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The top 5 opportunities and challenges of digitisation

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All the sophisticated software and technology is of no use for digitalisation if companies do not take people along with them on the path of transformation. How to overcome the challenges is what the following article is about.

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Corona has made it clear to us: Digitisation is both a challenge and a solution. It enables hybrid teamwork, simplifies and automates formerly complex and expensive processes and represents an opportunity for completely new business models. At the same time, however, it destroys traditional jobs and business sectors, demands a new corporate culture and completely new innovation cycles. Even if for many companies digitisation still means primarily translating analogue processes into the digital world, digitisation is actually much more than a technical issue. In truth, digitisation changes everything.


But what does that mean for companies in concrete terms? How can we solve the challenges of our digital VUCA world and what do we need to do if we are serious about digitising our organisations? The following five levers help to ensure that digitisation is more of an opportunity than a challenge:

1. Be creative and leave the beaten track


One thing is clear: the companies that were particularly successful in the pandemic were those that were prepared to reinvent themselves and make lasting changes - be it manufacturers of paper handkerchiefs who suddenly started producing respiratory protection masks, gastronomic businesses that secured their existence by switching to take-away food, or companies that abruptly expanded their digital marketing and distribution channels. What they all have in common is that they were willing to leave behind entrenched structures and long-standing business models in order to adapt to a new reality and take advantage of current opportunities. The basis for this? First and foremost, creativity. Because only those who are able to question apparent certainties, change perspectives in the search for solutions and use digital opportunities can continually develop new business models and thus position their own company for the future.

2. The future demands new ways of working


However, the digital world of work does not only require creativity in order to keep up with the rapidly changing framework conditions and to ideally anticipate and shape new trends. It requires a new way of working together: Whereas in the past it was sufficient to assign tasks to individual employees, who then carried them out efficiently, today the creativity that is so important arises above all in a team of heterogeneous specialists. But these teams formulate their own requirements for the new working world - first and foremost a management style that creates ideal framework conditions for the teams, but leaves them enough freedom and individual responsibility to be able to develop sustainable innovations. However, co-creation does not only take place within a company: Co-creations are also increasingly taking place with customers or partners in order to jointly develop new products or services - quickly, flexibly and closely in line with the customers' requirements.

3. Flexibility and agility are the basis


Flexibility is one of the core concepts of digitisation - on the one hand, digital tools offer us an enormous gain in flexibility, on the other hand, digitisation also requires mental agility - both of organisations and of employees. In a digital product world, there are only versions, not finished products. Work on databases and other online offerings is iterative. The same applies to software. Agile methods took hold and teams became increasingly interdisciplinary. At the Haufe Group, for example, editors, software developers, marketeers and product developers often work together in joint teams. Departmental boundaries have been dissolved. And the change continues: developments are by definition never over, because when customer needs and market requirements change, the organisation has to adapt: Living in permanent beta. Being unfinished and trying out new things is a constant challenge for companies and employees, also because it is often only in retrospect that it becomes clear which steps were successful.

4. New knowledge is needed more than ever before


Digital communication tools, new programming languages or automated, machine-learning processes - in a digital, networked world, knowledge is the most valuable asset. The same applies to knowledge as to any other valuable asset: we never have enough of it. People and organisations always have to learn new things so that they can react permanently to changing market conditions and customer needs. Because when the world is turning, standing still is not an option, because otherwise people and the companies in which they work will lose their footing.
But how people obtain information and acquire new knowledge is also changing in the digitised world: employees inform themselves independently, flexibly and context-dependently and use interactive, hybrid learning offers as well as asynchronous formats such as YouTube videos and podcasts. With the knowledge they acquire, they learn to manage their daily work independently and to take on more responsibility for tasks and processes.

5. Rethinking at all levels


If you digitise, you change the organisation, because digitisation is a cultural and not a purely technical issue. For this reason, in addition to an optimal digital infrastructure, companies need above all a digital corporate culture. In this culture, managers and employees live an open and creative cooperation in which they inspire each other, exchange knowledge and work on new solutions, ideas and innovations. In this process, hierarchies that have so far manifested themselves in the corporate pyramid can also dissolve. Courage and the willingness to make mistakes while experimenting are the basis of this digital corporate culture. Companies and their employees must be willing to learn and encourage daily learning. Collaboration, openness and flexibility are the key to successful digitisation. And thus to the future viability of companies.

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