Digital transformation

New study identifies factors that influence the pace of digitalisation

The Swedish forest industry is engaged in a wide range of digital innovation projects. But the step from successful research and development (R&D) projects to large-scale implementation is often arduous. What are the necessary conditions for new digital solutions to have an impact? A Mistra Digital Forest project is searching for the answer.

Today,  organisational aspects rather than technological limitations are keeping the digitalisation of Swedish forest industry from gaining momentum. With this observation as a starting point, a group of researchers at Umeå University and Skogforsk conducted an interview study, with fifteen respondents, who have all participated in digitally focused R&D projects in Swedish forestry.

– Successful R&D projects are important as such. However, implementing and scaling the outcomes is often a massive challenge. In this project, we have investigated the changes needed in the forestry value chain to create the preconditions for achieving new forms of digital value creation, says Daniel Nylén, Associate Professor at the Swedish Center for Digital Innovation (SCDI) at Umeå University.

Daniel Nylén, SCDI
Daniel Nylén, SCDI. Photo: Johan Olsson

Three key factors affecting implementation

The study investigated three digitally focused R&D projects. The in-depth analysis is ongoing, but the researchers can identify three key factors that affect the eventual implementation of project outcomes.

– Firstly, it is important that digitally driven R&D projects do not become isolated islands. Each actor involved needs to consider how their participation is integrated into their digital strategy. Two other key aspects are  actually allocating resources to nurture the results after project completion, and for each firm to boldly challenge its established organisational identity in the light of project outcomes.

Reassessing the relevance of traditional value chains

Daniel goes on to describe how traditional value chains may need to be re-evaluated to enable digital innovations.

– Our study found that there is great dedication and willingness to invest in digitally driven R&D in the Swedish forest industry. But to increase the pace of digitalisation, established roles and relationships in the industry value chain will have to be reconsidered.

How to improve the impact of digital innovation projects:

  1. Each actor needs to link the project to their digital strategy. This helps to avoid the projects being conducted in a vacuum, or mainly being seen as a "cool experiment". However, unforeseen positive project outcomes should be allowed to influence the digital strategy. Digital strategy should therefore be seen as dynamic.
  2. Each stakeholder needs to allocate resources and expertise to continue working with the results after project completion. Here, it is important to ask "how can this fit into our organisation and why is it important for our business?". This requires a kind of two-handedness. Resources need to be allocated for implementation, without impacting day-to-day business operations.
  3. Tensions may arise in relation to the points above. To benefit from the results of digitally focused R&D projects, the actors involved need to be bold enough to take risks that may involve questioning their organisational identity.