Tobias Gunnesson – Empowering the product dream team

28 Feb 2020

As our new SVP of Product, Tobias Gunnesson has a unique challenge ahead. As we take the next big step forward as a company, he’s the guy responsible for putting a product culture in place that will enable us to transform ourselves, and the businesses of our customers. And for a big job, he’s got a big plan.

You have a huge challenge Tobias. Are you someone who enjoys seeing the big picture?

I am. But more than that, the ability to see different perspectives comes naturally – it’s part of my personality. I understand that from the mountaintop where you’re standing the outlook might be very different than from my mountaintop.

Translating that to my role, I look at what our products do and how they function. But just as importantly, I focus on how they change our business and how we can enhance the way our customers work to improve their business. I’m constantly thinking about all these things.

You must have a clear vision of what you want to achieve

I have a philosophy which is like a mantra – I believe in the power of product teams, product transparency and product flow. My job is to put these elements in place within the product culture that we’re building.

We’ll create product teams that will empower the experts in our different competencies to work and learn together. Our technical expertise will be matched by our understanding of the customer and the change we can make to their daily business. 

Product transparency is also crucial. This requires us to be extremely focused on what we’re trying to achieve and the outcomes we’re all working towards, as well as understanding the consequences of our choices at every step. 

Then there’s product flow. I want us to work in smaller tests, and closer with our customers. Our development goals shouldn’t be to deliver one big new function every six months but to enable ourselves or the customer to make regular, incremental changes that keep the product moving forward.

No doubt your previous experience has influenced that philosophy

I started out as an entrepreneur. I worked for a start-up in the music industry and created my own small IT platform start-up providing facilities services for housing associations. I also worked for Venture Cup, which is the business plan competition that Avinode won back in the day.

I then moved into a product manager position working on a retail cash management solution. When I joined, we had just 100 checkouts, but I helped grow that to more than 10,000 checkouts in 14 countries and take the product from being the hardware in the checkout to the cash management software platform used in-store. This was an epiphany for me as I saw how the product revolutionized every aspect of the customers’ business; how the staff were organised and interacted with customers, and how they designed the store once there was no physical money to protect.

A real desire to get deeper into a software company led me to then join a daughter company of Volvo Cars as Head of Product Management. My role was to build a product team and understand where we could make an impact on how Volvo car dealers work and deliver sales and service. Again, what I helped deliver was transformational by making complicated actions magically simple.

You could say I have quite a varied history, but all these experiences have shaped my philosophy that I’m now bringing to Avinode.

Your passion for change is clear. Have you seen that in your new colleagues too?

I really have. There’s an enthusiasm for what’s next with people very engaged and excited about change. We’re going from a comfortable space where we’ve been for a few years, to a place of growing our product offering. We have set ourselves new challenges; creating Paynode as the payment network for business aviation and bringing Schedaero to Tier 1 customers. We understand that change is needed in order to reach new goals. Even though we’re not sure where the foot will land, it’s fun and we’re in the moment. 

It feels like we’re coming of age

Sure. As a business we’re 18 now and maybe as a person we’re 18 too; a young adult. We remember our start-up childhood and we still have that energy, but we have a little bit more perspective and responsibility because we’re such a huge part of our customers’ world. We have some customers who generate most of their business through Avinode requests and handle their main operations through Schedaero, so they rely on us.

You mentioned a sense of momentum building too?

I was recently at a dinner with the rest of the global product team. There were nine of us. Oliver King dropped in to say hello and told us that 18 months before there were just three people around the table. Now we have experts from different competencies to support the product journey together with the technical teams. 

In 2019 we put the dream team in place. 2020 is now about creating the product teams, the transparency and the flow to deliver real customer change. Then we’ll be all set to re-start the payment platform for business aviation with Paynode, make Schedaero the choice of major operators and help Avinode take the next step as a marketplace.

It’s going to be a full-on year. I hope you’ll find time to relax too

I certainly will. Growing up, my summers were spent in the local games arcade playing pinball, so I celebrated turning 40 by treating myself to a Demolition Man 1994 pinball machine. I’m learning to take care of it because if it breaks there’s no-one to fix it but me. My wife wants to move it to the cellar, so then I might even have room for a few more machines!

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