Some people cannot hear it anymore. No matter which magazine you open or which business podcast you listen to, there seems to be only one topic. Bad news at this point: it will stay that way for a while!

This short article, however, is intended to take an unenlightened look at the topic of digitalisation and its development. A view that we try to bring into our projects as a sparring partner of management.

The most important point at the beginning:

Digitalisation is not an end in itself!

Digitalisation is still supposed to ensure the more efficient or effective fulfilment of the corporate strategy, which should be oriented and aligned with customer needs.

However, if one takes a closer look at certain digitisation efforts, one has the feeling that these are opportunistic activities that are pursued purely “for the sake of digitalisation”. When asked what strategic goal the effort is meant to support, the answer is often not forthcoming. The considerations of the concrete range of services or the business case to be aimed at were also often not made.

“The corporate board thinks we need to digitise more.”

That is true in and of itself, but we also think about where we want to go on holiday and how we want to get there. We do not drive off and hope to get a place in some hotel for a fortnight. That means we need a target and a plan (=strategy) on how to get there. To this end, digitalisation is only one means among many of how we can get to this target faster, more cost-effectively or with less risk.

Since the responsibility for strategy development is still the core task of the management and functional areas, the derivation of digitisation measures should also take place in these very departments and be driven forward there.

At present, however, this no longer seems to be en vogue. The former heads of EDP/IT have been made Chief Digital Officers and given the task of digitising the company!

Digitization efforts should be driven from the business units and not from IT!

Alexander Steinhart, Supply Chain Partners

From my point of view,  unfortunately there are several arguments against such a path of digitalisation:

  1. No one knows the processes better than the business department. Even if the IT department has know-how about the technologies used in the company (e.g. ERP systems), the processes that are actually lived are definitely more complex or deviate from them to a considerable extent.
  2. The “human” dimension is also usually neglected in projects. Employees are often involved too late and thus prevent a constructive discussion of the fears and resistance to digitisation efforts that affect them.
  3. In order to avoid complexity, a supposed all-in-one solution is often sought and purchased, which usually contains expensive, unnecessary functionalities or has to be adapted expensively. Many IT departments are not yet equipped for a “best-of-breed” modularity that is oriented towards the best software support depending on the business purpose.

Thus, many projects started as a proof of concept in IT but never made it to scale due to the points mentioned above. In other cases, the partial or non-application of the technology introduced costs the company a lot of money year after year without the business case originally shown materialising.

If the maturity of the dimensions of people, process and technology are not close together, it may be possible to become “paperless”, but it is seldom possible to generate the actually intended added value of digitisation.

That is why I call on all department heads:

Take the digitalisation rudder into your own hands!  

  • Create a specialist strategy based on the corporate strategy!
  • Design measures to successfully implement this strategy!
  • Get the expertise on how digitisation can help in the execution of the measures and create a business case!
  • Secure capacities in IT or in the market to implement these efforts!
  • Involve the employees concerned – work with their resistance and not against it!

On the basis of the points mentioned above, selected digitisation measures will succeed and lose the pale taste of “ends in themselves”.