Dare to have lean project structures – build on your team

** Dear reader, this is an automated translation of the German blog post for your convenience. Please switch language to German to see the original contents. **
One of the strengths of established companies is that experience and knowledge gathered over the years have been poured into processes and Group-wide guidelines clarify many issues without the need for separate decisions. This ensures efficiency and uniform quality in the processes. It is precisely this supposed strength, however, that often changes into a obstacle for digitization projects.

In the case of these projects, the nature of the case is that the target state can not be completely defined in advance. (This was also the case with many previous projects for the automation case, if one allows an honest consideration.) Nevertheless, still today many projects are managed according to classic waterfall models.

The supposedly safe feeling

Although the classic waterfall method has not given many companies a good success in the implementation of projects in the past, they seem to give the participants a structure and a secure feeling. Finally, a plan can be drawn up, which lists all processes up to the finished project result and gives the project workers a guideline which is to be done in the near future. Thus, deadlines are foreseeable and in the ideal case also the required budget is transparent. At the very least, this is the illusion, which one is only willing to give.

The good feeling is supported by extensive project methods, which have been developed over the years and often provide a rigid framework for projects. There are process definitions, tools, templates and predefined stage gates, which should regulate the daily business in the project. These projects also take place in a corporate environment, which is governed by directives which have become complex through the years of experience. With these tight conditions, many established companies are trying to minimize the internal centrifugal forces and to ensure that all employees comply with the corporate orientation.

And now comes a digitization project

In hardly a larger project, the entire complexity can be viewed in advance and planned with the accuracy desired by the management. This is especially true for digitalization projects. With the help of agile approaches nowadays attempts are being made to take account of this and to lead projects iteratively to the goal. In each individual iteration, the knowledge gained in the previous iteration can be constructed. The subject is gradually opened up, and difficulties become more apparent, as it becomes clear within the short iterations whether or not they are solved.

However, since, for the reasons already mentioned, a classical waterfall model (without hybrid constructions) is often used, it is all the more important to maintain a certain flexibility in the sequences. No process, however well defined, will cover all possible scenarios, so that improvisation is inevitably necessary. In such situations, we often have a reputation for more structure and more process in order to manage the chaotic project.

The team decides

However, this should be done with an eye. In our experience, something else is of decisive importance in such an environment: the personal coordination of project staff among themselves. The personal (face to face) collaboration of teams and team members affected by a problem is THE key to success. It is not without reason that modern enterprises create flexible workspaces, which allow a situational collaboration of employees of different teams. And the more direct communication is, the better. Avoid trying to solve problems by mail ping pong. Encourage your employees to talk to each other personally.

In the case of locally distributed teams, select the best possible communication type that can be made available. If, for example, a trip to a common location is not possible, a video conference should be given preference over a pure telephone call or the exchange via e-mail.

You will experience it: If the employees in the project communicate well, many problems are easier to solve. However, this does not mean countless meetings, but the situational meeting in order to solve defined problems. However, it is also necessary for the employees to be given the corresponding responsibility and the trust that they can solve the task. Furthermore, it should be encouraged (and encouraged) to actively approach colleagues. Otherwise there is a risk that the employees will retreat to the defined process and find reasons why someone else is responsible for the next step…

Recommendations for the project management method

  1. If you do not want to (or can not) change to agile methods at the same time, check which flexibility allows the existing project method. Assume that, to the best of your knowledge, you are not able to plan everything in advance, and you are deliberately planning checkpoints, in which you can consciously review and adjust the existing planning. Be sure to be honest with yourself. Shifting problems into later phases brings the anger later, but you have less possibilities to react.
  2. Check what you can remove from your project methods. Do not always add rules. (“Perfection is not achieved when nothing can be added, but nothing can be left out,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. Set the focus on open and direct communication. Your process will never cover all eventualities. But especially in unforeseen situations, people can find creative solutions through direct exchange. And if this is still difficult at first, a moderator or facilitator can help.

IoT World 2017 - StartupCity

Current topics in the Internet of Things – IoT World 2017

** Dear reader, this is an automated translation of the German blog post for your convenience. Please switch language to German to see the original contents. **

 

In May 2017, I had the opportunity to visit the IoT World 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. This event, with its more than 250 exhibitors and start-ups in the IoT area, provided a good overview of the state of affairs in the Internet of Things. I got a very good impression of the core topics that are currently being developed and the interesting new approaches of start-ups.

From sensors to complete solutions

The range of topics in the field of IoT is enormous. It starts with pure technology, such as highly specialized sensors, goes through platforms for the integration and processing of the data supplied by the “things” and ends with complete solutions, such as in the field of “Smart Agriculture”, where the complete system consists of sensors Different kinds of data, data processing and decision support.

Sensors

On the hard-ware side, more precise sensors as well as smaller-sized sensors are provided. These allow ever-new applications which have not yet been implemented, for example due to technical limitations or cost reasons. A German example for the use of cheap sensors is the Citizen Science project luftdaten.info. With the help of many volunteers who build IoT devices with a fine dust sensor and provide their data a Germany-wide live map of the fine dust load is created.

