The Future of Mobilar®: a study by IAS & 5 Master students
IAS, a resident based in the Darwin building, made a study on the future of their Mobilar® tool, together with five Master students of the Antwerp Management School, during an 8-week in-company project. Mobilar® is a skills management software to objectively screen the functional skills of employees through a scientifically based weighting principle. As we approached the end of the academic year, this is an ideal moment to check with both Michael from IAS and the students how this collaboration came about and what they have achieved together.
We start off with a few questions for the students and then interview Michael from IAS.
Five bright minds, a super-efficient combination of backgrounds, insights and courage. The group of students consists of two 'Master in HR Management' (HRM) students and three 'Master in Global Management’ (MGM) students. In front of me are: Ozzy from Turkey and Kimberly from Austria, who did a deep-dive in the Mobilar® methodology and investigated how to further scientifically deepen the Mobilar® Skills Model. Irene and Andrea, from Italy and Pieter-Jan from Belgium focused on the go-to-market strategy and elaborated on how Mobilar® should ideally be marketed as a product.
During eight weeks they did an in-company project where they worked as a Junior Consultant. Their tasks were to apply their academic knowledge and critical vision to provide the company with advices and solutions on their research questions. The final results is a master thesis to obtain their degree. Quite challenging but super interesting according to the students.
Both groups got in touch with IAS through the Antwerp Management School (AMS). After a full day of presentations during which every company ‘pitched’ their projects, they needed to select a top 3 and decided to go for the more strategically-oriented project of IAS. The most challenging part of this project was the combination of both teams (MGM and HRM) but, as is turned out, it was also of high value. A general conclusion is that the students were able to apply what they learned during the past academic year and put it into practice in the ‘real-life’ business world. “But also the fact that we could physically come to Incubator Darwin and all work together was like a little dream-come-true, after a year of working / studying at home” completes Irene.
“Mobilar® is active in the field of learning and development, so this is where the HR-part comes into place. Our goals were to challenge the Mobilar® model (used to assess the skill gap of employees) and give some recommendations to further improve the system itself and also to standardise the skills models to be able to more easily expand to other markets outside of the automotive industry. This is one of the points where we needed to work together with our MGM-colleagues who have a more business-oriented background.” explains Kimberly. “It was really interesting for us as HR students, as the project was maybe a bit more complicated than a classical HR-project, but that’s why Kimberly and I liked it. It’s not just the soft HR part, but also the analytical part to better understand which steps were needed in order to proceed. For example what kind of skills development models should be developed to support different companies within the automotive sector and also others sectors. As the Mobilar® application is so unique in the market, we had a lot of layers that we could investigate, understand, analyse and advise on further improvements.” adds Ozzy.
Taking into account the suggestions they wanted to make, but also aligning them with the other group was fascinating but also sometimes quite challenging. “That’s why we had weekly meetings or even multiple during the week. We needed to make sure that we were all aligned, and that there weren’t any conflicts between our recommendations. This assignment of matching skills model improvements with a clear go-to-market strategy aimed for further internalisation was certainly ambitious and we sure had a lot of work to do, but I’m convinced that both groups delivered a solid result.” explains Pieter-Jan.
Do you hope to proceed in the future with a job like this?
All students agree that this project was very stimulating and very instructive to get to know the job of a consultant. “Yes, the job of a consultant is really interesting because you get to know different realities and work on a lot of different projects, so during the first years of my career this would be perfect. But I think it’s not for a long time, because the work-life balance is not optimal. But to gain experience it's definitely a smart choice” tells Andrea & Irene.
We from Incubator Darwin wish them all the best, but also Michael from IAS believes very strongly in their abilities and their added value as professionals. He was happy to answer some questions about this unique collaboration.
“It's good to see them clash from time to time, then the fireworks start and that’s when the music really starts playing.”
Michael, how did you come up with the idea to engage AMS students for this project?
In the past at a previous job, I already did some projects together with AMS. So I was already convinced of their capabilities, their bright scope, the high quality level of output that you can aspect, etc. So for us the timing was perfect to hire them for this in-company project. If I’m quite honest it was also two for the price of one or let’s say 1.5 (J) because I think for AMS it was not an easy task to find interesting projects in this COVID year. That’s why we saw an added value in combining both an HR- and a Global Management approach. The initial focus was more on the internationalisation and further possible growth of Mobilar® as a stand-alone tool, and the so-called ‘go-to-market’ strategy needed to do so. But then we decided to add the HR part to focus more on how we could further improve the Mobilar® methodology. The final results of combining both groups, is that we really got out of it what we wanted, meaning: a clear view on how to gain efficiency, on how to build sturdy skills models and being able to capitalize on what is already in place. In the end, we are really happy on the outcome!
