It feels like digitization moves ahead a little bit faster every day and sometimes behaves differently than companies would like. We have analyzed digitization projects and were able to identify four basic factors which can cause the digital transformation to stall in companies. We offer you tips on how companies can overcome the four biggest stumbling blocks in digitization: people, too much complexity, missing interfaces and the urge to do everything yourself.
Tip 1: Involve your employees
Digitization Threatens Millions of Jobs was the headline in the online version of the business periodical Handelsblatt. But Die Zeit, Die Welt and Wirtschaftswoche also see the future of work at risk. Messages like that don’t necessarily lead to your employees shouting “Hooray” when you call for digitization projects in the company. Employees are worried about losing their jobs, worried about possibly being left behind by digitization. Thus, digitization is not a challenge for IT, but first and foremost a social problem. That means managers must include their employees and get them excited about the digital transformation. It is not enough here to say, “We will become faster, better and more efficient.” Rather, companies must demonstrate new options for the future to their employees. This could be that they will carry out more valuable activities, or that it will require creativity and personal responsibility, rather than employees working their way through everyday administrative tasks.
Digitization changes the demands on employees
For centuries, the familiar working world has been hierarchical. But in a digital world that is changing faster and faster, when we realize that we can’t know what is heading our way, it becomes difficult to have just one supervisor who points the way. Rather, we need groups or networks of people with a variety of competencies who help companies to design new processes. The keyword is agility, which enables employees to work self-organized and to advance subjects in the company. As a result, we achieve a decentralization of knowledge and, in turn, speed. You cannot command agility, rather you must promote a change in behavior. It is a process that takes time and which management must exemplify. If companies manage that, they will achieve outstanding results in digitization. They can then be sure that everything that happens in the company happens with the best knowledge of all their employees.
Tip 2: Reduce the complexity of digitization projects
We can see from past projects that the risk of not reaching your goal or even of digitization projects failing increases the greater the scale of the project is. Today, companies are equipped with a wide variety of frontend systems, not just one. The introduction of new digital process solutions therefore demands an integral approach. In addition, the digital transformation carries with it some uncertainty, because the behavior of new trends and technologies is not one hundred percent predictable. Instead of tackling digitization in one big bang, it can make more sense for a company to proceed step by step. On the one hand, that leads to the goals being better understood and communicated. But it also leads to the goals being tested more quickly and, if necessary, corrected.
Communication is the be-all and end-all for successful digitization in companies
Tip 3: Think about interfaces in digitization
All business processes in your company are now digitized, but they still don’t cooperate with each other. For example, do you have to import master data out of Excel every day or do you have to look through three different systems when you want to view your digital personnel file? You haven’t thought about the interfaces to the frontend system. One important insight: digitizing is not enough; companies also have to network their systems, create a uniform IT architecture and provide processes that meet the customer’s needs. In short, it is a matter of developing platforms which demonstrate a high capacity for integration. To do that, you must involve your company’s IT department as well as the strategic department. Rely on cooperation between the departments and uniform structures rather than on isolated solutions.
Tip 4: Don’t do it all yourself
Quite frequently, companies want to do everything themselves. We want to know everything and be able to do anything. For one thing, it becomes difficult to meet this demand when we are constantly faced with new challenges during an ongoing digitization. Another aspect you need to take into consideration is the time to market. You should bring new solutions and products onto the market quickly, otherwise the competition will leave you behind. But if you want to do everything in the company in-house, projects take much longer.
However, if you rely on standards, you better facilitate digital networking. In this way, you produce a uniformity in your company on which you can simply digitize processes, no matter if it’s on-premises or in the Cloud. You can use this basis company-wide for different departments and integrate it well in existing systems. So use existing services, purchase already manufactured platforms for the purpose and save time and reduce complexity.
Summary: Communication is everything
All in all, communication is the primary guarantee for successful digitization in the company. Communicate with your project employees, with the managers. Communicate not only the company’s goals, but also tell your employees what specific advantages will result from the digital transformation. Communication doesn’t stop with people: Let the systems communicate with each other by intelligently networking and integrating them.
Naturally, digitization also always presents risks. But it offers so many more opportunities. It is worth taking the step.