Digitization in companies – bridging the gap

Dig­i­ti­za­tion is not pro­gress­ing at the same pace every­where. While some com­pa­nies are march­ing ahead, oth­ers are in dan­ger of los­ing touch. The marked dif­fer­ence is often described as a ” dig­i­ti­za­tion gap”. Mea­sured by the impor­tance indi­vid­ual com­pa­nies attach to dig­i­ti­za­tion, a rough dis­tinc­tion can be made between three types of com­pany.

The first third of com­pa­nies are still asleep and firmly believe that they are not affected by dig­i­ti­za­tion. The sec­ond third want to do some­thing, but do not really know what to do, and there­fore get lost in a less tar­geted drive for action. The last third sees dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion as a holis­tic process and not just a trendy IT project.

the hur­dles to note

By far the great­est obsta­cle to the imple­men­ta­tion of dig­i­ti­za­tion in com­pa­nies is the defense of exist­ing struc­tures. Large, older com­pa­nies in par­tic­u­lar, with rigid processes and a pro­nounced desire for secu­rity and per­fec­tion, often lack the flex­i­bil­ity to ini­ti­ate rad­i­cal changes. In addi­tion, they often act timidly because they believe they must not allow mis­takes to be made. But in the con­text of dig­i­ti­za­tion, dif­fer­ent con­di­tions apply than, for exam­ple, for the intro­duc­tion of a new, phys­i­cal prod­uct. Because dig­i­ti­za­tion is not a sprint, but a marathon. For an agile orga­ni­za­tion, it requires above all fore­sight, will­ing­ness to take risks and courage.

Oppor­tu­nity recog­ni­tion – and use

Dig­i­ti­za­tion and the tech­nolo­gies that go hand in hand with it are dri­ving ser­vice ori­en­ta­tion in com­pa­nies in par­tic­u­lar at an extremely rapid pace. While tan­gi­ble goods are becom­ing increas­ingly inter­change­able in many indus­tries, ser­vice is becom­ing increas­ingly impor­tant.

So-​called dis­rup­tive change pro­vides the oppor­tu­nity to develop com­pletely new busi­ness mod­els from the cor­rect han­dling of the large quan­ti­ties of dig­i­tal data. Com­pa­nies should not under­es­ti­mate this. Phys­i­cal prod­ucts or processes are being replaced by data and dig­i­tal solu­tions with the help of infor­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy. This rev­o­lu­tion­izes busi­ness mod­els and changes cor­po­rate struc­tures. The focus is increas­ingly on net­work­ing and the exchange of infor­ma­tion between com­pa­nies and cus­tomers.

That’s what it looks like

A company’s progress in dig­i­ti­za­tion can be mea­sured in six suc­ces­sive matu­rity lev­els, with the high­est matu­rity level ulti­mately denot­ing the com­pletely dig­i­tal com­pany.

Dig­i­tal absti­nence

In this pos­si­bly no longer occur­ring com­pany, the IT is lim­ited to an absolute min­i­mum, so that almost all processes run man­u­ally. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is mainly oral or by means of hand­writ­ten let­ters. There is vir­tu­ally no book­keep­ing, or it is writ­ten by hand in a book. The entire pro­duc­tion is ulti­mately a pure man­u­fac­ture.

First points of con­tact with tech­nol­ogy

This com­pany man­ages the data, but hardly processes it fur­ther. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is mostly in writ­ing by let­ter or ver­bally by tele­phone. The account­ing depart­ment, how­ever, already works with com­put­ers, where elec­tronic data pro­cess­ing offers con­sid­er­able advan­tages. In most cases, sim­ple soft­ware is used for read­ing and writ­ing oper­a­tions. For pro­duc­tion, the com­pany also uses rudi­men­tary soft­ware with very sim­ple con­trol com­mands to con­trol machines.

Infor­ma­tion Sys­tems as lit­tle helpers

The com­pany relies on more com­plex data pro­cess­ing with built-​in logic in the soft­ware. Man­age­ment infor­ma­tion sys­tems eval­u­ate and con­dense busi­ness man­age­ment data. The work­sta­tions are equipped with com­put­ers, have a com­pre­hen­sive soft­ware pack­age and are con­nected to exter­nal devices such as print­ers. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion now increas­ingly takes place via e-​mail. In addi­tion, the account­ing depart­ment is relieved by pro­grams that can already per­form com­plex cal­cu­la­tions. Pro­duc­tion is sup­ported through­out by machines that can now han­dle more com­plex process steps.

