks that automatically measure cabin luggage, and much more. We calculate that about 80% of these Function Factories have led to an actual (small or big) change at Swedavia, or is well on its way to doing so.

Some Function Factory success stories include asset tracking, which has enabled Swedavia to track its wheelchairs through the terminals; the cabin- approved test, which enabled cabin baggage to be measured early in the passenger process; and working in close coordination with our co-workers. In this instance we spent a week in the ground handling coordinator’s room to create a concept for a mobile app to help our ground handling agents work more efficiently. The app is now up and running.

Over time we have learned that the main success factors for fast-paced proof of concepts is to have:

1. A clear and easy mandate on who gets to decide that a Function Factory should start. In our case, only one member of our IT board is required as a sponsor (meaning forums and committees aren’t deciding what proof of concepts will be done in advance as with a portfolio plan). Instead, this is handled in an agile way based on current needs and all learnings are reported to the right stakeholders during or after the Function Factory.

2. Easy access to funds. The Function Factory pays for it all, up to a maximum of approx. €25,000.

3. Cross-functional teams – success only comes when we do Function Factories together within our company and with engaged external partners.

When launching Swedavia’s adjusted mission statement early 2018 – ‘Together we make it possible to meet’ – Swedavia CEO, Jonas Abrahamsson, emphasised that it’s the ‘together’ part that is the key to success. He also announced that innovation and digitalisation is to be one of five main focus areas for the Group. In Swedavia’s efforts to step up the innovation work and make it even more methodical, the Function Factory will be one of the most important parts going forward.


Promoting learning and changeMATS BERGLIND is Interim Head of Innovation and Digital Innovation Manager at Swedavia, which owns, operates and develops 10 airports across Sweden and is a world-leader in developing airports with the least possible environmental impact. To find out more about Mats’ innovations visit:

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