The ground-breaking ‘Helix’ innovation model developed by Norway Post & Bring is helping the company find new and faster ways of bringing ideas and solutions to life. Keeping up with the pace of change also means expanding innovation hubs to make room for more co-creation in the future.
For over 370 years, Norway Post has been supplying postal and logistic services to the Nordic region. In 2017, the company implemented a new process aimed at changing their approach to innovation and development. By embracing innovation initiatives right across the organisation, the aim was to discover new revenue streams and deliver value adding offerings faster to their customers.
Alexander Haneng, SVP of Digital Innovation at Norway Post & Bring, says: “Just like many companies we were using a top-down waterfall approach when it came to innovation and our projects were mainly focused on making operational improvements. The waterfall method proved to be quite rigid and even though we spent a lot of time and energy on development, projects were not always a success when we hit the market. In designing a new method, we took our inspiration from the best practices out there such as agile, design thinking, cross-functional teams, etc, and we created our own framework for innovation and development called Helix.”
Joakim Bredahl, Cash Management Consultant at Nordea, says: “It’s very interesting to follow the journey Norway Post & Bring are on in reworking their organisation to fit the pace of change and innovation, updating their value proposition to their customers and looking at different ways of delivering value. The Helix model really allows them to take a step up and place innovation at the heart of their organisation. It’s a methodology that can certainly provide an inspiration to large companies struggling in this area.”
Explore, build and implement
The Helix model breaks innovation into three distinct phases. The first is the ‘explore’ phase which involves understanding and exploring needs in the market place, developing and testing ideas and validating the market potential of new concepts. The second is the ‘create’ phase which tests customer value and market potential through the practical experience of building and iterating the proposed solution. Finally, phase three is known as the ‘implement’ phase where the solution is developed, scaled up and brought into use and then continuously improved to realise its full value.
Alexander adds: “Helix creates distinct parts in the process to explore, build and implement the new product or solution. The phase where we really noticed the difference compared to our previous waterfall method was the ‘explore’ phase. We spent much more time defining what the real problem is we want to solve and whether it was possible to build a prototype that can solve the problem in a suitable way. This extra preparatory work gives us a fairly basic lean canvas to go to the next stage where we build a pilot and test this with real people to gain valuable feedback. Our implementation is now also different as we launch to customers sooner but usually with a limited geography and or limited functionality and then scale up from there.”
Changing a complex organisation
As a large multi-national company with 15,000 employees located in 15 countries, Norway Post & Bring embarked on an ambitious project to change the innovation culture right across the organisation. One of the most successful catalysts for changing the culture was to utilise the new Helix process in real projects from the beginning.
As successful projects have continued to be implemented thanks to the new process, the Helix innovation methodology has become firmly rooted in the organisation. One such launch is Amoi.no, an online market place developed for smaller physical shops that do not have an e-commerce presence themselves.
Alexander adds: “In Norway we make a lot of express deliveries in the big cities so we were looking at how we can build on top of that capability. With Amoi, we built a solution where users can shop with all sorts of small stores and receive a single delivery home to them within a two hour window. We managed to achieve a successful launch by starting with a very simple solution first. After piloting, we launched in less than three months from the original idea with eight physical stores. Amoi has become a sandbox for us to test out how to run a marketplace. We look at the kind of stores that should be part of it, the geographies to include and any services that can be added. We then make continuous changes to the website.”
In Norway we make a lot of express deliveries in the big cities so we were looking at how we can build on top of that capability. With Amoi, we built a solution where users can shop with all sorts of small stores and receive a single delivery home to them within a two hour window.
Alexander Haneng, SVP of Digital Innovation at Norway Post & Bring
Making ideas happen
Thanks to the new Helix setup, the new solution was delivered in a short period of time, proving that a good idea can be turned into a fully functional market leading solution. Embracing technology and being prepared to work with existing structures also proved to be important factors.
Alexander says: “You need a clear mandate and you need to work closely with customers; both the stores and the end consumers to understand what they want. Of course, another part of this is building digital platforms. Like most large companies we have a lot of IT legacy so it’s about getting control of those and then building new functionality into digital platforms on top of those legacy systems. Alongside the methodology, you need to have effective and efficient capabilities.”
Ideas themselves can be generated from a number of different sources but solving a customer pain point is usually the starting point. Knowing which ideas to pursue and those to let go is also critical to the process.
Alexander adds: “We focus a lot on testing ideas early. Most companies don’t test enough, which can cause challenges later on for the project. That’s the first part. The second part is that we don’t kill off enough ideas. It’s just as important that we take ideas that we think are good and test them early, but also to kill them when we find out they’re not. So that we don’t waste further energy on them, we move onto the next idea instead. We do a sprint where each team gets four weeks to prove whether the idea is worth pursuing or not. Finally, they need to show during a half an hour presentation whether it is worth moving onto the next stage.”
It’s just as important that we take ideas that we think are good and test them early, but also to kill them when we find out they're not.
Alexander Haneng, SVP of Digital Innovation at Norway Post & Bring
Increasing the innovation network
In the future, Norway Post & Bring hope to include more external specialists into their helix hubs to test collaborative ideas as early as possible in the process.
Alexander adds: “We would love to do much more co-creation, not only with customers but also with our suppliers and partners. I think that’s imperative for us to succeed. That goes for all large companies because the competition now is so much harder and at the same time customers want a smoother and smoother experience. To be able to solve that we need to work much more closely with partners, suppliers and customers. Co-creation as part of the innovation hub has been built into our flow so that we have a space where we can have workshops and create together.”
Joakim says: “It works as great motivation to see the things Norway Post & Bring have been doing and then compare it to what we’re doing in terms of development and seeing if we can find a good match. In particular, finding common ground in innovation by supporting the new areas they have found to deliver value. To bring up examples, we could find out whether instant payments would add to the offering or where payments processing can fit into any of the ideas being developed. Potential co-creation is all about understanding the direction of our customer’s developments and assessing how to alleviate any pain points they see in their processes both now and in the future. An expanded innovation hub can be a good way of solving something that enables Norway Post & Bring to fully realise their value proposition to their customers.”
Potential co-creation is all about understanding the direction of our customer’s developments and assessing how to alleviate any pain points they see in their processes both now and in the future.
Joakim Bredahl, Cash Management Consultant at Nordea
Sharing the method
Over time, the innovative setup at Norway Post & Bring looks set to rub off on other partners involved in co-collaboration and is likely to spread to other companies in general as the Helix model becomes more well known.
Alexander concludes: “We openly share our innovation methodology and workspace so people can come in and have a look at how we do it because we believe in partnerships and being open about what we do. As this is all still under development, it only gets better when we pass the test and then do it together with a partner, so they can come in with suggestions of where we can improve the methodology. In general Nordic companies are so innovative and so far ahead of the curve for a lot of reasons, but we tend to look to other parts of the world, like Silicon Valley, and not talk about it. Nordic companies are just as good or better I believe and we just need the confidence to state that!”
For more information write to Joakim at email@example.com.
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