How To Organise For Servitization

May 06, 2019 • FeaturesJan Van Veenmanagementmore momentumServitization

Discussion around Servitization has rapidly gone from understanding what the concept is to establishing how to put steps towards the advanced services strategy into practice. Here, Jan Van Veen, outlines some core practical advice for companies looking to do just that...

For the next years, many manufacturers will focus more on “how to servitize”: How to make these innovations successful? How to accelerate these transitions and stay ahead of the pack? How to escape from “business as usual”? How to prepare the organisation for such journeys? In this article, I will share an overview of critical challenges and strategies for servitization.

Servitization is a different ball game
Many manufacturing businesses have made good progress in building a common understanding and commitment to business innovation including servitization, and they have allocated resources and funding for servitization.

Now, they are experiencing that servitization is a different ball game from usual innovations and face new challenges, such as:

• Political discussions when deciding on nitiatives and investment
• New risks from uncertainty and unpredictable trends
• Forces towards ‘business as usual, with signs like “not invented here”, “that does not work in our industry”, “our clients don’t want that” and/or “this is not our core business”

The central question: How to organise for servitization
We hear and read a lot about new (digital) technologies, new disruptive business models and servitization. However, the real challenges are about organisational and human aspects:

1. How to translate these general insights into concrete and relevant initiatives?
2. How to overcome the challenges and obstacles and increase momentum?

In essence, servitization is innovating your business model, particularly when you move beyond “condition of product” related services. We need to rethink our value proposition, our target market, our position in the value chain and in the competitive landscape. We will be facing new opportunities and new risks. This requires us to be open to new thinking, new mindsets and different strategies for innovation and change. 

The problem: One innovation approach doesn’t fit all
Too often, we see successful strategies for one type of innovation being applied for other types of innovation also and therefore fail.

Before diving into best practices, let us first better understand the challenges in different phases of innovation: 1) discovery, including ideation, 2) decision-making, including resource allocation, and, 3) implementation, including development.

The “Hybrid Innovation Matrix” helps to recognise different types of innovation based on respective typical challenges so we can better choose the best strategy for each.

About the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix”
The “Hybrid Innovation Matrix” (see following page) differentiates four types of innovation with the respective challenges and strategies along two dimensions. Along the horizontal axis, we differentiate innovations within the existing business logic from those developing new business logic. In every industry and business we have prevailing business logic, which is a set of common patterns, knowledge, experience and frameworks of thinking. We use this logic to understand our environment and make decisions. This common business logic defines how we act, learn and change.

Our brains are hardwired to maintain a cognitive framework to rapidly assess their environment, filter information and make decisions. This results in a strong bias towards protecting the established business logic.

Along the vertical axis, we have the relative size of the innovation or change. In the left column, we differentiate incremental improvements from the more radical innovations that push the boundaries. In the right column, we differentiate reconfiguring and extending an existing business model from developing completely new solutions and markets with completely new business models.

I will describe the two quadrants of the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix” which are most relevant to servitization.

Adaptive and Incremental Improvements
“Adaptive and Incremental Improvements” is all about improving the performance of existing products, services and operations. Every industry has its common recipe of annual improvement of functionality, performance, speed, cost etc.

Examples include: improvement initiatives from departments like product development, marketing service based on customer feedback following, adding new features. And PDCA, Lean, Kaizen and similar approaches to improve the quality and efficiency of our operations.

How servitization fits in:
As this is not the quadrant in which servitization takes place, I will not elaborate on this quadrant.

Pushing the Frontiers
“Pushing Frontiers” is about bigger innovations within the common business logic. In every industry, we have common pathways of how the performance of products and services develop and how (latent) customer demands evolve. We can learn from the best practices and results from others in our own industry.

Typical examples are:
• How advanced technology continues to develop in the world of semiconductors.
• How there are hybrid and electric transmissions in cars.
• How we now have FaceID on our phones
• How we become more predictive in sales,supply chain, manufacturing and maintenance with digital capabilities. 

How servitization fits in:
The early phases of the servitization journey fits in this quadrant. The service offering focuses on managing availability and condition of equipment in a more predictive manner.

Innovations in this quadrant often impact a large base of stakeholders in the organisation, advancing the knowledge in various disciplines, and involves bigger investments with bigger bets on the outcome.

A key challenge is to avoid obstacles at all levels in the organisation and a too narrow focus on, for example, only products or technology.

• Much higher levels of expertise, increasing the knowledge gaps between different stakeholders
• Finding strategic knowledge inside and outside the company
• Understanding a wider spectrum of (latent) customer needs beyond functional
• A too narrow focus, such as product technology or internal processes
• The commodity trap with innovations which hardly add customer value and are difficult to monetise.

• Mitigating risks from an uncertain outcome with higher upfront investments
• Lack of digital and service mindset
• Political battles or polarised discussions
because of:
- The more qualitative arguments
- Uncertainty of outcome
- Lack of new expertise, prepared by the experts.

• Limited capacity to implement change fluidly in the operating organisation
• Lack of required expertise and knowledge
• Lack of digital and service mindset.

Reconfiguring and Extending Business Model
“Reconfiguring and Extending the Business model” involves a combination of entering new markets, applying new technologies, encountering new competitors and facing new political actors. These are new aspects, different from common and dominant business logic in a business or industry.

Typical examples are:
• Low-cost airlines with a new value proposition and operating models
• Dell selling directly to the end-clients
• Storage solutions moving to cloud services
• Trucks manufacturers reducing fuel consumption by influencing truck drivers
• Fresenius (manufacturer of kidney dialysis equipment) operating entire dialysis centres in hospitals.

