Digital Acceleration Centres what are they

Digital Acceleration Centres – what are they?

The launch of Wärtsilä’s Digital Acceleration Centre stands testimony to the fact that the digitalised era is influencing the way customer value is delivered. But will these centres speed up the discovery of new digital revenue streams, as well? We find out.

Text: Isabelle Kliger Photo: Katariina Salmi

The world is becoming more and more digitalised. To keep pace with the changing environment, companies have been focusing on digital services alongside traditional offerings. But it is now time to take it to the next level.

Wärtsilä’s official launch of its first of four Digital Acceleration Centres (DAC) in Helsinki, Finland, this October, signals a move in the right direction. “As a digital services provider, our purpose is to enable sustainable societies through smart technology,” says Janne Lautanala, General Manager for the Digital Foundry, which includes the DACs.

But what will DACs do?

“The DACs will focus on experience, agility and pace, and prioritise solutions that deliver value to customers, quickly, and according to their needs,” explains Lautanala. 

In short, the centres will act as an incubator and accelerator for new digital ideas.

When new ideas are brought to the DACs, they will be rapidly crystallised and developed, and then assessed and validated with customers and end-users over a three-week period. The results will then be presented to a group of stakeholders – part of Wärtsilä’s Shark Tank team. It is up to the “sharks” to decide if they will invest in developing it.

“The idea is based on the TV programme ‘Shark Tank’ or ‘Dragon’s Den’, and like the show, we reject ideas, early on. However, when the sharks see value in an idea and decide to invest, it moves to the next phase where it’s transformed into a market-ready prototype,” Lautanala explains.

In the subsequent transformation phase, the idea will be taken through a series of agile development sprints, which result in a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP is typically the first version of a solution, a pilot. Every three months, progress on the project is presented to the Shark Tank, and an additional funding decision is made. Only the MVPs that show growth potential after the transformation phase will reach the fourth and final growth phase where they become marketable products and solutions.

Digital Acceleration Centres what are they2
From left to right: Janne Lautanala, General Manager
for the Digital Foundry, Riku-Pekka Hägg, Business
Owner of the Intelligent Vessel Strategy and Ilkka
Rytkölä, the Project Owner for the Intelligent Vessel

Ways of working

The way of working in the DACs is based on Agile methodologies. They include new ways of prioritising initiatives, by striking the right balance between business and customer value, urgency and complexity; using creative problem-solving processes and methodologies to learn and fail fast based on customer insights, data and rapid prototyping, and continuous improvements.

Lautanala explains that one of the key features of the DAC is its customer-centricity.

“We invite customers and other stakeholders into selected DAC projects, in order to involve them more tightly in the development of our services. We do this to ensure that we’re focusing on the things that really matter to our customers,” he says.

One DAC project that will result in extensive customer involvement is the Intelligent Vessel Project, which completed a six-week sprint in the Helsinki DAC last summer.

The purpose of the sprint was to gather all the resources in Wärtsilä that are involved in intelligent vessels and formulate a vision statement and strategy targeting one clear outcome: to develop the intelligent vessel of the future.

“Ships are getting smarter and will eventually operate autonomously,” says Riku-Pekka Hägg, Business Owner of the Intelligent Vessel Strategy. “However, Wärtsilä’s role is as a technology provider – so we will do what is needed to move in that direction, but ultimately it’s up to our customers to decide if it’s what they want.”

In six weeks, 106 different concepts were developed and will now go through evaluation and testing. In addition, a customer test was carried out in collaboration with GulfMark Offshore, in which a vessel operating off the coast of Scotland was remotely controlled from San Diego, USA.

“This proved to us and our customer that we have the right technology to support remote or autonomous operations,” adds Hägg.

Ilkka Rytkölä is the Project Owner for the Intelligent Vessel Project. He confirms that working in the DAC was dynamic, fun and challenging, adding that the focus on customer co-creation will enhance the quality of DAC projects.

“In the DAC, we’re very focused on usability and designing products that make life easier for the end user,” says Rytkölä. “What’s unique about these products is that they’re based on concrete customer needs. Moreover, with shorter time-to-market and customer testing and validation built into the development process, the resulting products are very current and highly relevant when they’re introduced.”

Given the benefits of DACs, the centres are set to multiply, going forward. While the second DAC is scheduled to open in Singapore later this year, more centres are planned for Europe, Asia and North America, going forward.

Digital Acceleration Centres what are they3
The Digital Acceleration Centres will act as an incubator
and accelerator for new digital ideas.

DAC dictionary

Agile – Initially rolled out in the software segment, Agile describes a set of development principles under which requirements and solutions evolve through collaborative, self-organising cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid, flexible response to change.

DAC (Digital Acceleration Centre) – A new environment within Wärtsilä that acts as an incubator. A new idea is rapidly assessed for its potential, after which selected ideas are “incubated” through weekly sprints to produce a rapid-prototype or mock-up that is validated with a customer. 

Ideate – First phase of DAC process where ideas are gathered.

Incubate – Second phase of DAC process. Incubation is about concept creation and clarifying the vision.

Transform – Third phase of DAC process. When a project qualifies for the transformation phase it is time to make the solution a reality, usually in the form of a minimum viable product (MVP).

Growth – Fourth phase of the DAC process, where solutions are rolled out globally or accelerated if they are new business ideas.

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