Digital or rather analogue working environment? How do companies deal with this change?

Are you already digital or are you still working on it? Hardly anyone looks back or reflects on how long it has been about digitizing themselves and the world, but even an end does not seem foreseeable. While some already wrote about the post-digital age in 2010, some industries and the majority of medium-sized companies are only now taking the step into digitization. But what is currently remarkable about this step?

Where do German companies stand at all?

It's been 20 years since the previously unknown company Google published a novel search engine program. Only one year later, there were already 1 billion queries running through this service. In the perception the topics have changed holistically, without web page nothing works nowadays in the business at all any more and the once so desired catalogs of Otto or Quelle have turned into modern Webshops.

The digitalization hype promised faster, simpler and better solutions for almost every area of the company, while current studies show that only half of medium-sized companies know how to use them. In the area of customer relation management, for example, the corresponding software solutions are only established in 30% of medium-sized companies. The Wirtschaftsindex DIGITAL 2018 surveyed 1,061 high-ranking decision-makers on the use of digital devices and infrastructure, digital development in companies and business success through digitalization. The index expresses the degree of digitisation of the German economy in one number. Only 7% of German companies are regarded as pioneers and more than a quarter are experiencing difficulties with digitisation. The main hurdles are the lack of broadband expansion (43%) and the immense time expenditure (40%), but 36% also mention the lack of knowledge among employees and the lack of IT specialists (30%).

What do the digital pioneers do differently? Or in other words what can companies do if they still exert a profitable influence on at least 2 of the 4 things? Current developments also show that in certain work steps or subject areas analogous working methods are revived. Have you heard of LEGO® Serious Play® or Pair Programming?


What does this mean for the business world?

Just a few years ago, the use of Excel lists was an innovation and data was transferred from paper to a digital system that could hardly be imagined. Nowadays, hardly anyone still speaks of successful digitisation when it comes to the use of Microsoft Office packages. But this fact clearly shows the successful change and the acceptance of new solutions in companies. Many things are already taken for granted in today's world of work, not to mention the possibilities that have already found their way into private life.

Banks and insurance companies in particular have undergone radical transformation in recent years. So-called Fintechs have been putting traditional business models to the test for some time now. In addition, today's bank customers expect a level of comfort that goes beyond consulting services. Online banking has long been a thing of the past, however, and it is more a question of contact possibilities outside business hours via chat or video.

Transport and logistics companies are scoring points with networked vehicles that tell the deliverer and thus the customer directly when the goods are moving and exactly where they are going. and the industry is also continuing to make progress. It is catching up with topics such as automation, a partial aspect of digitization, is launching it into a new era and is now focusing on the Internet of Things with Industry 4.0 projects.

With the sheer endless variety of solutions on the market, it is still difficult for companies to make the right decision. At the same time, the demand on the customer experience is increasing, which is not only generated by the simplified ordering or complaint process, but should also be individual, focused and competent in the case of a real consulting situation. On the one hand, it is therefore highly digital, in order to then convince in direct, individual exchange, which no technical solution has been able to replace so far. Analogue should therefore not only be understood in the sense of notes and pencils, but rather as a supplement to the existing possibilities.

ARTS began digitizing individual processes 5 years ago. The initially maintained Excel lists were slowly but surely replaced by an open source system. This primarily affected the HR area and the application management system it contained. The plan was characterized by the transfer of existing processes to the new system. The software should adapt to what has always worked well so far. In addition to the time required for this conversion, the employees in particular, despite similar processes, perceived this adaptation as a major change, because in the end nothing was the way it used to be.

Today we know many things better and approach new projects differently in our ERP system. If there are new topics, we take the opportunity to take a closer look at the process from all sides. This makes it possible to involve employees in the project who would otherwise only have marginal contact with it. For the process, however, they provide a different perspective that is valuable both in terms of user orientation for the company's own employees and in terms of customer orientation.


A board with differently colored adhesive labels helps to interact across departmental boundaries.

Jointly managed adhesive label boards will remain a popular tool to exchange ideas in the future.


How do I take the employees with me on the digitisation journey?

Not only the studies show that employees are an important aspect for the success of digitization efforts, but also our own experiences teach us. Microsoft, for example, shows in a study that the importance of technology change is a decisive competitive factor for employees, but one in two fears change or even job loss. The proclamation of the paperless office can call into question the long-awaited order of the paper chaos for one person and the order of the other, and raise doubts about the way things have worked so far. This uncertainty often arises when employees feel that they are not up to it, because in most transformation processes only the technical but not the cultural challenges are given room.

To be successful it is necessary to take all employees equally with you, to point out the goal and the future perspectives. The fears of the employees can only be countered with trust, i.e. the direct exchange of concerns, so that more than just the average of 11 percent of the employees feel involved. The joint process allows managers in particular to pave the way for the continuous professional development of their employees. The development of IT competence in all areas of the company also supports the sustainable development process of digitization and prevents individual, detached digitization projects from remaining, but the company from finding itself in a holistic digital structure. It will not be possible for the companies to find an employee on the current job market who already has a fully developed skillset which seems important for the still unclear future. Therefore it will be all the more important to support the existing employees in their development in order to be able to master the resulting tasks. In addition, current developments show that jointly managed whiteboards or sticky note walls are being reactivated. Experience shows that exchange across departmental boundaries still works best on a flipchart or a metaplan board, so ideas can be easily painted without technical hurdles. Pair programming also derives from IT development, although this involves the joint programming of two developers at a desk or transferred to other areas, the IT specialist can still receive input from the accounting department for the new software. This dialogue is taking place more and more directly. In comparison, LEGO® Serious Play® represents a moderated process that combines the advantages of playing and modelling with Lego bricks with the concerns of the business world. The combination of the digital and analog worlds represents a strategy for dealing with change.


 
 

LEGO® Serious Play®helps its users to activate previously unused knowledge in order to create visions or transform processes.©Haufe

Conclusion

In recent years, the changes brought about by digitisation have led to the emergence of different levels of maturity in companies. The main goal for everyone is to connect machines and people with each other using technological aids. As in many areas of the company, the mix of methods is the key to sustainable success.

Finally a small excursion: Recently in the office, the outdated printer was delivered to a branch and its future use was questionable. Since there had already been an exchange of printer equipment between the office floors and the accounting department was using the fast-printing variant, a fax machine was now missing. Who sends a fax these days? So the idea was to test whether the machine would be used in the next four weeks or not. In fact, the fax machine was used after one week and the right to exist was granted for the next time. Today there are also technical solutions for sending a fax, but not all functioning systems have to be replaced overnight just for the sake of digitisation.

If you are also faced with the question of which instruments, technologies and solutions represent the right mix of digital and analogue for your company, please contact us. Use our experience for your project and avoid mistakes we made at the beginning. Our competent experts from all areas of the company will accompany you in the development and implementation of your strategy and take your employees with you on your journey. What other challenges do you face with digital work? Get in touch with us and let us exchange experiences.


Sources: Industrie: digitalisierungsindex.de | Gesamtbereich: digitalisierungsindex.de | microsoft.com
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