Asiakastiedolla selkeämpiin innovaatioprosesseihin

Innovaatiot ovat  yritysten kilpailukyvyn kannalta merkittäviä tekijöitä nykyisessä dynaamisessa ja nopeatempoisessa liiketoimintaympäristössä. Kun tavoitellaan onnistunutta ja aitoihin asiakastarpeisiin vastaavaa innovaatiota, innovaatioprosessit ovat usein monivaiheisia ja polveilevia. Etenkin innovaatioprosessin alkuvaihe nähdään yleisesti moniulotteisena ja haastavasti hallittavana.

Pro gradu -tutkimukseni mukaan tunnistetut asiakastarpeet auttavat innovaatioprosessin hallitsemisessa esimerkiksi selkeyttämällä toiminnan päämääriä, joita kohti kehittämistoiminnalla pyritään.

Uuden energianhallintalaitteen kehitysprosessi 

Tutkimukseni tavoitteena oli selvittää, miten käsitys asiakastarpeista muodostuu innovaatioprosessin aikana ja millä tavoin tunnistetut asiakastarpeet vaikuttavat innovaatioprosessiin. Tutkiḿani uusi innovaatio, energianhallintalaite Foremica on fyysinen laite, joka valvoo ja optimoi energian kulutusta ja tuotantoa.

Foremican kehittäminen alkoi vuonna 2014 aluksi radikaalin innovaation tunnusomaista kehityskulkua noudattaen, eli kehittäminen sisälsi paljon epävarmuutta ja eteni epätasaisesti. Foremican ensimmäisen versio valmistui vuonna 2018, jonka jälkeen edelleen jatkuva innovaatioprosessi on muuttunut ominaisuuksien hiomiseksi paremmin asiakastarpeita vastaaviksi.

Kokonaisvaltainen asiakastarpeiden tunnistaminen

Haastatteluaineiston analyysini osoitti, että käsitys asiakastarpeista muodostuu useita asiakastarpeiden tunnistamiskeinoja, kuten ammattitaitoa, asiakkaan asemaan asettumista ja alan pioneerien asiantuntemusta hyödyntämällä.

Lisäksi Foremican asiakastarpeita tunnistettiin sisäisen asiakkuuden avulla, koska alun perin tarve energianhallintalaitteelle havaittiin oman tarpeen kautta. Oma tarve oli aurinkovoimalaitoksen valvominen, johon sopivaa valmista tuotetta ei löytynyt ja se johti oman ratkaisun kehittämiseen.

Ensimmäinen visio aurinkovoimalan valvontatuotteesta on innovaatioprosessin aikana muuttunut monipuoliseksi ja asiakkaan helposti ymmärtämäksi energianhallintapalveluksi.

Tarkastemalla Foremican kehitysprosessia huomasin, että yksittäisellä tavalla asiakastarpeita tunnistamalla havaitaan vain osa asiakastarpeista, jolloin kokonaiskuva jää vajaaksi. Useita eri keinoja yhdistelemällä saavutetaan kokonaisvaltainen käsitys. Se auttaa tunnistamaan innovaation onnistumisen ja tavoitteen saavuttamisen kannalta oleelliset asiat ja tehtävät.

Tiettyjä parhaita asiakastarpeiden tunnistamiskeinoja ei ole, vaan syvä ymmärrys syntyy tilanne- ja organisaatiokohtaisesti erilaisia lähteitä hyödyntäen.

Tärkeä rooli innovaatioprosesseissa

Tunnistettujen asiakastarpeiden ohella Foremican innovaatioprosessin kulkuun ovat vaikuttaneet innovaation tyyppi monipuolisena palveluna, kehitystyöhön käytettävissä olleet resurssit ja satunnaiset ennalta-arvaamattomat tekijät. Yhdessä nämä tekijät ovat muodostaneet kokonaisuuden, joka on ohjannut Foremican kehitystoimintaa.

Asiakastarpeiden tunnistamisella on tutkimukseni tulosten valossa tavoitteita ohjaava rooli innovaation kehitystoiminnassa, joka selkeyttää etenkin innovaatioprosessin ideointivaihetta.

Tavoitteiden asettamisen lisäksi tunnistetuilla asiakastarpeilla ja sitä kautta saatavalla ymmärryksellä saadaan innovaatioista kehitettyä paremmin aitoihin asiakastarpeisiin vastaavia. Koska innovaatiot ovat yritysten kilpailukyvyn kannalta avainasemassa, tulisi asiakastarpeiden ja niiden tunnistamisen merkittävä rooli tiedostaa yleisesti organisaatioissa.

Sakari Kauranen

Pro Gradu -tutkielma: Tunnistettujen asiakastarpeiden vaikutus innovaatioprosessiin – Case Foremica

Ohjaaja: Päivi Eriksson

From Master’s Thesis to practical improvements in maritime industry

Within  industries, various sizes and types of companies thrive and fail depending on how well they can respond to current and future customer needs and the challenges of the business environment.

But why do certain companies within an industry perform better than others and what are the so-called best practices they utilise to become successful? Academic research may help practitioners to identify, validate and expand knowledge in such questions. In my Master’s Thesis I focused on the discovering best practices of the Front End of Innovation for the Maritime Industry.

Front end of innovation – where the ideas born

The front end of innovation, also known as fuzzy front-end, is the first part of the innovation process, when a business opportunity is identified, ideas for the opportunity are invented, and a concept for developing the actual solution is defined and planned.

