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Towards a digital society – what businesses should take into account in cultural change

H umanity has always been subject to change, which takes place constantly in most times, but sometimes also “disruptively” (for example in revolutions). It is currently digitalization that is driving our change, although it is not yet clear whether it is the beginning of a state of constant faster change or whether one day we will look back on the current phase as a revolution. What is certain, however, is that no one can escape the digital transformation of our society; this applies in particular to the companies that have their customers and employees in society.

The vision of a digital society is a fully networked, transparent and open form of living together, across borders. Digitalization not only relieves us of hard work, for example through robotics, but also helps us to make decisions and optimize our lives, for example with regard to health. What is special about the current development is that our hitherto analogue world is being completely digitalised, thus combining a primarily technical process with a process of socio-economic change.

The change is not taking place in all areas at the same time, but ultimately affects all sectors of the economy, as well as politics, the media and, ultimately, our private lives. In companies, completely new forms of organization are growing and a platform economy is emerging that can satisfy the needs of consumers as individuals. At the same time, parallel to individualisation, we are seeing ever larger online communities sharing their views and messages globally, thus increasing the pressure on individual economies.

For many companies, especially in Germany’s important SME sector, digitization is an issue in which they are not taking on a pioneering role. As the survey of managing directors shows, many companies are lagging behind in terms of digitization or have not yet found any sustainable business models for a digital world.


Facing the challenge of DIGITALIZATION

Digitalization leads to a new measurement and networking of all subjects, starting from the people up to the machines in production. Everything communicates with everything is the vision and we are already on our way there with the Internet of Things. In many areas of society we are already observing completely changed forms of communication and the emergence of our own ideologies. Knowledge is made available in a completely different and permanent way and the much demanded transparency is already a hygiene factor today. The German working and economic culture, however, is still foreign to the knowledge society and its possibilities but also its requirements.

Digitalisation does not mean that everything will take place in virtual space in the future. Rather, with an increase in digitisation, more and more real action is necessary. This will become possible if digital technology complements real action. A recent study by CAPGEMINI found that companies are facing the great challenge of “introducing culturally new circuits, rethinking them and interacting anew“.

It is important that companies know exactly where they stand. In the future, it will no longer be sufficient to improve individual products or processes. Companies must ask themselves how they are able to satisfy digital customer needs. How are companies currently positioned, for example in the area of data collection and data processing? What contribution can their product portfolio make to a platform economy and what products are missing? The answers to these questions can serve as guidelines for the development of a digital strategy for companies. Without a digital strategy, there is a state of disorientation that can quickly lead to excessive demands on companies and employees.

Digitalization does not replace thinking

What is special about people is their ability to think and develop creative solutions, especially in interaction with other people. In an accelerated world, which forces ever faster decisions with the help of automated processes, it is precisely this conscious thinking that can ultimately lead to better solutions. It is important that these thought processes are open and transparent, thus creating the opportunity to explore completely new solutions together with others. This means that companies should communicate openly with each other, but this makes cross-company exchange all the more important. The ever more complex products, especially in the software area, can no longer be easily developed by traditional manufacturing companies themselves. This often starts with a lack of IT equipment and ends at the latest with existing employees who do not have the necessary IT skills.

Open Innovation is therefore a very important element for a digitized company. In addition, this enables access to even more data and thus to deeper insights. Even if the process of thinking and creatively developing solutions can lead to a decisive competitive advantage, data acquisition and data processing are an essential element of a digital company.

Where do you start tomorrow?

The steps to a digital company do not require 7-mile boots, but rather a good running shoe with which you can run an endurance race. In any case, it is better to start than to do nothing out of false reverence. The next steps could be concrete:

  • Analyze your status quo and develop a digital mission statement or a digital roadmap.
  • Involve your employees with all their (digital) skills and opinions
  • Give the topic of data a high priority in your company
  • Search specifically for innovation cooperations, either in an academic environment or directly with innovative founders and start-ups.

There is no universal strategy for digitisation, but there are many ways that can lead to success. The sooner you know the direction and get going, the sooner the company can become a digital pioneer again, because the digital age has one advantage, nothing is constant except constant change.