Digitisation in concrete terms: Applications from practice
Digitisation: we cannot do it without it. But which processes can be digitised with which tools – and preferably with minimum effort? What should be considered? Digitisation consultant Markus Humpert explains in an interview why and for whom chatbots, cloud computing and VR glasses can be worthwhile acquisitions.
Mr Humpert, can we really not do without digitisation?
Definitely not. In the last analysis, digitisation is nowadays the basis for innovation and the number one driver for optimising processes. What is more, the most valuable corporations in the world today no longer own factories, but earn their money with information about billions of customers who spend several hours each day using their services. There are two billion smartphones in the world – so services like Google, Facebook and Uber are an integral part of everyday life for most people. These are developments that radically change people’s communication and the value creation of companies.
Which company processes can be specifically optimised through digitisation?
The easiest way is to improve those processes in which manual effort is particularly high. Here you can easily save costs, increase quality through automation and reduce running times. The important thing is not simply to transfer an analogue process one-to-one into a digital technology, but to think about how to make the process better.
Can you give practical examples?
Wherever letters are still being written, one can go for digital technologies. This is also possible by automating interfaces in communication with the customer. If they enter their data in a digital form, they can be directly validated. You can also reduce the runtimes of standard processes such as calculating travel expenses. And for internal collaboration, digital meeting rooms, knowledge databases and chat tools such as “Slack” represent a real added value.
You know, employees depend on information being quickly available in everyday life. For example, if the field sales representative can access inventory and other capacities in real time and trigger the order with just a few clicks, then not only is that very efficient, but it also makes the customer happy. The basis for this is provided by modern “ERP systems”, which are business software solutions for controlling business processes. Nor do documents have to be sent back and forth any more, because you can immediately see what colleagues are writing in the cloud and react directly.
What about the costs?
Thanks to “cloud computing”, which means using IT resources over the Internet, SMEs can use the same technology power as big corporations. You are no longer forced to invest large sums in hardware and licences. This enormously increases safety and efficiency. There are many cloud tools – from simple word processing tools to document storage and complex specialised applications.
There is a wide choice of tools and technologies. Which of them are especially important?
For SMEs, “artificial intelligence” in the field of communication is becoming increasingly relevant. This allows chatbots to interact with customers on their own, which is especially useful for standard requests. However, the “big data” topic is also omnipresent: here it is important to consider, either internally or together with a data science consultancy, how to generate new insights from your data. This can be useful in many areas. For example, machines can be preemptively maintained using predictive maintenance analysis, which avoids them breaking down.
Which risks have to be considered?
Companies are most concerned in the areas of data protection and IT security. At least for cloud services, I can give the all-clear: as with most software applications, inadequately trained staff and patchy local security policies are the biggest risk. But here, too, there are great tools that help, for example, to manage passwords correctly and change them regularly.
Where will the digital journey go in the future, and which technologies and applications will come next?
Much has happened in the areas of “virtual reality” and “augmented reality”, i.e., the combination of analogue reality and super-ordinate information. For example, an employee in a logistics centre can use VR glasses to display information about the various packages. He then will not need to scan the package manually, but can do it by a simple gesture. This technology will be relevant for very many companies. It pays off to buy VR glasses for your own employees, so that they can experience the range of possibilities and how it feels.
How can companies prepare for this?
They must be ready for change, they must want to adapt new technologies and implement them for the benefit of their customers. Agile processes are essential. It is also helpful to capitalise on the innovative power of start-ups to gain access to the latest applications. I would add: working life is changing. A 40-year career with the same employer or the eight-hour working day will become increasingly rare.