Digital Acceleration Centre makes a splash

Digital Acceleration Centre makes a splash

Wärtsilä is increasingly developing digital services alongside its traditional products. This explains why it launched its first Digital Acceleration Centre. Find out how this will promote quicker, more efficient ways of working in the digitalised era.

Text: Isabelle Kliger Photo: Katariina Salmi

Wärtsilä’s first Digital Acceleration Centre (DAC) opened in Helsinki, Finland this October. While the second centre is due to open in Singapore later this year, more are planned for Europe, Asia, and North America, going forward.

Janne Lautanala is the General Manager for the Digital Foundry, which also includes the DACs. He says the centres provide a new, secure working environment within Wärtsilä, where employees will feel empowered to share new ideas.

“To compete in the digital services market, we have to work more like a digital services company,” he says. “The DACs will develop solutions that deliver value to customers quickly, and according to their needs.”

The way of working in the DAC is based on agile methodologies, the purpose of which is to speed up product development and ensure that the products reaching the market, fulfil customer needs. The ways of working centre around quick development phases, known as sprints, continuous improvements based on user feedback, and development work in close partnership with customers.

Everyone in Wärtsilä from an intern to the CEO can suggest new digital ideas via MyDea idea management tool. The most potential ideas are brought to the DACs where, they go through a series of phases, before they reach the market. During the first three weeks, the ideas are crystallised and developed further. The results are then presented to the Wärtsilä “Shark Tank” – a group of stakeholders who decide if they will invest in the idea.

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

The next phase is the transformation phase, where the idea is taken through a series of agile development sprints, which result in a so-called 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 the next funding decision is made. Only the MVPs that show growth potential after the transformation phase reach the fourth and final growth phase where they become marketable products and solutions.

   

Customer connection

Lautanala says one of the key features of the DAC is that it promotes close collaboration between Wärtsilä and its customers.

“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 things that really matter to our customers,” he says.

The DACs themselves will only employ a small number of people, but, as time goes by, more and more people from different parts of Wärtsilä will work on DAC projects. Lautanala hopes these people will take the lessons they learn and share them with the rest of the organisation.

“Although not everyone at Wärtsilä will notice change as a result of the DACs, it’s our goal to make everyone who takes part in a DAC project an ambassador for this way of working. We believe this will gradually result in a culture change, making Wärtsilä more agile as an organisation,” he says.

Ilkka Rytkölä was the Project Owner for the first project that was completed in the Helsinki DAC, the Intelligent Vessel Project. This six-week sprint project was designed to gather all the resources in Wärtsilä that are involved in intelligent vessels and formulate a strategy for developing the intelligent vessel of the future.

Rytkölä confirms that working in the DAC was dynamic, fun and challenging.

“Working in the DAC was totally different to what I was used to. Being able to access all the experts and stakeholders in one place and ask all the necessary questions, made the pace of working much faster. It was a fantastic, empowering experience for all the participants, as well as a great way of networking,” Rytkölä concludes.

  

The 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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