Digital Transformation Guide

Project in the Context of the IBH-Lab KMUdigital

The IBH-Lab KMUdigital supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in the Lake Constance region in coping with, implementing and implementing the rapidly progressing industrial digitisation in order to secure the four-country region as one of the most competitive and dynamic economic areas in Europe.

The Digital Transformation Guide is one of the seven individual projects that will be carried out on the basis of the existing funding for the IBH-Lab KMUdigital. The project Digital Transformation Guide is concerned with the conception of a method that enables small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to recognize the opportunities and dangers they face in the course of digitization and to take a proactive approach themselves. By means of an effective concept for the implementation of (digital) innovation initiatives, SMEs should be sustainably strengthened in their competitiveness. The focus here is on organisational ambiguity, i.e. the ability of companies to efficiently optimise their core business (Explotation) and at the same time implement sustainable innovations (Exploration). The aim is to enable SMEs to perceive the challenges of digitisation as an opportunity to strengthen their competitive position in the long term.

The aim of the project is to build an innovative bridge between the advantages of agile start-up organisation and the (resource) advantages of established companies. To this end, the project provides a two-step method to help SMEs address the biggest challenges of digitalisation in terms of their digital innovation capacity. This will be achieved through the following two tools:

  1. Digital Vision Workshop: A newly designed workshop format that combines elements from the areas of design thinking and open innovation and aims to develop a company-specific strategic vision for the digitalization and digital transformation of the respective company.
  2. Digital Innovation Teams: This is a concept for setting up internal start-up-like innovation teams that act with an entrepreneurial mandate from the parent organization to implement digitization topics. The concept of the Digital Innovation Teams provides an approach with which the digital competencies required in the future can be built up. In addition, the Digital Innovation Teams contribute to gradually transforming the entire organization through digital innovation.


  • Background & Motivation

    The industrial landscape of the Lake Constance region is characterised by a large number of highly specialised technology companies, mostly SMEs, which are often among the world's leading companies in their respective market segments. The dynamics of their globally networked markets require them to efficiently optimize their core business (exploitation) and, at the same time, to implement radical, sustainable innovations (exploration). Only if this succeeds can the competitiveness of these companies be maintained in the long term. The already existing pressure to innovate (exploration) is further intensified by the dynamics of digitalization: companies are faced with the challenge of successfully mastering the necessary digital transformation. If this hurdle is not successfully overcome, "there is a threat of a digital divide between SMEs and large companies". Accordingly, it is particularly important to enable SMEs to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitisation and thus to position themselves successfully in the market in the long term. Digital innovations increasingly lead to so-called disruptive changes - paradigms of a market change fundamentally and lead to a reorganization of the market.

    Digitisation affects all industries and requires companies to develop fundamentally new skills and knowledge, far removed from their traditional core activities. The challenge here is that not only the technology is changing, but also the competences (at the organisational and employee level), the working methods (agile methods, lean startup), the customer behaviour (e.g. ordering taxis via the smartphone) and the corresponding business models (e.g. product-asa-service). The simultaneity of these changes leads to a completely new radicality and uncertainty and therefore to an overtaxing of the companies. This is particularly true for SMEs, which have fewer resources and skills than large companies.

    The derivation of concrete recommendations for action and design proposals should enable companies to implement digital innovations with so-called Digital Innovation Teams. The Digital Innovation Teams method provides SMEs with a tool for acquiring external digital know-how and gradually building it up themselves through semi-autonomous innovation teams. Through the continuous integration of practical partners, the results are to be transferred to industry during and after the project period. Constant communication, but also transfer activities such as road shows and workshops ensure that the results are available to all SMEs in the Lake Constance region in the long term. In the first stage, the SMEs are to use the competences of the IBH universities through cooperative workshops in order to work out the topic of digitisation for their own business context. In a second step, this knowledge and the associated competences are to be built up within the company itself.

  • Research Team

    Konstanz University of Applied Sciences
    Prof. Dr.-Ing. Guido Baltes

    University St.Gallen
    Prof. Dr. Christoph Müller

    Zeppelin University (ZU)
    Dr. Ursula Koners

  • Project Partners


    • Hochschule Konstanz Technik, Wirtschaft und Gestaltng (HTWG)
    • Zeppelin Universität (ZU)



    • Universität St. Gallen 
  • Project Content

    The Digital Transformation Guide project aims to help companies achieve organizational ambiguity by strengthening digital exploration by:

    (A) A workshop concept (Digital Vision Workshop) based on scientific findings and practical experience from the fields of entrepreneurship, design thinking and open innovation will be developed. The objective is to highlight the importance of digitisation for SMEs, including the associated risks/opportunities. The workshop addresses the following two challenges:

    • Failure of classical management and planning methods in an environment marked by uncertainty and the lack of corresponding digital competencies, e.g. Big Data Analytics.
    • The workshop concept is intended to enable SMEs to develop a strategic vision together with external (digitisation) experts, primarily from IBH universities, which offers SMEs orientation in the uncertain environment of digitisation.

    The key point here is that this is done with the involvement of universities, thereby making the latest competences and know-how on digitisation topics available to SMEs. The strategic vision developed should help SMEs to reduce the uncertainties associated with digitisation and offers assistance in formulating a clear strategic direction for the "digital" future of the company.

    (B) To implement the strategic vision resulting from the workshop, internal innovation teams (Digital Innovation Teams) are to be deployed, which can act partially autonomously from the parent organization. This autonomy is necessary because radical innovation projects can hardly be implemented within existing structures. The aim is to develop a medium (e.g. a handbook) that on the one hand provides tools for the implementation of digital innovations and on the other hand demonstrates the use of these tools (from the areas of design thinking, lean startup) and specific design possibilities on the basis of concrete case studies. Case studies, from the IBH region, on successful digitisation projects and digital innovations should make the use and adaptation of the tools to the company-specific contexts tangible.