Platforms

In companies as well, the combination of sensor data and other data from production, logistics and other units is the key to generating values. It is only the collection and linking of relevant data from a wide range of systems that allows the right decisions to be successfully managed by the company. A number of vendors at IoT World also offered platforms for integrating the IoT data with the other data in the company.

From my point of view, the smaller ones among the represented providers are likely to have the necessary interfaces available to the necessary extent. Likewise, some hardware providers dare to go into this terrain, but often only deliver very technically oriented solutions. An interesting provider could be striim.com, which offers an end-to-end approach, which processes information as early as possible in the data stream. In general, however, a platform that is “as good as possible” should be selected as a result of the individual requirements of each company. Frequently, the established large providers (for example, SAP) will be the first choice to integrate well with existing technologies.

Solutions

The major topics of digitalization were, of course, also represented at the IoT World: Smart City, Smart Building, Smart Home, Smart Agriculture, Connected & Autonomous Vehicles, and Artificial Intelligence as a cross-section were omnipresent. In agriculture, complex solutions are already in use that relate computer-controlled agricultural machines, field sensors, satellite and drones, weather data and data on plants and other inputs in order to achieve optimal harvest results. Here Industry 4.0 with the use of IoT is already very advanced. In this area, we were also able to support BASF Crop Protection, which developed an application for the integration and evaluation of the above data, to show farmers both the cultivation and marketing of their products.

In many areas, artificial intelligence plays an increasingly important role. For example, special speech recognition techniques are developed which are designed to automate the interaction with vehicles and make the driver even more simple and smooth. In the recognition of patterns in sensor data, AIIs are also increasingly used.

Conclusion

The theme of IoT is on the move and there are more and more concrete implementations and clear visions. For the German companies this means that the respective possibilities of the new technologies must be evaluated immediately. New business opportunities are emerging and those who are the first to take them can achieve high profits or take a leading role in existing markets. If you have any questions about the possibilities of your company, please contact us.

 

Digitalisierung

Three reasons why established companies have difficulties with digitalization

** Dear reader, this is an automated translation of the German blog post for your convenience. Please switch language to German to see the original contents. **

They are successful in their business, often even market leaders. However, this is no guarantee for established companies to continue to occupy a leading position in the market. On the contrary, many of the mechanisms that have been intro- duced for years are more opposed to successful digitization.

1. Trapped in the hamster wheel of productivity

Many companies are so successful at the moment, because they have continuously increased their productivity over the years. Digitization is often seen as a further possibility for increasing efficiency. In this sense it is only used as a further increasing use of IT to increase efficiency.

However, this leaves the greatest potential unused. The real chances of digitization are to try new things. Eliminate old pranks, fundamentally question internal processes, and implement completely new business models offers the opportunity to continue to gain relevance in the future and to add further successes to the successes to date. Resting on what has been achieved can become a problem in the longer term if the competition moves past the company at high speed.


2. Lack of courage to decide

An elementary element of digitization is the high speed of the implementation of ideas. Nowadays, it is clear that the big ones do not necessarily eat the little ones, but the fast ones the slow. Accordingly, many companies are trying to speed up their implementation projects. For example, agile methods are applied or, in the simplest case, the timetables for ongoing initiatives are streamlined.

What is often left out is to adjust the speed of the decisions to these processes. For instance, managers often require additional information in lengthy loops to ensure absolute security for their decision. This one-hundred percent security is generally not available, which means that the decision-making process takes a long time. This results in an unclear direction or often missing resources, which makes the actual goal more difficult to achieve.

We therefore advise clear decisions – even under uncertainty. Here, entrepreneurial thinking is required, whereby the management also has to take controlled risks.


3. A technically oriented IT

For many years, it has been proclaimed that IT, as a partner to the business, is to drive the development of the company on equal terms. IT is often underestimated by the business and not taken seriously in its role. On the other hand, many IT departments or internal IT service providers often still think too technically. Projects are then seen as success if the technical components have been delivered as agreed.

However, what is often missing is the business view of IT on a comprehensive solution. This is why many departments are turning away from their IT and are talking directly to providers of cloud software. These promise the desired performance, without messing with technical details. This is certainly also problematic when one considers the larger context of a company’s IT. But in order to gain the trust of the department, IT departments must learn to assume a holistic responsibility for problem solving.

Thus the business should be actively managed through digitization projects. Topics such as master data should be addressed at an early stage, and experienced colleagues should give active help, rather than relying solely on agreements in terms of duties or duties. (Due to the novelty of the topics and the continuous learning effects during the implementation a complete pre-definition of the target state is not possible in digitization projects.)

Modern technology is the key to digitization, which the companies really want, are the new possibilities created by it. This is to be realized.

Food for thought about digitization