Data-Driven – A Way Through the Storm

What are you actually doing?” That is not a question that a management group likes to hear. But it is the question that the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) Director General Marianne Thyrring and Deputy Director General Anne Højer Simonsen have faced with from their stakeholders on several occasions. Besides the daily weather forecasts, most people simply do not know what DMI does. One of the things DMI does is store data that extends far beyond the five-day forecasts and gale warnings. “And these data are worth gold,” says Ms Thyrring.

Danish Meteorological Institute

In 2016, Ms Thyrring and Ms Simonsen spotted the great potential offered by the enormous amount of raw data in the weather area, especially in the hands of DMI, a recognized authority with expert knowledge. Therefore, they set out to transform the Institute. “Citizens and companies do not just suddenly think ‘perhaps DMI could provide something within this area?’ Few people do, because they do not know what we are capable off. Our task was to re-define how society sees and makes the most of DMI,” related Ms Thyrring.

DMI will gain new and greater importance by making its data publicly available to citizens. The Institute plans to work with other public organizations to create new supply chains with its raw data. Third parties could further process such data to develop new services for the growing number of stakeholders who could benefit from weather data. Many sectors could benefit, most notably the utility and agricultural sectors.  Deloitte estimated 2016 that meteorological data could result in realizations of an additional DKK135 million (US$ 20.55 millions) a year for the Danish agriculture sector.


DMI and data

DMI was established in 1872 and is under the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate: It has an annual turnover of about DKK300 million (US$45.67 million). It is in charge of the meteorological operations within Denmark and Greenland. This includes forecast and warning service as well as observation of weather, climate and ocean conditions. DMI is the core authority tasked with, for example, warning and aviation services. This will remain an essential part of its future mandate. Its commercial services consists of providing data and counselling for the private sector and for other government authorities, such as the Danish Road Directorate and the Danish State Railways (DSB). 

As a founding Member of the WMO, Denmark’s data policy aligns with the WMO principle for free and unrestricted exchange of meteorological data between national meteorological services, thus contributing to a global public good. A completely free and open data access will require that DMI place additional focus on the quality of its data and quality management systems. DMI identified three important steps to implementing its new data policy: 

  • Public access to data- A shift was required to make weather and climate data publicly available for the benefit of, for example, business, municipalities and emergency services. The process will start this year with raw data, then processed data in 2021 and 2022.
  • Observation stations- DMI will invest more in its network of observation stations, which cover Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
  • Climate atlas- DMI data will be used to create a sort of “climate crystal ball” for municipalities to use to plan, amongst others, construction and infrastructure projects. The atlas will present a vast array of data, for example, precipitation extremes in a location, with data on type (rain, snow, hail, etc.), frequency and amounts.

Strategic approach

Ms Thyrring and Ms Simonsen saw a great business case, so they did something that DMI had never done before. They made the strategic decision to develop DMI’s new authoritative role as publicly as possible. They presented the idea directly to the stakeholders who would benefit most from the change in DMI's approach: the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, energy, transport and infrastructure companies and many more. The dialogue continues with these new partners.

DMI offered stakeholders the opportunity to get access to all its data – data that could be used to support their work to a much higher degree than it does currently. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive. And Ms Thyrring and Ms Simonsen knew they were on the right path.


More data in public domain

DMI is following a trend in Denmark where more and more government agencies are making data publicly available. Deloitte Director Stine Degnegaard observed from the extensive study of Denmark’s business models, “We see quite a few government agencies establishing open access to data right now, and this makes it possible to combine data in entirely new ways. Suddenly, it becomes possible to see patterns that were not visible before. There are many opportunities. We can predict events to a higher degree and thus prevent diseases and other things from occurring. This creates enormous societal value.”

About DMI she observed that “They have started a transformation, and their business model is about creating as much value as possible for the Danish society and about contributing as much as possible. Therefore, DMI will have a much more extrovert role in the future.” DMI is preparing for this completely new role in society.

In order to ensure this "spring cleaning" – or transformation process – Ms Thyrring and Ms Simonsen first needed political support. They reached out to the Danish Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate, Lars Christian Lilleholt, in the summer of 2016. He could see the potential. This led to an agreement on the public release of data, which entails a budget grant from the Danish government in order for DMI to make weather and climate data available to everyone. The initiative has turned DMI into a national showcase for potential benefits of publicly opening access data.

