At the DATEV Lab we drive radical innovation, listen out and take in what’s going on in society, interact, reflect and are reflected, work on concrete projects, build prototypes, try them out, fail, and completely overturn them, but sometimes also fondly embellish them with a flourish of icing and a cherry on top.
What we do as a lab
The DATEV Lab works as an inspiring “future think tank” with a far-reaching view of mega, macro and micro trends to come. By means of holistic analysis and evaluation of developments – in the areas of technology, society, ecology and politics/legislation – recommendations for action are identified for DATEV itself and for DATEV customers.
The focus here is on a “business model mindset” – in other words, thinking in terms of new and innovative business models as the spark for business model innovations at DATEV.
When & where
We have been operating as DATEV Lab since January 2017. And since August 2018, we have had our own home on the 4th floor of Fürther Straße 212 in the Eberhardshof district of Nuremberg. DATEV Lab is part of an exciting neighbourhood that is undergoing change. Formerly a production site for AEG, it has since been taken over by artists’ studios, educational institutions, skaters, various companies and, along with them, a thriving gastronomic offering ranging from food trucks to regional coffee roasters.
We work in spacious premises of 750 square metres, which gives us room to think, invent and do a deep dive or two, but we also work in coworking spaces, in one of the other DATEV locations, or within our own four walls. The Lab is part of DATEV and in organisational terms comes under our CEO in the business management area “Strategy, Innovation, Markets & Customers”.
What it looks like and the equipment we have
Our equipment is oriented towards the different challenges in the field of innovation. An interdisciplinary team means different types of work and thus also individual demands. The tension that lies between structure and freedom, reality and creativity calls for elements that provide order and structure, but also impetus and creativity.
The keyword here is embodiment. Embodiment focuses on the “interaction between body and psyche”, which gives rise to the central thesis: “(...) mental states are not only expressed in the body, i.e. non-verbally, in body language and posture, but physical states also influence mental states” (Stangl, 2022).
To provide for a mix of structure and creativity, we have facilitation toolkits, a screen wall, a sound and camera system, beanbags, ocean photo wallpaper, a space-themed carpet, foosball, a table-tennis table, really good boxes, Lego Serious Play, a massage chair and – not least – an excellent coffee machine. So that we can try out technical innovations within a protected framework, there is a laboratory environment – i.e. a server landscape that is separate from DATEV’s actual data centre.
How we work – namely methodically...
In our workshops we work with an individual mix of methods. This includes various creative techniques from the field of design thinking as well as factual-analytical elements such as Advocatus Diaboli (a person who consciously takes on the role of critic/sceptic) and the Business Model Canvas (for business modelling).
In order to raise awareness of potential customer needs and thus to identify target groups and their pains & gains more clearly, we create so-called personas. Based on hypotheses and experiences (proto-persona) or on data (by means of user research), a fictitious person is created, complete with curriculum vitae, characteristics and habits, so that we can get mentally closer and be more specific about the potential customer.
To include these at an early stage, we work in the area of user research with qualitative interviews, quantitative questionnaires and discussion rounds, and involve lead users, for example, in our processes. The processes, structure, design and technical possibilities of an idea are tried out and illustrated using various kinds of prototypes. So that we keep our finger on the pulse both methodologically and technically, we encourage our staff to participate in internal and external training opportunities frequently and willingly.
How we are set up
The Lab consists of a diverse, interdisciplinary team; from computer scientists and designers to employees with psychological and legal backgrounds and business analysts.
What our collaboration looks like
We work in temporary project teams. There is a so-called core team in which all core competences for the area of innovation are bundled, and this team is the constant in the Lab. There are also project leaders, interns and students who work in the Lab temporarily.
In the Lab, several projects are pursued in parallel, with a project team consisting of a project manager and a variable number of team members. The technical requirements change depending on the phase and status of the project, meaning that core team members remain in a project team only temporarily – depending on their core competences – or can also work on several projects at the same time.
In order to leverage synergies and to keep information flowing and ideas bubbling, we have established regular online review meetings, maintain dialogues with other DATEV departments and promote cooperation with start-ups, universities and businesses.
Other than that, we also like to get together after work. We go hiking, barbecue, go to the cinema together, or have a French-themed evening with boules and Burgundy.
Communication en masse
Processes of innovation are complex, do not run in a linear fashion and take an individual course depending on the project. Dealing with these uncertainties in the best possible way requires constant professional and interpersonal exchange. This is how trust and courage are built up, openness and feedback are promoted and a positive error culture is established.
We value the following competences
Working in the Lab means flat hierarchies, independent working and a lot of teamwork. Technical expertise and methodological competence are important, but so are intuition and a hands-on mentality. Of particular importance are openness/curiosity and the desire to “delve into” topics.
What we’re working on
We observe, examine and analyse the major trends in society as a whole, but also in technology. From these we derive search fields that we explore further. In this way, headings and key points are developed with technical content as well as initial ideas and visions. Current search fields, for example, include the metaverse, text and image recognition and alternative financial products.
From these search fields we develop ideas for DATEV, which are then taken forward in the form of projects. We are currently working on projects in the areas of knowledge management, business start-ups & succession, sustainability and the future of auditing and tax consulting.