It’s a Sprint: How Finnair Stays Agile


Image via Finnair

Finnair’s Esamatti Vuolle reveals the methodology behind his team’s success on a panel highlighting pioneering digital case studies at Virtual Expo. This article originally appeared in Expo Daily Experience. Read the full issues and register for FTE APEX Virtual Expo — the platform will remain open as a resource until January 8.

Finnair’s agility and investment in the digital world – with a focus on its customers’ journey – has positioned the airline to manage its way into “the new normal,” says its head of Digital Commerce, Esamatti Vuolle.

Three years ago, Finnair took “complete control and total ownership of the whole end-to-end customer journey” on its digital channels, he explains, delivering 250 features and 75 product releases in 2019 alone.

To keep up this pace of innovation long-term, Vuolle’s department adheres to a rolling 12-week planning cycle broken down into two-week development sprints. “That is one of the keys to our success – that we work in short cycles.” This methodology allows Finnair’s digital team to react and be ready for new changes, he says.

In March, when Finnair’s business plummeted due to COVID-19, it went into “survival mode.” Since then, Vuolle notes that the airline’s resiliency is because of the practices “we have built together during the past three years, which have shown their biggest value over the last [few] months.”

Not only did his team quickly pivot to working in remote mode, but they also shifted social events – like guitar jamming sessions – into the online environment.

“Everything we used to do in an offline world, we continued to do online.”

Esamatti Vuolle, Finnair

Vuolle says it was important to build up mechanisms so that plans made while working remotely didn’t fall through the cracks. That included appointing a “sheriff” to keep the team focused on its priorities.

“We see what when we [encourage] co-creation and deeper cooperation, it [results in a feeling of] ownership. People are committed to doing things better, which ultimately drives their personal growth” he adds, explaining that this translates into the ability to recognize new opportunities that generate ancillary revenue – even, during the pandemic. “Relevance is really the key.”

Recently, Finnair noticed that its customers showed an interest in its catering, so the airline began selling its business-class meals in local grocery stores.

“We have been able to bring the airline … into people’s everyday lives.”