Change is the only constant for this naval architect
31-year-old, Matteo Natali, General Manager – Digital Business Incubation, has been a part of many firsts at Wärtsilä. A fast learner and an out-of-the-box thinker, his job keeps him on his toes, at all times, and he already has his task cut out for the year 2019.
The summer of 2012 was a memorable one for Matteo Natali. It marked the beginning of a journey that would take him to new professional heights, as he graduated from the Naval Architecture University of Trieste, and started working with the Project Management team of Wärtsilä Ship Design in Stord, Norway.
Since then, he admits, he hasn’t had a typical working day, and this, he says makes working at Wärtsilä all the more exciting.
“This week, for instance, I have internal meetings about port solution portfolio and the preparation of a roundtable on sustainable ports in EU, as well as a presentation of an Oceanic Awakening and SEA20 to Italian authorities,” says Matteo. “Apart from this, I have a customer meeting in Finland, a discussion on disruptive innovation with the Growth Lab team, and a workshop on new solution developments with an American start-up”.
Being part of the Digital Business Incubation team, all this is par for course for Matteo. The fact that he is working closely with colleagues he considers his role models, and also the adrenaline rush of being in a fast-paced environment, are some of the factors that keep him motivated.
“Being flexible and learning fast helps,” Matteo admits, stating that his innovative thinking, strategic vision and awareness of industry dynamics have helped him crack important deals.
Building a solid case
Case in point – Wärtsilä HY, the first integrated hybrid power module in the marine industry. Matteo co-initiated and coordinated its development all the way to the signing of the sales contract. This meant defining the project plan, mobilising global engineering teams, launching the product at Norshipping 2017 and facilitating public funding to set up the testbed in Trieste. While Matteo has been involved in other strategic projects such as the Transas acquisition, convincing internal and external stakeholders to overcome a conventional product-focused mindset was a key challenge during the development of Wärtsilä HY.
“We had to present a solid business case and product value propositions to get everyone on board,” he recalls, adding that it was crucial to deliver results at each stage to build confidence and allay apprehensions.
Recognising the importance of a customer-centric approach during innovation helped Matteo identify several analogies between Wärtsilä HY and Portify – a ship-to-shore data exchange platform to coordinate operations around ship arrivals at the port. This caused him to be noticed by the company’s new digital organisation.
In August 2017, he officially joined the digital team in Marine Business, to lead the development and incubation of new digital businesses.
The timing couldn’t have been more right for Matteo, as Wärtsilä was witnessing a digital transformation with the mission of enabling sustainable societies with smart technology, and employees were being encouraged to come up with new ideas.
“Our new purpose ‘Enabling sustainable societies with smart technology’, the digital transformation into an as-a-service data-enabled company and the Smart Marine strategy have shaken the foundations of the company,” he says excitedly. “Employees are being incentivised to think out-of-the-box and suggest disruptive ideas. Our mindset has expanded from pure product to ecosystem-focused.”
This feeds directly into Wärtsilä’s vision for a Smart Marine Ecosystem, one which will bring together all stakeholders to create a super-efficient, safe and sustainable ecosystem.
All for one
Over the next decade, Matteo feels that the maritime industry will have evolved into a vastly different industry.
“Major players will come together to reduce inefficiencies and environmental footprint,” he explains. “The maritime industry will be a connected ecosystem and the players will coordinate their operations reducing inefficiencies and environmental footprint. The stakeholder map will be different from many perspectives. Non-traditional players will enter our sector, alliances will be formed, and the size of companies will have increased through both horisontal and vertical consolidation.”
Faced with the very real prospect of such rapid transformation, Matteo’s ambition is to be a key agent of change in this process.
“From 2019, I will be part of the Strategy and Business Development team in Wärtsilä Marine Business, in charge of Port Business Development,” he says. “The target is to drive and coordinate Wärtsilä exploration of the port business and to strengthen our presence in this area.
Matteo hopes that he will be recognised as a trustworthy and skilled source of advice within Wärtsilä, in a position where his skills can help influence strategic decisions.
Clearly, resting on past laurels is just not an option for this visionary.