Adopting an Agile Mindset in Product Development: A Journey from ScrumMaster to CPO at Paf
In this article, we interview Sara Björk-Södergård Chief Product Officer at Paf, who shares her journey from being a ScrumMaster to becoming the CPO. We delve into how the different roles she has held have shaped her thinking and approach to collaborating with internal stakeholders and external third-party providers in the context of Paf's product development. We also discuss the different components of Paf TechRadar and its purpose, how the process of integrating various acquisitions was handled, and any unanticipated challenges related to product performance or placement that emerged during these integrations. Additionally, we examine Sara's predictions for the evolution of Paf products over the next five years, considering the changing landscape of the digital world and responsible gambling, and which technologies will have the greatest influence.
GE) Could you describe your journey from being a ScrumMaster to becoming the Chief Product Officer at Paf after almost 10 years, and explain how the different roles you've held have shaped your thinking and approach to collaborating with both internal stakeholders and external third-party providers in the context of Paf's product development?
SB) Absolutely! Over the years, I've held various positions within Paf, which has provided me with a comprehensive understanding of different aspects of the business. I've spent the past 13 years in management roles in the tech department, with the last five as CPO. My approach has indeed evolved during this time. I've always been result-oriented, I've learned that adopting a "less is more" mentality is crucial.
In any collaboration, It's essential to focus on understanding the end goal or the problem we're trying to solve. This mindset is important in all collaborations. I’ve experienced many situations where stakeholders wanted to solve the problem and dictate the solution. By instead focusing on understanding the problem and finding the root cause, we can build the right solution together, which often differs significantly from just adding something more.
Another critical aspect is embracing the idea of launching early. We can't fully understand customer needs until we test our products in the real world. This can be scary, but helps us adapt and improve quickly. In the past, we often waited too long to launch, now we are much bolder, and there’s greater buy-in for this approach.
It's not always easy to sell this idea, but I consistently emphasise the importance of launching quickly and iterating based on customer feedback in discussions with all stakeholders and my team. This approach is nowadays widely accepted by the team, as they know we will continually revisit and improve the product.
When collaborating with third parties, I nowadays view these relationships as partnerships rather than mere transactions. We focus on how we can help each other succeed and develop our respective products, creating a more mutually beneficial collaboration.
GE) Can you explain the different components of Paf TechRadar (https://tech-radar.paf.dev/) and also provide information on how the project was initiated and its purpose?
SB) Our Tech Radar is a simple way to show all the technology we use, divided into four main areas;
Languages & Frameworks
It covers methods we use to get the work done, like DevOps as well as the nuts and bolts stuff like cloud providers and content delivery networks. It also lists the programming languages and software frameworks we use to build and maintain our applications and services.
The Tech Radar is helpful when we're looking to hire new people. By being open about the tech we use and always staying curious about new technologies, we hope to give potential team members a clear picture of the tools they'll be working with and what we're currently trying out or moving away from.
We started the project to make our company more transparent and to give a complete view of our technology landscape. It has three main goals: to help anyone thinking of joining us know what kind of tech they'll be working with at Paf, to make it easier for our team to share knowledge and collaborate, and to promote a culture of continuous learning and innovation.
Transparency is really important to us as a company. For example, we openly report our players’ yearly wins and losses.
GE) During your time from 2018 as the Chief Product Officer to now, what was the process of integrating Proactive Gaming Scandinavia AB, Mandalorian Technologies, and Speedy Ltd and Speedy Originals (acquired from Hero Gaming) into Paf's existing systems? Additionally, were there any unanticipated challenges related to product performance or placement that emerged during these integrations?
SB) Integrating Proactive Gaming was pretty smooth. We already had their Bingo product integrated in our platform and had built a strong supplier/customer relationship over the years. Bringing the Proactive team on board was a great experience and a great addition to our team.
Integrating Mandalorian was more challenging. To ensure a smooth migration, we first built and launched a replica of NoAccountBet for the Estonian market. This allowed us to test the NoAccount frontend on our platform before migrating the Swedish players and brands over.
At the same time, we prepared for data migration, improved our platform to handle multiple brands, and switched to AWS for better scalability.
One challenge we faced was that data mapping took more time and effort than we expected. Another was the cultural difference between the larger Paf organisation and the smaller Mandalorian team. We found that we weren't as quick to adapt.
The Speedy migration went more smoothly, thanks to our recent successful experience with the “noaccount-migrations”.
Overall, it’s been an exciting and educational journey. We’ve come a long way since starting with noaccountbet.ee in 2019. As a company, we are definitely a lot faster now than we were three years ago. Today we run all 12 sites on the new setup.
GE) In the next five years, how do you predict the evolution of Paf products considering the changing landscape of the digital world and responsible gambling? Which technologies do you think will have the greatest influence and why?
SB) In the coming years, Paf's product offerings will definitely need to adapt to the rapidly changing digital world and the growing focus on responsible gambling. It's hard to predict how much change we'll see, but artificial intelligence (AI) will definitely play a key role in this transformation. I believe AI is the one thing that will have the greatest influence on everything we do.
AI technology is revolutionising many industries, and tools like OpenAI, ChatGPT, GitHub Copilot, and Midjourney are already starting to impact our daily operations.
Being an early adopter of AI is essential for both companies and individuals. AI can help improve all aspects of our business, from software development to content creation, CRM, and personalising our product offerings. With the ever-growing selection of games, AI can enhance the user experience by providing unique relevance and customisation.
AI can also help us fight fraud and detect problem gambling more effectively. We see an increase in responsible gaming requirements, such as national registries and limits across various markets and this trend is likely to continue.
One challenge we need to consider is balancing AI with data protection and security, particularly concerning GDPR. There is also the cost associated with processing large amounts of data.
AI will not only help us improve our operations and customer experience but also ensure that we maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly AI-driven industry. It will play a crucial role in both employee retention and recruitment. By integrating AI into our operations, we can position ourselves as an attractive employer and let our team members focus on more engaging and high-quality work and reduce mundane tasks.
To stay competitive, we must embrace AI and use its capabilities to help us become faster and smarter. It will increase the speed of R&D. AI-driven solutions will become the norm, and companies that don’t adopt these technologies risk being left behind.
It’s already hard to differentiate from the rest, the offering is pretty much the same everywhere. It will continue to be so, and just like everyone else we must be on our toes and capitalise on AI.
About our contributor
Sara Björk-Södergård is Chief Product Officer at Paf since 2018. She’s leading a team of around 100 members, working across multiple regulated markets. She has 20 years of experience in the technology/gaming industry and 10+ years in leadership positions. She has previously held roles such as Head of Development and Head of Payment. Visit https://aboutpaf.com/