How we use data is evolving

The 2019 CTO Survey revealed that the way Finnish companies utilise data is changing.

Data is the fuel which runs businesses, but that fuel is now being used in new ways. CTOs of Finnish companies report changes in how and why they utilise data.

“Two years ago CTOs said their main focus was on the cloud, followed by big data and AI. Now those priorities are reversed. AI is the priority, followed by big data and the cloud,” says Pekka Sivonen, Executive Director, Digital Transformation of Finnish Industries at Business Finland. “This could be an indication that the cloud enabled us to get data and now we are focusing on using it with the help of AI.”

The theme of the 2019 CTO survey is Data on the move. Respondents came from all sizes of companies in a wide diversity of industries. The survey was conducted by innovation consulting company Spinverse with Business Finland and Technology Industries of Finland.

Importance of customer experience is rising amongst the CTOs

More than eight out of every ten CTOs say data is part of their strategy and that they also use external data. External data is primarily used for the development of core products and services, followed by enhancing company processes. 

The third most cited goal for the use of external data is enhancing the customer experience, but this is likely to increase in importance because 73% report this will be the main focus over the next year. This underlines a trend for companies to focus on the benefits of digitalisation, not the technology itself. 

Public data is used by 68% of respondents. While the development of core products and services remain the number one use of public data, business intelligence surges into second place. This is likely due to the nature of public data, which is better suited for wide economic applications.

Rise of ecosystems 

Ecosystems are growing in importance for Finnish companies, with 87% of CTOs reporting they operate in them. Many CTOs complained of a lack of openness and the need to change the business culture in order to better share data. They were also not afraid of a little self-criticism: a quarter of respondents do not highly rate their own organisation’s capabilities to work in ecosystems and share data.

“There are still major question marks regarding data ownership, IPR and technical standards on using and sharing data,” Laura Koponen, Managing Director at Spinverse explains. “Some of this is being addressed, such as with the MyData movement, but CTOs say improvements are needed. SMEs in particular feel this is a pressing issue.” 

SMEs are more confident than large companies in their ability to work in ecosystems and exploit external data. All SMEs who responded say they utilise data from external sources, and over three-quarters say they use public data in their operations. 

Larger companies are investing in data utilisation to build a competitive advantage, but smaller businesses say they aim to find new solutions for customers. New business opportunities, more versatile products and an improved customer experience are the top three benefits cited for data utilisation.

Help wanted: R&D specialists 

There are indications that R&D is currently under pressure. More CTOs say their R&D budgets have been cut this year compared to last year’s survey. 

However, the pressure on R&D is not having an impact on hiring: over half of respondents say they are increasing their R&D headcount this year. Many CTOs say that finding good talent is a challenge. 

“There is optimism for the future,” says Jaakko Hirvola, CEO at Technology Industries of Finland. “About half of CTOs believe their R&D budgets will increase in 2020, and over half say they will continue to hire more people.”


The results were published 5.11.2019 at the CTO Forum organised by Spinverse, Business Finland and Technology Industries of Finland.  The CTO Forum is a community for CTOs and technology leaders to learn from their peers and benchmark against the best practices in the field. It provides a platform for networking across different industries and for companies of all sizes, raises the awareness of Finnish technology leadership and promotes visibility of CTOs and their companies.