CTO Sessions: Thomas Rødseth, Puzzel

What type of CTO are you? “Having worked in strategic planning and marketing, I am very focused on the value of the technology we are creating, selling and using.”

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Puzzel

Name: Thomas Rødseth

Company: Puzzel

Job title: Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: June 2018

Location: Oslo, Norway

Thomas Rødseth is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Puzzel, one of the leading Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) providers in Europe. With more than 25 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry, he brings a wealth of expertise to the role spanning network engineering, business development, product strategy and marketing. Prior to joining Puzzel, Rødseth served as Vice President of Product & Marketing at Intelecom Group and has previously served as CTO for two other telecom companies.

What was your first job? My first job was as a concierge at the Royal Garden Hotel. This was not the famous Kensington High Street hotel in London, but a less famous resort in Trondheim, Norway. In 1994, I then began my career as a Researcher on intelligent networks at the global carrier, Telenor.

Did you always want to work in IT? Absolutely! As soon as I started my computer science degree at university, I became absorbed in the software and communication sectors. I was fascinated by how quickly the industries were moving, how technologies were evolving, and how people were creating tools that could simply our lives and empower communities.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in General Computer Science at the Norwegian University of Technology. I then went on to do a Master’s Degree in Telematics at the University of Surrey in the UK, where I was able to advance my software and telecommunication skills.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Starting out as a Researcher on intelligent networks at Telenor allowed me to hone my skills and build a range of international relationships. I was then recruited for a two-year secondment building the O2 Network in Germany. In 2000, I co-founded Carrot communications and took on the role of CTO to help build its communications software. Since then I have worked in a number of different roles for similar companies, including in strategy planning, marketing and product management. I have now returned to a more technology-oriented role as CTO at Puzzel.

What type of CTO are you? Having worked in strategic planning and marketing, I am very focused on the value of the technology we are creating, selling and using. It’s my number one focus when I talk with users, customers, partners and all parts of our internal organisation. By value, I mean its ability to help us solve our problems, perform better at our jobs and give our customers the best experience possible. Puzzel is a customer-first company and our technology is just the vehicle through which we can help address their communications challenges and opportunities.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I’m very intrigued by Artificial Intelligence and keen to see what opportunities it presents for customer service in the future. Right now, I think the ability to observe, analyse and understand customer behaviours is a game changer for service companies as we strive to provide better, more effortless customer interactions and experiences.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Ironically, I think Artificial Intelligence has been oversold as the solution to all our problems. There are some great use cases for AI in the customer service industry, but I don’t believe fully automated customer interactions are what customers or companies want.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Over the last 12 months, the Puzzel team and I have been working on streamlining our product delivery processes. By embracing DevOps practices and bringing our development and IT operations teams closer together, we’re now able to respond to customer demand faster and bring more quality features to the market.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? At Puzzel, we’ve been making some major investments into automation. We’ve added some new features to our software – such as advanced email ticketing – designed to help our customers boost efficiency with automated workflows. We’ve also been able to increase the speed at which we’re releasing new features by running more parallel development teams.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Many of our customers have been coming to us wanting to get a deeper insight into their customer dialogue. They want to know what their customers are asking, how they’re feeling, what the most common issues are and how their agents are helping to solve them. We’ve been helping our clients achieve this with the help of some advanced algorithms, natural language understanding and sentiment analysis. In turn, it has given them better insight into their customers’ behaviours and a broader look at the overall efficiency of their service.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? It’s very important to be clear on what success means for your business first. Then you can choose the right technology that will allow you to meet your goals and adjust to market demands. Using the right technology enables us to develop solutions that work for the changing market and support business growth.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Product and technology are intertwined and these strategic pillars need to be aligned. As technology evolves, it’s important to consider how each new advancement can help you build a more effective product for your customers. AI and big data are good examples of important technology innovations that are only useful when applied in the right business or application context.

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy supports your business strategy and helps you achieve your business goals. Whether you want to change consumer behaviour, create efficiencies or improve customer satisfaction, your tech strategy should be the enabler.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I think CTOs should be prepared for a huge shift in the way businesses and their employees use technology in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. With more people working from home, businesses will be looking for more flexible and reliable products and solutions that don’t require tons of training and support. Businesses are already looking at how they can become more agile in the future, and it will be up to CTOs to help solve this problem and lead the change.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I have been so lucky in my career to have been part of two very large market and company transitions. One was as a young engineer taking part in building Germany’s fourth mobile network from scratch. Back in the late 1990s, the telecom monopolies across Europe broke and there was a lot of entrepreneurial spirit for people wanting to build something new and grow a business. At Puzzel, I am very proud of the way we were able to break away from our former mother company back in 2017 to create a distinct brand with a clear mission and direction that laid the foundations for the growth trajectory we are on today.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? 2020 has been a year of change and surprises, but it has taught us that we are resilient. Modern technology providers are now more relevant than ever and I am proud to have been able to help our customers by providing them with stable and efficient tools to help them make the best of their situation.

What are you reading now? I’m currently reading Knife by Jo Nesbø. He’s one of my favourite authors and I’ve read quite a few of his crime books.

Most people don't know that I… Played the trumpet in the King’s Guard band during my military service in Norway.

In my spare time, I like to…Go hiking and off-road cycling. I love getting out into nature and exploring new places. I always take my bike with me on holidays and have stumbled across some truly beautiful places during my travels.

Ask me to do anything but… Mountain climbing – I’m scared of heights!