What does an Innovation Coach actually do?
In the age of digitization, innovation processes are completely different from what traditional companies are used to. How an innovation coach can contribute to the success of digitization projects is demonstrated by the hub member BEULCO from South Westphalia, one of the many Hidden Champions in this region. Tradition and agility do not contrast here.
Digitization opens up many options for action, especially for medium-sized companies. Many are aware of the opportunities – such as the family company BEULCO based in Attendorn, which is one of Europe’s top suppliers of high-quality products for water supply and has recently become a member of the Digital.Hub Logistics. BEULCO knows how important digitization is for the company and how it will fundamentally change products, business models and, last but not least, leadership. The “Beulco 2025” strategy, adopted about two years ago, includes a cross-divisional approach to digitization. As part of the Digital in NRW – Competence for SMEs initiative, the company has already successfully completed an implementation project for digitizing its intralogistics processes using camera-based container fill-level measurement and developing a concept for the use of a driverless transport vehicle. Now BEULCO is starting a digital product offensive in cooperation with the Digital.Hub Logistics: A few months ago, the company moved into the HUB with a team, where it is supported by an Innovation Coach – one of the HUB’s key services.
What does the customer want?
The Hub’s Innovation Coaches see themselves as providers of ideas and sparring partners in controlling the innovation process. He or she is not a technical expert, even though the coach is intensively involved in the respective topic or problem. The main task, however, is to support and inspire the process with expertise. With the knowledge of current innovation developments and methods, the coach can advise the company on the use of digital technologies and agile methods. In meetings, the coach does not wear the corporate glasses, but argues from the customer’s point of view and delivers neutral assessments.
This is important because innovation nowadays is getting faster and innovation cycles are getting shorter. The waterfall model of the past, in which one process phase follows the next in sequence, has become outdated. It has become too rigid. The success of start-ups shows that many processes have to run simultaneously, that small teams are faster, that early feedback with the customer saves time. In the last point in particular, SMEs have a big advantage over start-ups because they already have access to the market and the customer.
Learn fast, make less mistakes
The cooperation with BEULCO is a perfect example of how an Innovation Coach can support a company on the journey to digital transformation. The company strongly involves the Innovation Coach in the process and is in regular contact with him. For the traditional company, the combination and the interaction of agility and digitalization are already closely linked. Agile innovation processes often appear chaotic and unstructured from the outside. In fact, they are strictly planned. Because you want to learn quickly and minimize mistakes, you proceed step-by-step and detailed.
BEULCO works intensively on the product: a system for digitizing the domestic water connection. The company’s so-called iQ water system addresses the current and future challenges of water supply and enables transparency of the water network. They want to finalize the product in the HUB and start the test phase soon. The product and the corresponding platform will then be further developed step by step. Against this background, the Innovation Coach of the Digital.Hub first recommended a workshop on “Minimum Viable Products” (MVP). True to the motto KISS (Keep It Short & Simple or Keep It Stupid & Simple), the aim is always to develop, test and complete a first version of the product as quickly as possible – a product that has not yet been developed down to the last detail. IT security is also a very important issue for BEULCO’s project. The Innovation Coach is already looking for suitable partners from the HUB’s innovation ecosystem for corresponding tests, who offer cultural added value beyond product development. For example, a cooperation with a start-up is considered.
Co-Working at its best
Officially, the Innovation Coaches are available to HUB members for eight hours a month. But the commitment often goes beyond that. Since an Innovation Coach consults several companies and has many different strategic and operational tasks, the coach can connect them within the network. Once again, this results in true co-working in the HUB.