Line Clemmensen, Associate Professor, DTU Compute (Raketfilm)

Free continuing education: SMEs take a shortcut to digitalization

Tuesday 30 Aug 22

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Camilla Gudrun Poulsen
Senior Officer
DTU Compute
+45 31 26 75 86

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Sofie Rasmussen
Project Manager
DTU Compute
+45 44 80 50 93

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Marlene Williams Engmann
Project Assistant
DTU Compute
+45 22 88 33 22

KomDigital

  • Digital competencies must be strengthened in interaction with reality. This is the basic idea of the KomDigital partnership, which has been developed in collaboration with 18 of the most important representatives of the Danish Capital Region's companies, organizations, employees, and knowledge institutions.
  • In close cooperation with the region's companies and organizations, the partnership delivers a growth-oriented knowledge of digital competencies. These skills enhancements are tailored to the conditions and needs of working life so that employees, managers, companies, and organizations can grow in practice.

The course is free for SMEs and is paid for through grants from

  • The Danish Board of Business Development
  • The European Social Fund

KomDigital tailors programs where teams from small and medium-sized companies experiment with their own problems and learn new methods for working with innovation.

Perhaps you know it yourself: You have attended a course and worked with e.g. new methods for ideation, and you return home full of energy and impressions and just want to get started. But in daily work, you realize that it is difficult to translate the new knowledge into something you can use directly in your job. This is not the case with DTU Compute's continuing education program KomDigital, which works with innovative competence enhancement, e.g. through so-called 'action learning' for small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs.

The continuing education program is based on the individual SMEs' wishes to have more structure in the development of ideas within the digital transformation. The course is organized for a small group of employees, so that they learn a working method to create innovation, while at the same time solving a concrete problem/challenge for the company.

"This is about retention, where employees learn to apply the method in practice through concrete company-relevant action - in collaboration with colleagues. In this way, the method supports that research knowledge is translated into companies' own innovation work," says Camilla Gudrun Poulsen, senior officer and manager for digital competence development in DTU Compute's continuing education department.

Reflective group discussions

Until now, KomDigital has had around 300 employees from 40 SMEs through a continuing education course with action learning.

First, KomDigital examines in interaction with the individual company how far it is with digitization and then make a competency development plan so that there is agreement on what the strategic intention is.

Next, KomDigital and the company choose two or three relevant half-day workshops together with other SMEs, where the employees come out to DTU and meet our researchers to hear the latest news about specific topics, e.g. Machine Learning, AI, IoT and Blockchain. During the workshops, the companies will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with other companies regarding digital transformation and perhaps inspire each other.

Subsequently, KomDigital visits the individual company and talks to the team about which specific challenge they would like to work on and then takes as a starting point the thoughts that the employees have had in connection with and during the individual workshops.

“It is a form of reflective group discussions; a kind of coaching in teams with conversational systematics with plenty of time to think. We try to think about it in a new way and broaden the perspective: What do customers think, what do suppliers think, and at the same time bring in knowledge of technology development. We go from linear to circular problem solving - from acting based on the way you usually understand and solve problems to reflecting on the options for action when you look at the problem and the company from the outside. And then the question is, what could perhaps prevent people not acting on those insights?” says Camilla Gudrun Poulsen.

"This is about retention, where employees learn to apply the method in practice through concrete company-relevant action - in collaboration with colleagues."
Camilla Gudrun Poulsen, specialist consultant, and manager for digital competence development in DTU Compute's continuing education department

During the meeting, KomDigital and the company agree on the actions that the company itself must work on for a few weeks before KomDigital returns to the team and helps the employees ask each other relevant questions about why a solution or idea is right.

These tailored competence development courses typically last 3 months, and it is free for companies to participate in.

"The companies, on the other hand, have to pay working time themselves (around 25 hours per employee) and cover lost production profit/sales, and this can be a big item for an SME, which is often very operationally oriented. At the same time, the course structure also emphasizes that the company itself has an expectation to provide and deliver something because you are held in the hand by KomDigital and have to show how far you have come," she says.

Team-based innovation creates new roles

Evaluations of and experiences from the program show that the companies experience different things, depending on the kind of company. A finance department found that it was not ready to move forward in digital transformation because that requires a reform of its strategy. For several companies it became clear that they had to get outside technical expert help in order to move forward because they did not know enough themselves. Finally, the team from a bicycle repair shop decided to make simple videos to help the customers to better understand the IoT device in the bikes.

Often, companies also experience cultural changes during the process, because the team gathers different professional groups which allows more anonymous employees suddenly to get a possibility to speak, while managers change positions because they become part of a group. Often, companies find out that an employee knows something else that they could actually use.

“So people step into new roles that provide new opportunities and make people more active. So whether it's about culture change, new products, or services, the new mindset helps speed up the tech innovation and creates value: For employees, because it's motivating to help develop new ideas and see them unfold. And for the companies that have to keep up digital development, whatever it applies to physical or virtual technological products, digitization during the production process itself or technology between employees," says Camilla Gudrun Poulsen.

Read more about the KomDigital project and watch videos about Action Learning

Examples of feedback from companies

"We had aligning expectations with KomDigital, where we decided the level of digitization we as a company would like to work towards. In the work with the various workshops, it became clear to us how we by using data can become even better to serve our guests. The KomDigital course has given us as a team a break to immerse ourselves in development and to plan a more digitized road for the future," says Jesper Nøhr Kjærsig, CEO of Nohrcon, which develops and holds courses and conferences on construction, tender, installation, etc.

 

"Participation in the professional workshops gave us a really good insight into three relevant technologies. IoT probably proved most relevant to us, but both UX and AI surprised us because the experts showed us a more complex picture of the technologies – where our previous insights were more populist. A significant outcome was that we started experimenting with IoT and thereby gained an extremely concrete understanding. In the process, as the owner of Navadan, I assessed that the board should be involved, because our projects under the auspices of KomDigital would have significant strategic importance for the company," says Peter Krogh, CEO of the company Navadan, which sells cleaning products for shipping.

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