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Co-Creation of a digital Europe

Developing digital services together: How symmedia lives Co-Creation to find solutions for digitalization.
  • 11.09.2023
    Andreas Thal
Co-Creation of a digital Europe

What is Co-Creation?

Co-creation is a cooperation between citizens, companies, state institutions and research/academies to develop digital products together. It’s all about problem solving by including needs, ideas, perspectives and pouring into specifications, services for the benefit and growth of societies in Europe. In marketing and product development, co-creation is a management approach that allows companies and customers to collaborate. The basic idea is that customers and companies can create synergy effects through cooperation. The term was coined by C. K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy through the publication of the Harvard Business Review article, “Co-opting Customer Competence” in 2000.

Co-creation consists of two essential steps:

  1. Contribution: ideas are submitted
  2. Selection: the most promising ideas are selected

What are the challenges?

There are some factors that influence and interact heavily with the competitiveness of Europe as a digital economic area.

The framework conditions in the technology sector like education, research, and digital infrastructure (high-speed Internet, mobile Internet, digital identity, digital administration, and digital process chains) are key and a definite challenge in Europe. There are macroeconomic framework conditions like location, legal bases, administration, energy costs, tax and financing, and shortage of skilled workers. Particularly in Germany, the degree of “Homeostasis”, which means the desire for system balance, is high. E.g., Germany has the largest number of laws worldwide (blocking change through regulation). This is not the ideal climate for new companies and/or entrepreneurship!

Even when crises are an accelerator for change, there is a lack of consideration and a lively discourse of ideas. A crisis brings a high degree of motivation but also carries the danger of narrowmindedness.

Ideology is a shortened view of reality (not the simple solution to a complex problem) – in addition, Germany tends to be intellectual – vastly lacking empiricism (i.e., trying it out) which generally has a bad reputation. But this is an extremely important factor in digitization. Short development cycles, fast feedback, adaptation, and trying again (of course with sense and reason). In development, this is called the AGILE way of working – those who do it right are in great favor and experience immediate success. With fear and risk aversion, we cannot play effectively in international competition. Asians see digitization and automation as a further development of society and an increase in life stages. This proactive approach gives them the upwind.

Investment in the digitalization of Europe

We must chase some basic attitudes and change the following issues timely.

  1. Dramatically increase high-speed connectivity (+ easy access)
  2. Implement nationwide digital identity. For example, in India, 800 million inhabitants have a digital identity. In Delhi, you can pay digitally on the street at the fruit dealer and all administrative processes are fully digitized
  3. Promote entrepreneurship from schools to universities and even with no significant diploma
  4. Nurture research institutions by state (a healthy mixture of corporate contact -> Co-Creation and basic research)
  5. Invest in an integration culture for skilled workers

There are positive factors in Europe

The positive effects of living and working in Europe are tied to general factors like

  • Quality of life (which can work like a magnet for specialists)
  • Climate and environment
  • Educational infrastructure & specialist institutions (schools, universities…)
  • Creative and productive medium-sized companies
  • Contemporary health-care system

symmedia as an example

symmedia is a European company with 25 years of experience in service digitization for machine builders and operators (we count TOP players in the DACH region as customers). We are pioneers when it comes to the secure connection to industrial machines. The COVID crisis has helped our market segment to reconsider, remote work is now normal. Today, the demand is greater than ever.

We prepared for change at the right moment – this is only possible with the mindset throughout the company that change is always an opportunity to become better. We have managed a tight turnaround and the development of our new Secure Service Hub product within 18 months. Digitization accelerates competitiveness through the high degree of willingness to change. symmedia is therefore the best example of how digitization as a business model improves competitiveness!

What Co-Creators face?

Basically, co-creation means cooperation between companies and customers. This is important to get application-oriented feedback very early and continuously in the production process.

Challenges with Co-Creation

Cooperation requires a high degree of transparency and trust. Many European companies are still reserved when it comes to letting customers get too close to the production processes. Industries sometimes heavily rely on IP (Intellectual Property). But there is also another way – the best example for transparency is Elon Musk who has released all patents because he is not afraid of competition – and because he cannot rest on the status quo. Exciting thoughts like that in Germany, would be disreputable to unthinkable.

An excellent product is important (not perfect and not 100% finished) – but it must represent a significant customer benefit and make work easier, accelerate the business and/or reduce efforts for the customer. The customer is usually also an expert in his business area and can ensure that companies’ products become better through transparency. Co-creation requires a high degree of sustainable win/win thinking – which has not yet prevailed in all industries in the Anglo-Saxon / Western hemisphere.

Co-Creation success factors

Co-creation is successful when companies and customers work together in agile short cycles and have no problem with transparency. Of course, it also helps if the two parties respect each other for their corresponding performance and are inspired by a strong win/win mentality. The most important part is that you establish a clear practical focus. You should jointly develop ideas and innovations quickly, give feedback together, adjust and implement them again. A co-creation is strong when work is done on the “real” object and the interests of the participants point at least in the same direction.

symmedia lives the Co-Creation in two Directions

With our owner Georg Fischer AG, we co-created our new product Secure Service Hub. This means that our joint experience and expertise, as a digital service provider and machine builder, have ensured that we were able to develop a new product in record time. We jointly receive fantastic feedback on the market.

We have a co-creation relationship with SOPRA Steria because we as symmedia did not have sufficient capacity in the time of new development. Sopra Steria made a significant contribution in the field of technology and infrastructure so that we were able to provide the customer benefit with state-of-the-art technology and security.

symmedia has been able to reinvent itself in 18 months – so that our history of 25 years of product development was not an obstacle, but the bold success factor. Co-creation will add importance as we develop digital services and intensify collaboration on a transparent level.

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