Cybersecurity Digital Transformation

The Digital Factory: where agility and start-up mentality are the watchwords!

28 April 2017

The Digital Factory: where agility and start-up mentality are the watchwords!

Often to be found at the heart of the largest companies and organisations, the Digital Factory stands out thanks to its original way of working. Its innovative work organisation methods, including short decision cycles, less hierarchy and more autonomy for teams, stimulate creativity and reduce time to market. The start-up mentality abounds!

We all know that digital transformation does not work without major changes to working practices and management techniques. The Digital Factory is the ideal place to experience this new concept. This “agility factory” works like a start-up and interacts with the rest of the organisation, which often tends to have more traditional management. As a result, the shackles of convention must be shaken off and reinvention is required, often through a process of trial and error, in order to instil a dynamic of change and innovation able to lead the entire team forward.  

Creating a Digital Factory therefore requires rethinking the rules when it comes to management. It is important to put a carefully chosen organising team able to empower each member into the heart of this new workspace, where decisions must be taken quickly. A Digital Factory includes various people with different profiles: team members work on a shared project encompassing marketing, staff roles and IT management, with the focus always remaining on the end user. This means a particular dynamic and mindset are required for those involved, as are different management techniques. These are the main distinctive features.

A multi-skilled, multi-cultural team

The team is made up of people from the whole organisation and partners, and can even be distributed between sites and different organisations. One of the roles of the Digital Factory is to find these people in the organisation and integrate them into the team, whether for a new assignment or a role with a set length, in order to then share the practices and tools developed with the rest of the organisation.

One of the main requirements of a Digital Factory leader is therefore to be able to attract these talents, build a portfolio of complementary profiles and integrate them into the team.

An iconic location

In order to bring complementary profiles together, instil a creative mindset and break with convention, it is essential to create an iconic location with a strong identity and agile feel. When you enter a Digital Factory, you should feel you are somewhere new and different. This is key to attracting new talent often forced to choose between a welcoming start-up and a neutral, standardised service centre. A first step towards founding a dynamic with a shared philosophy, practices and design is involving members in its creation.

Co-design and collective intelligence

To carry out collaborative work, it is essential to break down organisational boundaries and allow each member to find their own space for expression. In any group, there are individuals who have plenty to say as well as those who cannot manage to make themselves heard. For each person to contribute their vision, it is useful to implement different approaches to the workshops which structure Factory life and its production cycles: co-design. Co-design involves co-developing products, services, uses, processes, etc. using a collaborative approach. The idea is to co-create in a playful way over a short, efficient period of time. Co-design draws on collective intelligence by encouraging creativity and different points of view to be expressed and openly discussed, while ensuring that effective solutions and decisions are suggested and taken. These collective experiences which are so rich in emotion strengthen participants’ engagement and are valued in their everyday tasks. Participants build, take ownership of and adapt their Digital Factory to best deal with the issues at stake and the expectations of the group.  

Lean start-up and short cycles

Another founding principle of the Digital Factory is quick building and experimentation thanks to short, iterative decision cycles. Time savings are needed and ideas must be tested quickly. This need for efficiency comes to fruition in lean start-ups. Experts (UX designers, developers, product owners, project catalogue managers, geeks, etc.) work directly with end users (staff, clients, suppliers, partners) to identify and confirm their needs and expectations.  All stakeholders are part of the Digital Factory. Experts are colleagues with experience in these new agile methods who are able to move quickly from one technology to the next. The Digital Factory isn’t somewhere to define a development platform for the next three years, but somewhere to provide lived experience, practices and tools known in the ecosystem in order to evolve quickly. It should reflect company identity and add its pioneering spirit into the mix.

Enjoyment and creativity

The talent of today cannot be managed in the same way as the developers of the 2000s. These people have to be given more freedom to express their high levels of creativity. A Factory has to bridge industry (be able to produce quickly and on a large scale) and the creative side of things (update, continuously enrich). To do so, it is necessary to create an atmosphere of trust, view failure as necessary for success, increase enjoyment at work and accept uncertainty. To increase enjoyment, some Digital Factories are inspired by the “hygge spirit”. This Scandinavian concept centres on a warm, welcoming environment and in this case means organising fun events and relaxing activities.

A new way of working

The Digital Factory offers a new, highly liberated way to organise work: processes are stripped back to their bare bones, hierarchies are flatter, information is more transparent and shared more widely, those with more experience are trained by juniors, “failures” are accepted and even valued… Staff autonomy is encouraged, as are taking responsibility and disagreeing with managers. Some may view these talents as having atypical profiles. But to engage them, people need to know how to listen to and guide them. The manager is a facilitator who serves the team. The change of managerial culture needed to operate in the Factory is based on confidence and excellent relationships. Manager version 3.0 liberates staff, while harnessing team energy to draw out efficient collective intelligence.

Adopting these new “cross-sector” management techniques allows staff, skills and resources to be taken out of their particular department and brought together. Who knows, it could also be an opportunity to create a transformative internal team and spread this new digital culture throughout the rest of the company…

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