Director of FIR, RWTH Aachen University
Question: People are often amazed at how quickly startups develop. When you compare their processes and structures to those of traditional enterprises, the latter often stack up badly. What innovative techniques used by the startup community should conventional small and medium-sized enterprises adopt into their repertoire?
The first question is how disruptively you want to proceed and whether you can accomplish that fully within the framework of your own organization. Often, in fact, this can only succeed by breaking things up into independent units which can then start out with a blank sheet, as we did at e.GO. Our goal is also to test our disruptive concepts in the field and then go forward as swiftly and simply as possible – which requires courage in committing to the essential elements during each phase. We process our product validation themes while simultaneously using partial prototypes so we can learn more quickly and then implement our conclusions immediately in subsequent phases. That is why we are committed to agile product development, analogous to the well-known SCRUM method employed in software development.
Question: It is often claimed that digitalization is less a question of IT, but rather one of attitude. What are the biggest hurdles to implementing digital innovation in traditional enterprises?
The key question is how to go about it. When we started e.GO, we relied on state-of-the-art IT tools which are also going to represent the digital foundation of our Industry 4.0 mass production factory. We have achieved a great deal in just a short period of time with very modest means, because we are sticking to existing standards without any distortions. What is decisive is the quality of data, which we continuously, operatively maintain with our staff members. Large-scale IT projects of the old school are no longer relevant for us, because we refine products, organization, staff members as well as processes and systems simultaneously. What helps us here is the new, leaner opportunities that allow us to use apps to quickly create new connections and forms of representation.
Question: What role does IT still play in companies today? How can the head of IT positively influence an organization’s innovativeness?
Every employee needs to have digital skills in order to take advantage of the existing technologies. We never pay any attention to traditional department silos with individually optimized system islands. At e.GO, our IT concentrates on holistic perspectives which are devoted to continually improving the ideal jumping off points and levers for scaling digital processes in our growing organization, as well as to the efficient inclusion of our partners, and above all, improving our common digital performance level. Naturally we also use an architecture target photo which embodies our standards of transformational agility and connectivity. Silos and sequences are not what we are about.