Building Foresight in the Finnish Tax Administration: Case Study
With the right tools and support networks, large organisations can easily integrate foresight into their processes.
March 16, 2021, Gökce Sandal
From ageing populations and circular economy to the emergence of new payment methods, tax offices worldwide face multiple disruptive changes re-shaping their future operational environments. For a large organisation with diverse stakeholders like the Finnish Tax Administration, establishing a continuous foresight practice was a long-term process. But with the right tools and support networks, the organisation has successfully integrated foresight into its processes.
Discover the steps your organisation can take to continuously monitor signals of change and quickly adapt strategies to future environments. Read how the Finnish Tax Administration set up an organisation-wide foresight practice in 6 simple steps using Futures Platform.
Autonomous observation groups are central to foresight
The Finnish Tax Administration’s journey towards establishing a systematic foresight process first began with an inspired group’s initiative: Bonded over a shared interest in foresight, this group of employees started monitoring the weak signals of change in their environment. The same group later led the organisation’s systematic foresight efforts.
While the organisation’s foresight practices have evolved over time, this starting concept of autonomous foresight groups has remained central. Currently, the Finnish Tax Administration has various independent observation groups monitoring changes in different sectors, ranging from technology to digital economy, work environments, law and clients.
To ensure diversity of perspectives, break silos and reduce blind spots, each observation group has members from different backgrounds and departments.
“It’s just that different people pay attention to different things. For example, people who like to observe and interpret phenomena are different from the ones who retrieve data and validation for the collected observations,” says Asko Torniainen, expert at Finnish Tax Administration.
Creating a common language around foresight
According to the Finnish Tax Administration, it is essential for foresight groups to have autonomy, so that they can challenge existing strategies. However, in a large organisation like the Finnish Tax Administration, this also brought its own set of challenges: Internally heterogeneous and autonomous groups naturally had different approaches to foresight, which presented obstacles to communication.
To maintain cross-dialogues between different foresight groups and communicate findings to the management in an effective manner, the groups needed a common, visual language. With its visually-engaging collaboration functions, Futures Platform has helped create a shared understanding of possible futures both internally and also within the Finnish Tax Organisation's external network of experts and stakeholders.
“Futures Platform’s visual forecasting maps make it possible to visualise phenomena as well as the systems and totalities around them. The ability to add custom content was another important selection criterion,” says Jaakko Niinikoski, senior inspector at the Finnish Tax Administration.
“Although we were initially interested in Futures Platform for visualisation purposes, over time, the content database has become even more valuable to the Finnish Tax Administration than the visualisation itself,” he adds.
“Futures Platform’s visual forecasting maps make it possible to visualise phenomena as well as the systems and totalities around them. The ability to add custom content was another important selection criterion.”
Jaakko Niinikoski, Senior Inspector at the Finnish Tax Administration
6 steps for consolidating foresight work in large organisations
1. Start implementing foresight with free experimentation.
2. Don’t copy foresight models and practices directly from other organisations. Instead, apply what you have learned from others to create your own procedures.
3. Ensure the autonomy of the foresight groups, so that they can challenge existing strategic policies.
4. Set up an organisation-wide foresight group to support the work of others.
5. Integrate foresight into other processes and create workflows for utilising foresight information in different functions, such as strategy work and operational development.
6. Introduce digital tools that can be used to visualise foresight information and collect weak signals from all employees.
Find out more about each step and see how the Finnish Tax Administration implemented these 6 steps in practice in our case study.
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