With the Academy, Julia Koop from ERGO's Digital Factory has established a format for sustainable, cross-divisional networking and knowledge transfer. The Academy involves employees who have valuable knowledge for the company's ability to innovate. In the “WerkWandel” magazine, she provides tips for successful knowledge management.
This article was originally published in German in the magazine WerkWandel 03/2023.
The Digital Factory as a driver of digital and agile transformation at ERGO Group AG
The general consent is that networks are becoming increasingly important in companies. However, knowledge that is valuable for the ability to innovate is often also held by employees who are less interested in networking. These employees can be reached through content. Julia Koop from ERGO's Digital Factory has utilised precisely this and established a format for sustainable, cross-divisional networking and knowledge transfer with the Digital Factory Academy. This is a practical example with a description of the success factors.
The insurance company ERGO Group AG founded the Digital Factory in 2018 as a driver of digital and agile transformation. The Digital Factory serves as an incubator and enabler for working methods and supports the design and implementation of digital services and products with cross-functional teams. What is special about the Digital Factory's approach is its structure: On the one hand, cross-functional skills have been brought together centrally in the Digital Factory - for example, IT and business architects, UX designers (UX stands for user experience), design thinking moderators, release train engineers, etc. On the other hand, responsibility for the content of the digital results to be realised remains with the specialist department that brings the problems to be solved to the factory. This model leads to a strong expansion of cross-departmental collaboration.
When it comes to "innovation", many people think of the big changes. However, innovations are rarely complete novelties (= "radical innovation") that divide time into a "before" and an "after". The majority of innovations are the result of a new combination of familiar elements, i.e. existing products or services.
The question now is how companies can systematically create a culture for such innovations. After all, the knowledge is already available in most companies, but the experts are generally not (well) networked. Every employee is an expert, not only in their specialist subject, but also in how this works in the context of the organisation. If an organisation manages to network the knowledge of its employees in a meaningful way, valuable combinations of known elements can be created.
But where should you start? There are already individual employees in organisations who are very well networked both internally and externally. They no longer need any encouragement and are constantly bringing new ideas and perspectives into the organisation through their lively exchanges. Most knowledge workers would also agree that networking is important in a professional context. But for the majority of them, it keeps slipping down the list of priorities. Organisations need to create sustainable incentives for them to actively network and thus exchange knowledge that can flow into the development of innovations. The Digital Factory Academy was created to achieve this.
The format initially started small with a dialogue between two people. The idea of sharing knowledge not just with one colleague in a dialogue, but with several interested parties, quickly grew into a Group-wide format to which practically everyone from the insurance group is now invited, although the content of the format is primarily aimed at product owners, developers, architects, technical experts and all those who (want to) drive digital solutions within the Group.
Within just a few years, the initial approach has developed into a lively and stable community in which a topic is presented by an expert in 20 minutes every week - followed by a discussion round lasting another 20 minutes. The Digital Factory Academy has become a permanent place within the Group where colleagues can meet and gather knowledge and content-related points of contact. Over time, eleven factors have been recognised that can help to make such knowledge transfers sustainable. Many of them are based on the agile working world.
11 success factors of the Digital Factory Academy community
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