I ♥ Nortal – Finding values based on experience and purpose

Nortal is a Tallinn-based IT strategy company, which is mainly responsible for the digital disruption of the nation of Estonia and the e-government services associated with it. In 2011 they acquired a Finnish industrial IT behemoth called CCC, which had 30 years of experience in process optimization in oil refineries, steel mills and telecommunication networks. The combined company had a new ambitious vision too: to build a seamless society.

The challenge was in coming up with a way to bring this abstract vision to grassroots sales meetings and convince the clients that this unique combination of e-governance and industrial technology would be able to be more innovative than competitors and also a credible strategic partner. The competition could flaunt their accolades for being the best place to work, their great coffee and their microbrewed ales. Nortal’s salesmen were getting gray hairs over how to formulate the seamless society message to clients.

Nortal also had a set of values: team work, constant improvement, openness and honesty and meaningful impact. Values, which most companies would subscribe to. The problem was that they were quite generic and didn’t really create a feeling of identity – “that’s exactly what we’re like and how we do things!”

What would set apart actual values from mere words on paper?

My first mission as Creative Lead was to find a narrative that was new in its approach but clearly familiar to Nortal. What was Nortal’s unique value proposition? I interviewed ordinary employees, salesmen and women, the C-suite, and I read and heard how the people at Nortal described their company. The most interesting things that came up were the core themes that people attach themselves to and from what points of view they talked about them. Some had a business strategy view, others a societal perspective and some wanted to underline their sincere relationship with their customers.

In addition to the old values, I collected a long list of topics and quotes on what makes the company unique.

I noticed that the phrases were always about relationships with colleagues, with clients or with society as a whole. I grouped them, categorized them in a matrix, and ended up with four distinct themes. I had inadvertently created a new set of values for the company based on the fragmented discourses I had collected.

The issue with Seamless society was that it hadn’t been linked to the real values of the company. Like Simon Sinek (the inventor of “start with why” – the ever-present phrase in every presentation about corporate culture) said:

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first”.

If Nortal was going after the best talents in the world, they needed to inspire people with the idea of working at Nortal and with their societal message. I ended up with the following new values that had an internal-facing (based on organisational culture), business-facing (based on customer experience) and society-facing (based on company purpose) perspective in each of them:


People first.People first

  • Organisational Culture: Trust your colleagues.
  • Customer Experience: Co-create with customers.
  • Purpose: Value diversity in ideation.

Colleagues, customers, end-users, citizens: they are all people. The most ingenious project can go awry if you don’t start by understanding how your work and your actions affect the individuals it is meant for and if you don’t find the right way to work with people.


Be an agile explorer.

  • Organisational Culture: Innovate and iterate.
  • Customer Experience: Find opportunities for the customer.
  • Purpose: Disrupt ways of thinking.

Learn, experiment, innovate. Get a taste of things that aren’t in your comfort zone. Come up with ideas pragmatically and make sure you are doing something daily that amounts to an improvement in yourself, the client’s business and the world around you.


Be transparent.

  • Organisational Culture: Share knowledge, ideas, and failures.
  • Customer Experience: Don’t just tell the clients what they want to hear.
  • Purpose: Be good.

Communicate openly and honestly, whether it is about business, behavior or bright ideas. Deliberately encourage open access to information, participation, and decision-making. You can show clients how our sausage is made. Treat everyone fairly and with respect – people aren’t telepathic.


Contribute to our societal impact. 

  • Organisational Culture: Actively build company culture.
  • Customer Experience: Understand the customer’s strategic big picture.
  • Purpose: Work towards societal impact.


Know what you are working towards. Make society more seamless by adding to the value Nortal brings to its clients and society as a whole. Understand our customers, our strategy, and our value proposition.

One of the most inspiring projects that Nortal had implemented was a system created for the Nigerian Ministry of Finance. It uncovered an enormous amount of corruption in Nigerian institutions and revealed tens of thousands of ghost workers, who were still collecting salary and pensions. I wanted us to highlight examples like these to show what we can achieve if we dedicate ourselves to a common goal with the client.

These values not only explained how we expected employees to behave with each other but it also gave salespeople and account managers a way of showing clients what it is like to work with us, and an inspiring vision of how a social shift based on values can bring about a seamless society.