Inter­net tech­nol­ogy is advanc­ing

The com­pany has now arrived in Inter­net tech­nol­ogy, as every employee has access to his or her own com­puter. In addi­tion to the tele­phone, they com­mu­ni­cate with cus­tomers via soft­ware and even via the web­site. In the largely auto­mated pro­duc­tion process, every­thing is now orga­nized using soft­ware. In addi­tion, a CRM sys­tem man­ages all cus­tomer data and all plan­ning is done by soft­ware.

Begin­nings of autom­a­ti­za­tion

The com­pany con­trols all inter­nal depart­men­tal processes via soft­ware, which guar­an­tees a high degree of net­work­ing and agile work­ing. To be more pre­cise, many processes and pro­ce­dures now run auto­mat­i­cally or are mon­i­tored by soft­ware – for exam­ple, the cre­ation of plans or fully auto­mated account­ing. The entire knowl­edge, i.e. all com­pany data and infor­ma­tion, is made avail­able to all employ­ees via knowl­edge man­age­ment sys­tems.

To get rid of “infor­ma­tion islands” and enable the auto­matic exchange of inter­de­part­men­tal data, the com­pany net­works inter­nal depart­men­tal sys­tems with each other by com­bin­ing data from dif­fer­ent depart­ments into one data hub. Inter­nally, employ­ees com­mu­ni­cate mainly via Mes­sen­ger, whereby the mes­sages are always sum­ma­rized accord­ing to topic or group if there are sev­eral par­tic­i­pants.

The all-​digital com­pany

A com­pany that is com­pletely dig­i­tal has tech­nol­ogy at its heart and is much more than just indi­vid­ual IT pro­grams: It is the merg­ing of infor­ma­tion, processes, work and peo­ple with the aim of bring­ing about orga­ni­za­tional change and more effi­cient and pro­duc­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion. All processes are com­pletely data-​driven and use arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, which makes use of pat­terns learned in recent years, to cal­cu­late a com­pre­hen­sive plan based on tar­gets. Trends can even be ana­lyzed by soft­ware access­ing all chan­nels on the Inter­net and their data. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with cus­tomers ide­ally takes place com­pletely auto­mat­i­cally via chat­bots. Oth­er­wise, they are sup­ported by human agents in ser­vice cen­ters.

In addi­tion, the all-​digital com­pany relies on full automa­tion for pro­duc­tion, mak­ing deci­sions based on learned pat­terns, log­ging and main­te­nance. Even dif­fer­ent offers of the required goods and ser­vices are fully auto­mat­i­cally eval­u­ated and pur­chased by the soft­ware. In gen­eral, soft­ware processes as well as machines are per­ma­nently mon­i­tored auto­mat­i­cally and through con­tin­u­ous learn­ing, all rel­e­vant para­me­ters are added to the newly acquired ones. In case of dif­fer­ences, the so-​called self-​healing is cru­cial by start­ing processes that auto­mat­i­cally rec­og­nize the prob­lem and elim­i­nate the trig­gers. How­ever, the com­pany can only work effi­ciently and pro­duc­tively if the soft­ware is con­stantly opti­mized, since pro­gram­ming the machines gives the nec­es­sary com­pet­i­tive edge.

Atten­tion must be paid to

Dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy alone does not make com­pa­nies agile, inno­v­a­tive and effi­cient; it is only capa­ble of sup­port­ing a uni­form cor­po­rate strat­egy. It is sim­ply not enough to have a par­tial plan that does not take the entire process fully into account, or to mas­ter only the tech­nol­ogy, processes and tools. How­ever, the path to a new cul­ture is oblig­a­tory, in which changes are part of every­day life and there­fore speed, inno­va­tion and learn­ing from mis­takes are pre­req­ui­sites for suc­cess. After all, dig­i­ti­za­tion is not a one-​off mea­sure, but a con­stant process of renewal that begins in the cor­po­rate cul­ture and orga­ni­za­tion. Far-​reaching changes such as dig­i­ti­za­tion often cause uncer­tainty among employ­ees when deal­ing with the new tech­nol­ogy, which is why trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tion is essen­tial.

After all, this is what suc­cess­ful dig­i­ti­za­tion of a com­pany is all about: cul­ti­vat­ing human rela­tion­ships and rais­ing aware­ness of change in order to achieve an improve­ment and devel­op­ment in the cor­po­rate cul­ture. Under no cir­cum­stances should there be an infor­ma­tion gap in terms of dig­i­tal strat­egy between man­agers and employ­ees with­out man­age­ment respon­si­bil­ity. Every employee must there­fore always be informed about the dig­i­tal strat­egy of his or her com­pany, so that he or she can change from being affected to be a par­tic­i­pant and co-​designer.

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