Digitization revolutionizes daily work
Let’s face it: even if digitization is needed, where are we at today regarding this area? Which new features are already in place? What is their impact on day-to-day work? What new developments can we expect? We discussed this with staff from the logistics, media, pharmaceutical and entertainment industries, as well as with an expert on digitization, Professor Klemens Skibicki.
Digitization: a formidable and ubiquitous concept which drives companies to modernize. Digital transformation does not have the same impact in every company, however, and the level of need also differs from one industry to the other. This is the reason we ask the question to people confronted with this transformation on a daily basis: What is the impact of digitization on recurring work?
Where is digitization?
Structures that set up digital innovations are rapidly growing compared to their competitors that are limited to operational excellence. In a study commissioned by TA Triumph-Adler and carried out by IDC in Germany last August, among IT managers and other department heads, this was brought to light. Nevertheless, the majority of companies are only at the beginning of this process and are focusing too heavily on optimizing internal processes.
An IT manager at a logistics company, in charge of process automation, cites the following example: “For one of our products, we are in the process of developing digital solutions to make it as easy as possible to integrate our customer orders into IT systems. We computerized this process, which has been manual up to now. In comparison, the pace of Netflix, Google and Amazon is impressive, not to say terrifying.” The Business Barometer also indicates that half of companies consulted fear increased competition. “We’ll see if we can go fast enough,” the IT manager stated.
A communications manager in a pharmaceutical firm said that in their company, decisions related to digitization are often made first and foremost at an international level. “At a national level, we are constantly experimenting with different ways to simplify processes. We innovate areas such as travel expenses, hours worked, or human resource management.” “However, the introduction of new digital tools is not enough on its own,” said Professor Klemens Skibicki, expert in digital transformation. He finds the situation worrisome. “Certainly, some processes are called into question, but with the possibilities in the digital world, many workflows need to be simplified, cost-effective, and approached differently. We have facilitated access to the product, but not the product itself. Unfortunately, we have a significant delay in this respect. On the other hand, Facebook, Google and Amazon already have an extremely strong customer focus,” Mr. Skibicki added, “we need to understand what the key drivers of digital change are, and only then will we be able to say where we are.”
The challenge of digitization
“In the meantime, we have learnt from our past mistakes,” said the communications employee from the pharmaceutical firm. “In the past, we often planned on a far too short-term basis. If we decided to carry out a digitization project today, we know that we would need to plan budgets and abilities on a long-term basis.” Furthermore, current staff training focused on new tools and processes is much more important than before.
“New economy” businesses are familiar with this problem. “When it comes to digitization, we are still in the lead- but I noticed that fear of the unknown dominates other companies. In addition, advantages and disadvantages of digital processes are not assessed correctly, due to a lack of know-how,” said a startup employee working as a cameraman and editor. According to Skibicki, such difficulties are neither exceptional nor surprising. Many businesses still need to overcome a cultural hurdle. “We need to think way bigger, and the management community needs to understand the digital era. Conversely, we put up a wall and limit ourselves with outdated rules. It is dangerous to just assume that we are well positioned.”
This opinion is corroborated by a DIHK survey: In Germany, just over a quarter (27 percent; in 2016, 25 percent) of companies feel “truly established” for digitization. “Companies are on the right track, but also notice considerable potential in their digital development,” the DIHK analysis said.
What are the strengths of a digital approach?
“In our company, the presence of the Intranet has been renewed in a less static form, with a community approach. I hope this will allow us to communicate much more in the future. Furthermore, there is now a “digital” team that brings together ideas, including the IT logistics manager. ”
“At an internal level, our networks are properly connected,” the Communications Manager at a pharmaceutical company confirmed. “Through the Intranet and an internal newsletter, we are informed about planned developments, trainings, and other relevant company information.” Professor Skibicki also discerns an improvement in communication compared to 5 years ago. He warns, however, that there are too many obstacles. “We must understand that the term “social” is a fundamental principle of communication, and companies have ignored this for far too long.”
Where is digitization headed?
Does digitization destroy jobs? The employees we interviewed recognize the benefits of digital transformation, but also fear the repercussions. For example, the IT Logistics Manager is positive about the expected increase of communication channels and platforms such as “Slack” for exchanges, but he also criticises the change due to the fact that “simple application tasks are automated, and it threatens jobs.”
A Sales Manager in the entertainment industry is of the same opinion. “Those who do not consider digital transformation today, will not be able to trade in the markets of tomorrow. In a few years, when this market is more or less dominated by digital products, my role may also become expendable.”
According to the DIHK survey, 18 percent of companies expect an increase in the number of employees and 19 percent discern potential savings, but the majority (63 percent) expect that the number of employees will not change. With regards to the “progress of work”, almost three-quarters of companies expect new, more flexible practices.
“The fear of losing jobs is justified,” said Klemens Skibicki. He adds, however, that this is normal throughout structural change. “We focus on jobs that disappear, without seeing the ones that appear. We must have the courage to change. Amazon has 500,000 employees. This is why companies must move in this direction as soon as possible. “
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