Three generations of business models

The research Deloitte Director Stine Degnegaard identified three types of business models that have changed over time.

  • Product-oriented – The traditional business model is focused on the product and its optimization.
  • Service-oriented– This model focuses on the customer experience. It requires a more extrovert approach, including interviews and focus groups to ensure a good customer experience. It has become increasing popular over the last 20 years.
  • Society-oriented – Today, this third-generation business model is flourishing. The focus is addressing societal challenges as a company. This is the journey that DMI has started.

Focus on the large societal groups

DMI will no longer provide specialized datasets to small customers under the new model. Currently, for example, 60 district heating plants each receive their own unique data set, in the future the volume will be much bigger and the focus will be on the raw material and big data instead of customized solutions. “Until now, the company has both delivered weather forecasts and sold data packages to different customers. This has given rise to more problems than benefits. DMI will continue to deliver commercial services but to a lesser extent,” explains Ms Thyrring. 

In the future, DMI may offer one complete package with data to district heating plants, farmers and other customer groups. It would be up to the customer to mine the data that are relevant to their specific business. This will open opportunities for other players, including private meteorological companies, to provide highly localized and innovative services to individual customers. In this way, DMI will promote the WMO policy for enhanced public-private engagement in serving a huge number of diverse businesses and society.

The transformation process includes considerations of how raw data should be distributed, of the required data quality, as well as how research and customer service will be affected at DMI. The transformation is well under way, but definitely not finished – the actual implementation lies ahead. New services have to be integrated while others should be either discontinued or be carried over. 

DMI’s new role also requires a lot of work internally. “It is a process that has just begun,” states Ms Simonsen. “We all need to adjust to a new mind-set. This is actually the most difficult and most important part. Once we get to where our mind-set reflects the new strategy, we will succeed.”


Leadership driven change 

Marianne Thyrring is the Permanent Representative of Denmark with WMO and the current Director General of the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI). A trained political scientist, she has over 20-years experience in environment and climate policy and impressive leadership credentials. She was the Deputy Head of Cabinet for the Danish Commissioner for Environment at the European Commission and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment.

What matters to Ms Thyrring is “feeling the thrill of taking responsibility and driving change as a product of good leadership.” Thus, it comes as no surprise that it was thee high level of complexity, the relevance of its services and the need for new strategies and organizational models that attracted her to take on the role of DMI Director General. In this capacity, she considers her major achievements to be in the area of research and development, free data policy, modern technology and high-performance computing, all with the ultimate goal of providing Danish citizens with relevant and reliable information on weather and climate issues.

We equip you for the weather of the future and a mission: 24 hours a day DMI contributes to the security and growth of the Danish Realm through research-based advisory, knowledge and data about weather, climate and ocean; that entirely rests on the core tasks of a National Met Service. 
– DMI Vision Statement

Anne Højer Simonsen came to DMI following a 20-year career in climate and energy policy. Over the last 17 years, she had held various management positions, and was deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry for Climate, Energy and Building before her engagement at DMI. When Ms Thyrring brought her in, she was aware of challenges ahead. DMI was standing on a volatile economic platform with limited time to rectify the situation. As a trained economist, Ms Simonsen brought an outside-in approach that helped to map the possible road ahead and a perspective that is more inclusive of stakeholders.

Although comprehensive, DMI’s transformation has only just begun. During summer of 2018, Ms Thyrring and Ms Simonsen initiated the development of an updated strategic platform as the basis for further development of DMI. The work was centred around two strategic working groups with participation from leaders and employees alike. DMI Strategy 2019-2023, launched in January 2019, offers a platform for focus and dialogue on the way forward for: 

  • Data as a foundation and growth engine
  • Weather authority and scientific advice on climate to the Danish Realm
  • A dynamic DMI

The point of departure is having the courage to lead the way and establish common solutions both nationally and internationally, in order to apply our knowledge in collaboration with others and for our resources to be used in the most efficient way. This will require that DMI look towards new areas and develop an active dialogue with its stakeholders.

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