The Future? We’re already shaping it!
In 2017, the TÜV NORD GROUP launched a Group-wide programme: the Digital Academy is training Digital Experts to accelerate the pace of innovations and guide our employees through the digital age. What have they achieved in 2018? What’s going to come? And what does it actually take to respond to the digital transformation?
For the employees of the TÜV NORD GROUP, there’s nothing new about having an affinity with technology, following the latest technology trends and searching for innovative solutions. More than this: It’s in their DNA. Other companies can only dream of having such foundations. And yet, the new forms of digitalisation demand far more of everyone. They require not only the exploitation of existing digital potential but also radical thinking outside the box and extraordinary ideas. Which is why the TÜV NORD GROUP decided to set up a special training programme in the Group: the Digital Academy. The first twelve members of staff graduated from the programme as “Digital Experts” back in 2017. All the levels in the hierarchy were represented, from experienced team leaders to young university graduates. And they were deliberately recruited from all the business units. After all, the weighty task which falls to every Digital Expert is to return to their original work field to share the knowledge they’ve acquired with their team. And this is exactly what the first generation of Digital Experts did with aplomb in 2018. Not only did they draw attention to digitalisation as an issue and help generate a mood of optimism, they also developed eight specific product and process ideas, which they went on to master and, in some cases, fully implemented. In other words, the programme is bearing its first valuable fruit.
News from the Digital Academy 2018
Dr Dietmar C. Schlößer, who has been at the helm of the central TÜV NORD GROUP division for digitalisation / innovation since mid-2018, is accelerating the process of digitalisation at all levels and enjoys meeting dedicated and skilled employees: “The aim is to drive change from the inside out. We don’t just want to rely on external strengths: we want to use the ones we have – our highly motivated employees.”
In 2018, a second generation of Digital Experts completed the Digital Academy training programme. Two improvements have further added to the momentum this year. For one thing, the duration of the training was reduced to six weeks so as to avoid taking the participants out of their day-to-day business for too long. On the other hand, the programme was more international this time, with one colleague each from India and Greece. “We’re extremely pleased that the Digital Academy is strengthening its international footprint. This is a major opportunity for personal development for the participants, and we all benefit from ideas and completely new perspectives,” says Dr Schlößer.
“We aren’t looking just to react to the wave of digitalisation. We want to trigger such digitalisation waves ourselves.”
DR DIETMAR C. SCHLÖSSER, DIRECTOR OF THE DIGITALISATION / INNOVATION CENTRAL DIVISION
More reach, more network, more movement
What can 25 Digital Experts actually do, given the fact that there are over 10,000 employees in the TÜV NORD GROUP? Christoph Klötzer, one of the Digital Experts, puts it in a nutshell: “It’s all about playing a guiding and networking role in the company. The important thing is not just to think within the constraints of your own little world but also to take with you the valuable experience from other projects, to team up with others to think about questions and to see how people can support one another.” The Digital Experts are now in the process of forming a strong network that will drive the change from within the company. But the size of the Group requires the Digital Academy to increase its reach. Which is why it is going to open up more fully in the future and come that little bit closer to all the employees in the TÜV NORD GROUP. For instance, individual modules from the training programme, such as Design Thinking, will be offered as workshops. Moreover, every employee will have the chance to get actively involved in networking for themselves. This opportunity will be made available to everyone via the Yammer social media tool, which makes it possible for people all over the Group to dialogue about ongoing projects. It’s a matter of pooling expertise and empowering people to work together more intensively and benefit from one another’s experience. This should consign to history those situations in which one employee doesn’t know that another colleague next door or at a TÜV site in India is working on the same project. Yammer can make the vast pool of expertise of all the employees more visible.
The decisive role will of course continue to be played by the management teams. After all, it is they who are responsible for preparing the space in which the digital transformation can unfold. How can we create a working environment for all employees in which radical ideas can arise? How we offer spaces where creative thinking is possible? 250 executives from across the TÜV NORD world are meeting regularly to answer such questions and create a common basis to move forward. To name one example, a Digital Academy event was held in a former colliery, the Zeche Zollverein, in Essen in September 2018. Many of the participants agreed on one thing: fundamentally, the digital transformation doesn’t just concern technical knowledge but also the manner in which people work together. It’s incumbent on the management not just to allow these profound changes to take place but also to put more energy into supporting them. The process is already under way and will not end with the next meeting, the Digital Leadership Convention – instead, it will continue way into the future.
Networking for innovations: international teams representing all fields in the TÜV NORD GROUP have been exhorted to identify the opportunities presented by digitalisation and develop new business models. The success of the Digital Academy can be attributed to its blend of experienced and new employees; the training of Digital Experts is its raison d’etre.
Output counts / rethinking security
The Digital Academy hasn’t of course evolved into its current form just for its own internal purposes. The intention behind it is not merely to offer guidance to the staff and to hone their awareness of the digital transformation: the result should be specific innovations. What counts is to develop relevant products and business models precisely geared to the external customers of the TÜV NORD GROUP. After all, 150 years after putting down its first slender roots, this globally active Group is now faced with the challenge of taking an active part in shaping the digital transformation – for this is the only way to remain relevant and secure customer demand for the next 150 years. The opportunities offered by digitalisation are huge. After all, even if the nature of products should fundamentally change, the task of the TÜV NORD GROUP will remain the same: to make the world safer. Product and plant safety is increasingly being linked to IT security and data protection – and that from the development phase onward.
The Digital Academy: a business model of its own
The activities of the Digital Academy are also generating a lot of awareness outside the TÜV NORD GROUP. Since the summer of 2018, there has been an increasing number of external requests to open the training programme up to other companies. For this reason, a number of measures have already been taken to establish the Digital Academy on the market as a stand-alone training provider as early as 2019. Demand is high, both in SMEs and from official bodies. What distinguishes the TÜV NORD GROUP from many other corporate groups is the approach by which the digital transformation is being driven from within – with the help of every member of staff. A lot of companies are trying to outsource digitalisation with the aid of outside advisors or by setting up new enterprises. But what can a cool new outfit with a new special department actually do when, at the end of the day, the key question – can I take the knowledge I’ve acquired back to my own company? – remains unanswered. The concept of the Digital Academy, on the other hand, is not to set up isolated digital islands but instead to bring awareness of the matter to the very heart of the enterprise. The concept of “taking the future into our own hands” is a sustainable one that is close to the hearts of the people whose job it is to implement it. And this is making the Digital Academy highly attractive to other companies as well.