The front end of innovation is still more or less unclear to academics and practitioners. For practitioners, profounder knowledge of a certain industry provides valuable hints to develop their own processes, practices and thinking. That was why, I wanted to study the front end of innovation and especially its opportunity identification and analysis part.

Maritime industry – the combination of old and new

Traditionally, the maritime industry changes slowly and a pressure for transformation comes from environmental and safety regulations as well as from local legislation. However, global megatrends such as globalization, digitalization, automatization and sustainability, have accelerated the transformation cycle of the maritime industry. Therefore, companies can no longer innovate just what buyers, in maritime industry that would be ship yards, explicitly happen to ask for.

The maritime solution providers should think and understand the latent customer needs of direct customers and end users as well. Inspecting how new technologies and business models from the other industries disrupt the business environment is also important.

Results that matter in practice

The case company of my Thesis was interested in to look for theoretically justified ways to deepen their understanding on the Front End of Innovations.

The results indicated that within the maritime industry a directive innovation vision and profound collaboration with all kind of partners are important factors for being successful within the front end of innovation. After working a while for other maritime solution provider, I can indeed say that directive innovation vision and profound collaboration are important in innovating new solutions within the maritime industry.

Joonas Ruuskanen

Master’s Thesis Title: Opportunity Identification and Analysis within the Front End of Innovation: An Instrumental Case Study within the Maritime Industry

Supervisor: Outi-Maaria Palo-oja

Drivers of online sales: An integrated study of customer reviews and backward effects

In February 2018, the third movie in an American series Fifty Shades was released. The movie itself earned a significant amount of success in opening weekend revenue – $38,560,195 in USA (Source: imdb.com). At the same time, the book version of the series also enjoyed additional sales from such release. Interestingly enough, not only the book three, the one on which the movie was based, but the first book in the series also gained major benefits. In fact, even though this is not the first time the series released a movie, the Amazon salesrank of the first book Fifty Shades of Grey still dropped to the lowest point 494 within one week of release from the peak 11,715 it reached two months ago (Source: Keepa.com). The decreasing salesrank indicates an increase in book sales on the website.

According to brand extension theories, the phenomenon that an introduction of extension affects the consumption of original product is referred to as reciprocal spillover effect or backward effect. The above-mentioned case of Fifty Shades is an evident example; yet, the phenomenon can be observed in various occurrences such as when artists release new album, etc. Interested in the phenomenon, in my thesis I investigated the effect of releasing a new book on the first book sales using data collected from Amazon.com. With the use of linear mixed-effects models, I found that the first book sales indeed decreased during the release of a new book. Besides that, the success of a new book determined the volume of extra sales. One surprising finding was that for popular book, the earlier release of new book enjoys more radical backward effect than the subsequence. However, this might not be the case for less popular book, particularly for extremely unpopular ones

Factors affecting product sales have always been an intriguing topic of research and word-of-mouth communication has been considered as one of the most influential drivers of sales. Especially in today’s world, online word-of-mouth possesses even more profound effect owning to its incredible spread and breadth. Searching on Google Scholar using keywords ‘effect of online reviews on sales’, one can easily find more than 700,000 papers, which demonstrates the rigorous attention of academic community to the topic. As a result, I chose to examine the role of online reviews. The result suggested that book rating alone did not have any significant persuasive effect on sales. In contrast, the number of reviews and its interaction with ratings did the job once consumers are informed about the parent product upon exposing to extension information.

Hien Nguyen

Master’s Thesis title: The reciprocal spillover effect in online book sales. Integrated with the effect of online reviews

Supervisor: Dr. Ville-Veikko Piispanen

Value creation in sales management

Financial administration field is going through major changes. Rapid and constant change in the field such as the changing role of accountant, growing digitalization and trend of outsourcing. Especially, the ever-growing competition brings challenges for accounting firms.

As a result, accounting firms have changed their organizational structure to response more to customer needs. They have built own sales organization to keep up the competition which has not traditionally been part of the financial administration field.

Customers’ value creation and sales

The purpose of my master’s thesis was to find ways to develop case company’s sales management. More precisely, to study how customer’s value creation contributes to the development of sales management and what kind of values customer’s value creation produces for sales management at the beginning of customer relationship.

The case company comes from the financial administration field which is going through changes. The digitalisation has rapidly increased over the years and will definitely increase all the time and moreover, customer preferences have changed.

Sales organizations in financial administration

So why did I choose this topic? I have a professional experience from the financial administration field and during my master’s studies I studied sales management as my minor studies. It was easy and natural combine these two topics as a research.

I also saw the opportunity for interesting research because as mentioned previously separate sales organization has not traditionally been part of the financial administration field.

Furthermore, it can be seen that when a new customer is reached, there is many value creation points to be managed.

Ideas for developing sales management

The research results showed that value creation process happens if there is interaction between customer and service provider. Especially, the value creation process highlighted the roles of customer, service provider and interactions.

Customer’s value creation produced new values to sales management parts which are sales strategy, sales operations and sales analysis. These values can be used together with existed values which help the development of sales management.

Overall, the practical contribution of my master’s thesis was achieved which was to understand how sales management can be developed.

Jenna Nuutinen

Master’s Thesis Title: Value Creation in Sales Management: Case from Financial Administration Field

Supervisor: Eeva Aromaa