Meet Olle Friman, who has been building efficient and functional Kindred for almost 20 years
At Kindred, we live by our five values: We are individuals united, We dare to challenge, We build on trust, We seek to innovate, and We believe in friendship. One employee who embodies all these values is Olle Friman, Service Desk Manager, whom next year will celebrate 20 years with Kindred! We met up with Olle for a cup of coffee and took the opportunity to ask him all the questions you could ask someone who has been with the company, well, almost since it started.
Hi Olle, thank you so much for taking the time and talk to us. Let’s start from the very beginning. When did you start at Kindred (then Unibet), and what was your first impression?
In September 2003, I arrived at Unibet and the apartment at Norra Bantorget, where Unibet IT had its office. We were 8 employees at the time. In all Unibet, we were around 60 employees, with the other main offices in Malta and London. Betting companies were a bit suspicious then, and I was slightly worried about what I had signed up for. However, the atmosphere at work was very friendly and familiar. Anders Ström, the founder of Unibet, now Kindred group, had 1 to 1 session with all new employees in London; he used to explain his background and ideas behind Unibet and much more. This made me feel welcome.
What was your assignment at the time you started?
I was 44 years old when I started and was already considered very senior. However, most of my colleagues were 15-20 years younger. The role of the Project Manager is to be the first in line, except for the IT Manager, to communicate with the business users.
It is quite an impressive journey you have been to, Olle. Could you please talk us through it?
As a project manager, in the beginning, I travelled a lot to London and Malta. However, in 2003 we only had the Sportsbook, and no other products, so I worked with the Sportsbook teams to improve our offering. For instance, I created specifications for a Risk monitor.
In October of 2003, I got a hint from a Developer consultant that there was a JIRA tool to handle our workload. So far, we had used Excel, but that was not very transparent. So we decided to set up JIRA, and the one that helped me set it up was a young developer named Anders Thörnström. I am proud to say that we still use JIRA, which has helped Unibet/Kindred to be efficient through the years. We also started to use the tool in the wider business very early, not just within IT. . At the beginning of 2005, we also started to use Confluence.
Via these tools, I was making sure we had control over our development as well as support. I made all configurations and setup in them. I was invited to yearly marketing conferences to cover the IT side for a couple of years. In 2006 a CIO started. He kicked off our move from being a backyard company to becoming much more professional, especially on the IT side. We also moved to our new office at Ringvägen, in Stockholm. In late 2006 the CIO appointed me to set up a Service Desk. With the tools JIRA and Confluence, this was pretty straightforward. What was complicated was the lack of resources.
At the beginning of 2008, we started outsourcing IT operations and the Service Desk to TCS in India (in Gandhinagar just outside Ahmedabad in Gujarat). After 14 years of this outsourcing, we know this cooperation has been a great success. I am still a key player in this cooperation, and my journey has been fantastic. Suddenly we could multiply knowledge and performance. The rumour about outsourcing to India is that it is very challenging. However, our outsourcing has “worked to perfection.” We have many consultants that have been with us for over 10 years. That is unique. Well, they ensure our sites are up and running, that incidents are handled promptly, and much more. Our yearly internal rating of their services has improved every year, and there is no question their services are very appreciated.
If you compare the workplace with the one you have now – how has it changed?
When I started, we worked from a three-room apartment at Norra Bantorget. Then, in 2006 we moved to Ringvägen. In 2012 we moved to Rådmansgatan; since 2019, we have sat in a state-of-the-art office on top of Gallerian. The atmosphere has been nice in all the offices, but it is different when you are 500 in the office versus eight. From the beginning, everyone knew each other. Nowadays, it is hard to keep up with knowing everyone. Still, office management does all they can to ensure we are welcomed to the office. At my age, I can feel we are a bit spoiled from time to time with all the celebrations and activities in the office, but it is nice.
This is not a question - but it is not that common for people, especially not within our sector, to stay with one employer for as long as you have. Could you please elaborate on why?
I think it is a matter of personality as well as age. It is about finding out what you want to do and challenging your limits in the first half of your career. When you grow older, you might find yourself knowing what you want to do or where to go professionally. This also differs a lot from your personality, of course. I am staying long because I know there are challenges wherever you go. It is not always greener at other employers. I also found my strengths here at Unibet/Kindred, and I have had the power to control my job in my positions. I also love to work with people from other cultures and backgrounds.
You must have experienced a lot, but is there any moment that has been a bit more special than any other?
This was a tricky question. I do not think I have that special moment. But on the other hand, there were many happy moments when we were able to help a team control their workflow and documentation using JIRA and Confluence. And, of course, all these kick-offs, conferences, and Christmas and summer parties. So they have all been extra moments for me.
How do you see the business has transformed?
This backyard company feeling is long gone. From the beginning, it was very entrepreneurial. Now we are very professional. I feel proud to be able to fit in all the changes through this long journey.
Thank you so much, Olle, for taking your time and talk to us. You are a true Kindred spirit!