Computas Has Gained Valuable Experiences With The Danish Merchant Mentality

Jon Gunnar Aasen, general manager of Computas Denmark, walks the streets of Copenhagen

The text was originally published by ITwatch on December 9, 2020.

LAST YEAR: He thought he knew us Danes, but it wasn’t until he moved here that it became clear that we are driven by a different mentality than Norwegians. Jon-Gunnar Aasen looks back on a year where, as the Danish country manager, he had to sell Google’s cloud services in a country where many swear by Microsoft.

This was not quite how Jon-Gunnar Aasen expected his start in Denmark to be when he moved south from Norway at the turn of the year, settling on Amager with his family.

He was to accelerate the spread of Google Cloud solutions as the country manager for the Norwegian consultancy firm Computas in Denmark. A country that is popularly called Microsoft land because most companies intuitively find it most reassuring to buy IT services from the developer behind Windows. With the demands of the coronavirus crisis for physical distance between people, it became more difficult to get close to the Danish employees. Conferences and fairs had to be abandoned, and even the trip back and forth to a major customer in Malmö became more cumbersome.

“It is clear that building a culture remotely is a challenge,” as Jon-Gunnar Aasen explains it over a digital connection, which is not the popular video platform Microsoft Teams but instead the less widespread Google Meet.

“But we, who work with IT, are used to working remotely, so I wasn’t so worried. In our Norwegian parent company, they work with the oil and gas sector, and they had a double crisis here because the oil price collapsed. But still, we have had positive development throughout the year,” he adds, emphasizing that the Norwegian parent business is doing really well.

It seemed like the irony of fate when ITWatch published an article about Jon-Gunnar Aasen’s ambitions the morning after Mette Frederiksen, at a press conference, sent most public employees home and unwittingly set off the hoarding of toilet paper.

How has it gone since? What has he learned after almost a year as the country manager? And why does he believe that we Danes differ from his own people?

“When you’re from Norway, you think you know Denmark, but it’s only when you live in a society that you get a better understanding of the culture,” as he says.

In Jon-Gunnar Aasen’s view, we Danes are shaped by a mercantile culture. We like to make a good deal, and that ability has brought us far as a country that has not been able to fall back on an underground filled with natural resources to the same extent as the Norwegians. It has meant that we think less long-term. While Norwegians intuitively know that it can take up to 10 years before harvesting the commercial fruits of an investment, we would like to see money on the bottom line much earlier, Jon-Gunnar Aasen emphasizes.

“It’s quite impressive,” he says.

“Danish companies have been forced to survive by selling products and services. Everyone is interested in making a good deal, and the way of doing business is more commercial than in Norway, where there have been large deposits of oil and gas.”

Wants to Conduct Deep Digitization

When Jon-Gunnar Aasen mentions the Danish mentality, it’s about its role in new investments in IT – and it’s crucial to understand, especially for Computas, which has just opened an office in the country with the goal of selling digital solutions and consulting.

Central to Jon-Gunnar Aasen’s efforts is to sell services that help other companies with what he calls deep digitization. It involves digitization that disrupts the core business processes of a company.

For example, in the retail sector, if a business has been used to selling its products through physical stores but now needs to rethink the business model entirely because players like Amazon have a completely different data-driven approach to the market.

“You have to change everything. It’s not just about using Office 365 or G Suite. All work processes need to be changed,” emphasizes Jon-Gunnar Aasen.

“I don’t want to say that things are difficult in Denmark. We are also unknown.”
– Jon-Gunnar Aasen, Danish Country Manager, Computas

But the gains from such a transformation do not necessarily materialize after one or two years. Therefore, one must have a long-term perspective. Here, the Danish mercantile mentality, where one wants to reap the rewards quickly, can be a challenge.

“Value has to mean something more than just price. You have to define a ‘merchantship 2.0’ and see how to leverage the ability to see the commercial side of a new digital landscape. I don’t have the answer to that, but you have to constantly think about building processes that are long-term,” he points out.

“And that’s precisely where Computas comes with the message of how to modernize using cloud services. We want to shift the discussion from price to value, and it requires engaging in more complex discussions.”

A different starting point

He emphasizes that the challenge is also present in Norway, even though they have been accustomed to thinking more long-term there.

“It’s not only Danish companies that have challenges thinking in that way. Norwegian and Swedish companies face it too because all structures are built around quarterly reporting. Deep digitalization challenges the traditional way of thinking about software development.”

Has it been more challenging to create this understanding in Denmark than in Norway?

“I don’t want to say that things are harder in Denmark. We are unknown here too. But there is something in the fact that there is a different starting point for business development. On the other hand, the challenge in Norway is to move away from oil and gas to build new things, and Norway has a lot to learn from Denmark.”

On a more practical level, since March, Computas has moved from a shared office near Nørreport to a new one on Højbro Plads, where there is more room to grow.

The ambition was to hire 10 consultants, but it ended up being only half, because the Norwegian parent company had more vacancies due to the tough situation in the oil sector.

“So we have grown less in the number of employees but, conversely, have hired more consultants based in Norway,” he points out.

Not a rapid growth

Despite the coronavirus crisis, Computas has earned twice as much as budgeted for in 2020. Jon-Gunnar Aasen has spent the year defining the company’s strategy. In a way, it is about challenging the merchant mentality that has brought Denmark far but can also lead to short-term thinking.

“We have tried to simplify our message to the market. We primarily want to talk about why one should move all or parts of their workloads to the cloud and start a dialogue with companies on a very basic level,” he points out.

“We are a specialist company and will not grow rapidly. We want to get into the processes where we can deliver value. Our dream customers have already done a lot in the cloud and understand a good part of these processes.”

Calling Google more flexible

In Jon-Gunnar Aasen’s view, the coronavirus crisis has only reinforced the need for deep digitalization, where you reconsider your business model at a very fundamental level.

Now, Danish companies need to be convinced to buy Google solutions and not stick to Microsoft. Because it should speak to our merchant heart to have more goods to choose from.

“It’s a paradox that, on the one hand, you really want to get the best price, but at the same time, you’ve gone so fundamentally into a supplier,” he says.

He highlights that the advantage of Google is that the products are born for the cloud, and the licensing model is simple. You pay for what you use.

“Both Amazon and Microsoft have more complex licensing models, and especially Microsoft has a history of starting on-premise. So the advantage of Google is both flexibility, based on open source, and in several areas, it has better technologies, especially in machine learning and compute power.”

Now he just needs to convince more people to use Google technology.

“I think it’s about challenging different stakeholders in companies and convincing them that there is value in having multiple cloud providers. We have already had many positive meetings with customers, and we have great potential in Denmark,” Jon-Gunnar Aasen says.