How servitization fits in:
As you can see from the examples, the more advanced phases of servitization extending the value offering beyond product availability perfectly fit in this quadrant.

The main challenge is to widen a peripheral vision escaping from the established dominant business logic.

• Being open to new knowledge, patterns, ideas and opportunities without being pulled back into ‘business- as usual’ by many forces
such as colleagues, clients, vendors, service suppliers and investors
• Recognising weak signals of potential trends, threats and opportunities, and when these become emergent
• Mitigating “conflict” with mainstream research activities
• Understanding and recognizing potential market disruption from immature and emerging alternatives (often at the low end of
the market).

• Limited knowledge and uncertainty about unpredictable developments
• Battles between stakeholders in operating organisation and innovation organisation
• Stopping initiatives because of lack of shortterm results, in favour of initiatives closer to ‘business as usual’ with quicker results
• Not considering weak signals for potential threats, like market disruption
• Fear of cannibalism.

• Embedding new knowledge throughout the organisation
• Building new mindsets and competencies
• Mitigating “conflict” with mainstream operations
• Existing clients may not like the new solutions (yet).

Coevolution of New Solutions and Markets
“Coevolution of new solutions and markets” is about the radically new emerging solutions. Here, we see many different solutions and ideas popping up while it is still unclear which of the competing alternatives will emerge and become the dominant solution.

Current examples of innovations in this quadrant are renewable energy, data-driven healthcare, mobility (including self-driving cars), Google Maps rapidly pushing away TomTom, and tachographs gradually being replaced by cloud-based applications. Other examples are PC’s displacing mini-computers and digital photography displacing analogue photography.

How servitization fits in:
I will not elaborate any further on this quadrant, as servitization in principle is not about developing these radical solutions. Even though for some industries there are actual opportunities and threats in this quadrant, in which servitization could play a role (like the Google Maps versus TomTom).

The solution: Differentiate innovation strategies with a focus on human aspects
The challenges I described concentrate on the human factors for successful discovery, decision making and implementation. They are quite different for each type of innovation in the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix”, which means we need different strategies to be successful.

I will now describe the best practices for the two types of innovation which are most relevant for servitization.

Pushing Frontiers
The name of the game here is “Managing a wider portfolio, including higher risk projects”. The following practices will help accelerate the innovations that push the frontiers.

In general:
• Establish a clear and compelling direction in which the company is heading and how that relates to the developments in the industry and market
• Build a shared concern on developments in the industry and the importance of adapting to it
• Establish cross-functional and dedicated teams of experts for specific initiatives
• Establish dedicated project management.

• Use advanced techniques for finding (latent) opportunities, such as design-thinking and empathic design
• Involve external experts (consultants and new partners)

• Strategic level decision making
• Maintain a balanced portfolio of different types of innovations
• Apply a stage gate and review process, with clear criteria, such as;
- What initiatives should be higher risk initiatives pushing the frontiers
- In which domains to push frontiers (technology, products, services, customer experience etc.)
- Success criteria for go/no-go for the next phases
- Level of investment in different types of initiatives
• Educate stakeholders on the decision level
• Invest in further research first
• Develop solid business cases, supported by solid information
• Use advanced risk-assessment techniques

• Lean startup and agile development techniques
• Co-development with your best clients
• Early involvement of stakeholders from various functions
• Develop the digital and service mindsets

• Incremental improvement techniques such as PDCA and customer feedback programmes
• Not having dedicated innovation teams

Re-configuration and extending business models
The name of the game here is running “Entrepreneurial satellite teams”.

• Add a transformative direction of the company, which is fairly open
• Build a shared concern for developing business models for the next growth curves
• Being flexible in an unpredictable world
• Entrepreneurial and multi-disciplinary teams decoupled from the mainstream organisation
• Allow addressing different markets or segments for (first) success

• Less targeted search assignments
• Techniques to reframe and thinking in “new boxes”
• Build new and broad expertise networks outside your industry
• Experiment and learn
• External contracting or outsourcing
• Scouting for successful initiatives in the market
• Develop scenarios around weak signals

Decision making:
• Reframing of the opportunities and threats
• Decentralise decision-making
• Decision-making on vision and scenarios
• Rapid prototyping
• Acquisition of early successes in the market
• Allow competing initiatives to be pursued Implementation
• Keep the new business in entrepreneurial satellite teams
• Lean startup and agile development teams
• Co-creation with the most interesting (potential) clients

Pitfalls / what does not work:
• Decision-making and resource allocation by senior leadership in the operating organisation
• Input from customer feedback programmes
• Decision-making based on business cases and stage-gate reviews
• Early integration into the current operating organisation or business model

Conclusion and takeaways
We see an increasing number of manufacturing companies committing to business innovation and servitization and allocating resources for it. A hybrid innovation strategy, focusing on the human factors of the transition will make the difference between success and failure!

If you want to boost momentum for servitization;
• Share this with your colleagues
• Assess the ideas, initiatives, progress and obstacles with the “Hybrid Innovation Matrix”
• Build a shared concern for the need for ongoing innovations in each of the quadrants
• Put the organisational and human aspects on the strategic agenda

It is a great time to be in manufacturing. We are facing exciting opportunities to make manufacturing a stronger backbone of our service-oriented economies. We have a unique opportunity to make manufacturing a great place to work and to invest in.

Jan Van Veen is Managing Director at More Momentum