The organisational, management and cooperation challenge that is the ‘digital change’
Many companies’ managers are aware that long-term digitalisation of their internal organisational structures will not be based on upgrades of the technology used for offers, processes and services alone. Mastering this will require much more: willingness to change across the entire organisation and its structures and, above all, ‘things’, requires employee commitment. At the 46th edition of the Business Breakfast at foryouandyourcustomers Zurich, we got a look behind the scenes of successful companies, highlighted how these are tackling current challenges and trying to overcome these, as well as which opportunities digitalisation offers the companies of today – all tied in with practice, against a sound theoretical base, to orientate our guests and provide them with guidance on business development.
‘Digitalisation has been one of the top items on the top management agenda for some time,’ one of the participants told us. ‘The amount of talk about it – compared to other challenges faced at present – is almost too much for my ears. That said, today gave us the chance to look at the digital change from a different angle, i.e. what role the employee will play in all this, as a human being and as a worker, as part of the company, with its visions and requirements, and how I can engage them and their development potential in this change process. One thing I’m sure about is that it won’t be just me and my company which benefit from the experts’ all-round view and their wealth of experience after today.’
‘Many organisations – in both the B2B and B2C sectors – aim to be state-of-the-art. In the past, for example, new online shops have been produced out of thin air, apps have been launched quickly on the market, processes have been automated and a large number of services have been created around products and services. Every possible channel to the customer needs to reflect the respective digitalisation strategy and be opened up and maintained in line with this, which, of course, is to ensure that the connection to the competition is not lost with ever-faster digitalisation,’ said Miriam Hofbauer, COO foryouandyourcustomers Zurich.
A change in focus is necessary
In the past, the focus has generally been technical aspects and nothing else, i.e. work with data and setting up new systems. ‘Over the past few months, however, there has been a change of mindset, based on the collective experience gained of the digital change in many places,’ Hofbauer continued. ‘As we ourselves at foryouandyourcustomers have a specific form of organisation in place and take an integral approach to supporting our customers in the digital change, we were increasingly being asked the following question by companies: what impact does digitalisation have on an organisation and its employees and how can you meet such requirements effectively?’
Thanks to her experience and day-to-day project work, Miriam Hofbauer is aware that cultural change is required within a company to be able to integrate this revolution successfully into structures and processes. For this reason, people within the company need to adjust to and align themselves with these changes at all levels, acquire relevant skills and competences and make these available.’ The Exploded View, a model developed by foryouandyourcustomers, which Miriam Hofbauer presented to participants this particular morning, can provide support with this.
Using experiences from digitalisation projects in different industries as her basis, she revealed the following: ‘Companies are focusing more and more on customers as they tackle digitalisation, using the customer layer as their starting point: what are my customers expecting, and what do they want?’ According to Hofbauer, to be able to meet relevant requirements, new technologies are required at the lowest levels of the model, which should lead to an improved customer experience. ‘That doesn’t happen overnight though. The problem is that as long as the technological changes are not made, the employees will usually have to bridge this gap to make the customer experience positive right away.’
‘Digitalisation makes cultural change necessary’
The employees at the company need to be included in the process of implementing these planned changes and adjustments at all other levels of the organisation and achieve the desired amount of success. Failure to do so, as is often seen nowadays, results in employees being overworked, feeling dissatisfied, internal conflicts and conflicts of competencies, a silo mentality being encouraged in individual departments and, above all, things which mean, in Miriam Hofbauer’s words, ‘that success does not ensue in the long term.’ In order to avoid these ‘consequential damages’, foryouandyourcustomers and Miriam Hofbauer are looking to the Exploded View, a valuable analysis, communication and planning tool, for a solution.
The importance of employees & the role of company management – the key factor in the success of cultural change in organisations – was subsequently highlighted by Gallus Roemer, Head of Operations & IT at Doppelleu Boxer AG, in his presentation. For many years, Roemer worked in various capacities in IT at Geberit and was involved in agile methods, before grappling intensively with work on the science of ‘agile management’ at HSG St. Gallen in Switzerland.
‘Globalisation and the ever-faster advance of digitalisation are making companies more complex,’ he explained to attendees. In the environment of this revolution, it is much more difficult for organisations which have a particularly hierarchical structure to encourage the necessary innovativeness and to keep company processes controllable. The reasons for this are complex: ‘The current generation has different needs now; people can no longer recognise themselves in the existing structures, let alone putting these into practice and further developing them, then stop enjoying their work and at some point just feel like a cog in the wheel. The situation is not any better for managers either: they are faced with bigger and bigger challenges and are responsible for processes and structures to the point where they are overstretched.’
In Gallus Roemer’s opinion, one potential solution is to create a hybrid form of organisation, i.e. ‘a mixture of agile and hierarchical structures that provide a meaningful and motivating work environment, in which speed and innovation are fostered’. According to Roemer, a change process at a company will always happen in accordance with the ‘principle of emergence’. In other words, every organisation can and should find its own way, a way that embeds itself in a meaningful way in the company’s culture.
An integral view of the economy and an understanding of one sociology of global relations
‘We need a paradigm shift, from a hierarchical to an integral approach,’ Daniel Humbel, CEO of Transa, and the third and last speaker at the event, proceeded to tell the audience. In his opinion, ‘the economy and the companies have a supporting role to play in this: it is they who can push for this paradigm shift,’ because politics and the education system are too slow to do so.
“The increased level of complexity and faster pace that digitalisation means for us represent an opportunity to further develop communication and decision-making culture. In other words, less right and wrong, with shorter decision and work-step phases. If decisions in the process chain are made where there is know-how to be found, there will ultimately be a radical amount of transparency. This will change communication culture internally and externally.’ In the speaker’s words, this represents a big opportunity to bring these learning processes together with employees, ‘because people need to learn how to deal with digitalisation, both privately and professionally. If changes are restricted to processes and tools, then “a fool with a tool is still a fool”. Change is about mindset. And self-reflection is a good companion to this.’