Which results did you hope to get from this project?
“First and foremost: we always look to these kind of projects as a learning journey for the students, so whatever comes out of it, it is good for them, hopefully also for us. And of course we had some research questions in the beginning as mentioned before, but we know ourselves and within our teams we have quite a number of bold ideas continuously flying around so that’s why the way towards the end-goals is sometimes challenging and can change quite often. However, we see this as a benefit and something that really sets us apart from the competition. It’s also one of the key reasons why our customers decide to partner with is. So why would we change this J.
But anyway, what was nice to see is that all students did what we expected: apply their critical visions towards some of the decisions we made in the past on Mobilar®. As a company we didn’t had the time to investigate every little detail, so maybe we made some shortcuts along the way in function of the creation of a marketable product. We expected from the students – like we do from every “consultant”, that his or her job is to enter an organisation and based on the information they have (which is quite often too limited), come with solutions, expert advice in order to quickly proceed. Conclusion: they definitely all had the consultant mindset.
For the HRM students they were focused on the core of Mobilar®, the methodology on building skills models. They came up with some recommendations on how to improve and be able to easily co-develop these models with subject matter experts at the client side. In most cases, they are the experts of what tasks should be done in their own organisations and which skills are needed to do so. We want to further empower clients in building their own skills models based on our methodology. It might sound complex, it is at first glance, but the HRM students gave some clear advices on how to improve this end-user perspective and make it more efficient and easier to understand. We noticed in the beginning when we introduced Mobilar® to our customers that it took some time to get to know and understand the skills models because Mobilar® is so detailed and thorough. However in the end, this enables our customers to assess their own staff as the tool itself is so easy to use.
For the Global Management students, a vital part in their study was expanding Mobilar® to a global level, so this goal was clearly set. We always say: if you aim, you better aim high. For Mobilar® we still have some work to do. We’re already active on a European level: for example in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, … so the next level is to expand globally within the automotive industry. But we also have clear ambitions to expand outside automotive. But in order to do that, we needed some answers to some vital questions with regards to global pricing, how to penetrate different sectors, etc. and a detailed roadmap how to get there, when to shift the focus, engage additional people, etc. These all have a direct impact on Mobilar® and the companies evolution.
So in general we aren’t a company that asks the students to pass by, give us ideas, and afterwards say ‘hmm, let’s put it on the shelf’. We wanted them to share their opinions and come up with clear solutions. Which they did! I am convinced a lot of them will influence the future business decisions.”
Does this collaboration taste like more?
“We see a very bright future in partnering more closely with the University of Antwerp and Antwerp Management School. These youngsters as ‘junior consultants’ are so capable and competent and as a company we often can’t always find the time to dig deep, we take decisions along the way – so it’s good to have external advice to keep us being triggered and to keep on challenging our own ideas. Definitely we want to collaborate again in the future. We are maybe thinking of a yearly project, as there is still a lot to discover with Mobilar®, so we have enough content and perspectives to come up with interesting project for AMS and their different master programs.
If you could give one piece of advice to these students, what would it be?
“Keep being themselves, because nobody is better in doing so. They shouldn’t change their way of work, they are all five bright minds. It's good to see them clash from time to time, then the fireworks start and that’s when the music really starts playing. Also, they should never change their own way of looking at things. They all have a bright future ahead of them. And who knows, maybe there is some place for one of them in the (near) future.
To close off, I also hope when they look back at this project, they hopefully learned what it is to work in a quite unique organisation like IAS. We have a start-up, scale-up like mentality. If you look at the average AMS student, they definitely all have the possibility to work for the Big 4 consulting companies (KPMG, EY, PWC, Deloitte), and big FMCG players such as Unilever, Mars, P&G, etc. but I’m sure that if they have an entrepreneurial mindset and need to decide where they want to go professionally, they now will also consider a ‘smaller’ company. We all believe strongly, that in the times we are living now, if you want to make a difference, it’s more likely to change the world by starting off small with the big ideas you have. You don’t need to follow the ‘rat race’ and play by the existing rules. It’s much better to break them :).”