How OBOS succeeds with digital service platform

Ranja Ovedal

In Norway, billions are invested in digitalisation every single year – and as with everything else, some succeed far better than others. OBOS is one of the companies that is investing aggressively to create the most value with today's technology.

The housing cooperative, which was founded back in 1929, is one of the country's largest and most profitable businesses. Their rich history has been characterized by a number of restructuring phases and today OBOS operates within the business areas of housing development, management and consulting, real estate and banking. Over 2600 people work in the group – and the membership is approaching half a million. In addition, they own a number of subsidiaries. It goes without saying that the group feels the digital race on several fronts.

In order to strengthen the company's implementation capacity and facilitate rapid digital development, OBOS has established a digital service platform.

- OBOS is in a restructuring phase, where we are replacing our old business platform with a number of new professional systems. The new digital service platform ensures that we avoid too many dependencies and direct integrations between the various professional systems. This gives us faster access and the ability to reuse data, and thus facilitates frequent changes, says Mareke Decker, Product Owner for Digital Services Platform at OBOS.

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Internal anchoring is crucial

As the product owner, Mareke has a crucial role in ensuring that the service platform provides OBOS with optimal value. As the main person responsible for the development of the platform, she also constitutes the link between business and IT internally. It is her task to ensure that everyone understands the platform's role in achieving OBOS' digital strategy, and what it takes for the platform to support the group's various disciplines.

- This means that I am the main contact for stakeholders from the various disciplines we have. An important part of my job is to create understanding and anchor the concept on all fronts, says Mareke.

She highlights internal anchoring as a crucial success factor for OBOS' service platform. A challenge with the service platform is that it operates behind the scenes, and thus is not something "tangible" that the employees of OBOS relate to in their everyday lives. Therefore, it can often be difficult for others to understand the value it creates.

- You could say that I act as a marketer for DTP in the company. Anchoring is important for everyone to understand what we want to achieve with the service platform. A close dialogue is important for us to work efficiently and deliver what is expected from the business, says Mareke.

Good requirements provide quality and efficiency

In order to strengthen the focus on digitalisation and innovation, OBOS has gathered its forces in a unit called "IT and digital". In addition to digital business development across disciplines, the division is responsible for common digital customer communication.

- After the reorganisation, we were divided into product teams, each with its own product owner and team leader. As a product owner, I do not sit in the middle of development, but have a bird's eye view and see the work we do in a larger context. My role is central to progress and to ensuring that we deliver what is expected. To ensure this, we have established our own architectural council, with which we work closely. The architects have control over our entire digital ecosystem and the opportunity to work closely with them is very valuable, says Mareke.

She emphasizes that interdisciplinary work is a success factor for the digital service platform to provide optimal value.

- Business and IT often speak different languages, and it is essential that we understand what is really expected from stakeholders, and that they understand what we need in order to work efficiently. When we have many different professional systems to be established in parallel, the digital service platform has a very important role. We get a lot of demands to deliver integrations and data continuously. Then we must have enough information to be able to set the right priorities, carry out the work with high quality and deliver on time. That's my responsibility, Mareke said.