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Better change a running system — Into digitalization with courage — Illustration by TEAMS

Better change the running system — Into digitalization with courage

Article originally published in German

Everyone is talking about the path to digitalization. And we are already halfway down it. We as people, as employees, as friends, as customers, as an audience, as a company providing services, as a society. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the way people work, shop, purchase, travel, and administrate has been copied from analogue to digital. Machine-readable information, generated in the background of our permanent online activity, is at the core of digitization. Data, i.e. the digitally recordable behaviour of man and machine, migrates intentionally (or unintentionally) into clouds and AI systems of highly developed companies, aimed to optimize the processing of information on the one hand and the quality of machine-based decisions on the other.

The digital transformation triggers a change on a societal level and goes hand in hand with a transformation of wishes and demands. People today are well-networked players who expect tailor-made solutions to be promptly delivered with best quality service — Digital, immediate, high-performing, secure and without costs. Expectations fuelled by a handful of monopolies in the economy, demands that have to be met — right?

According to a study by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, one out of four companies in Germany still finds it difficult to tackle their own digital transformation or achieve their desired results. The reasons are as diverse as they are understandable: Terms such as artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing or Internet of Things are not self-explanatory; countless providers advertise products that differ significantly in function, performance, price and service. Furthermore, despite numerous digital and analytical innovations, there are yet to be any standardized paths for a successful digital change.

How should one assess which approaches to digitization are right for one’s own company — or are even needed?

TEAMS has been advising and consulting companies for years in the development of sustainable and digital strategies, products and interaction concepts. We work with global players and those who want to become global players.

By digital transformation, we understand the opportunity for new and better-developed infrastructures, types of production and business models which are within the value-added chain and part of the supply chain; for chances to win new customers and retain existing ones.

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Digitization is a strategic topic that no company can escape from anymore. — Illustration by TEAMS

Anyone who decides to digitize services or products decides to examine their current “analogue” status critically and to think from scratch instead of merely making existing ones “digitally better”.

At the beginning of this process, the willingness to collaborate and to seek exchange is essential: Those who immure cannot communicate with the outside world. It is precisely this necessary step that is difficult to implement for established companies with protectionist policies.

Often, companies that are venturing into digital transformation do not know where to start.

We recommend concentrating on one area or a few processes first. These should then be assigned to “specialists” within the team, who will create space for experiments and ideas. This method often leads to the discovery of unforeseen potentials and individual abilities of team members, which should definitely be encouraged. Through the acquired knowledge, employees are given the chance to prepare for the effects of digitalization; to help shape and take (co-) responsibility for decisions.

People are increasingly challenged to adapt to an ever-changing (working) world and should be motivated to maintain this critical scrutiny. All those involved need courage and self-confidence when entering a new creative and technical territory. They have to be prepared to look at the world of production with different eyes; to rethink the tried and tested, to live risk culture and to break up restricted framework conditions.

Companies have always gone through technological changes with the times.

However, the speed of current changes, of new and demanding customer requirements and the rapidly shifting dynamism in the industrial landscape, is enormous. It is, therefore — more than ever — time to invest in innovation, to abandon the “never-change-a-running-system” attitude and to take risks and venture into new business areas.

Finally a small ray of hope: From our experience, we can say that digitization is forgiving. Internal efforts and costs are always relative because they also create new competencies and opportunities. Even if these appear expensive, risky and time-consuming at first glance, it is essential to put aside one’s apprehension and tackle the digital challenge.

Direction: Marco Kapetan.

Research & text creation: IxD Team at TEAMS.

Graphics: Diana Izquierdo.

Sources:

1. „Anatomy of an AI System — The Amazon Echo As An Anatomical Map
of Human Labor, Data and Planetary Resources“, Kate Crawford, Fladen Joker, 2018, https://anatomyof.ai/

2. Monitoring-Report Wirtschaft DIGITAL 2018 — Wirtschaftsindex DIGITAL, Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi), 2018
https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Publikationen/Digitale-Welt/monitoring-report-wirtschaft-digital-2018-langfassung.html

3. Umfrage von Mc Kinsey, 2019,
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/five-moves-to-make-during-a-digital-transformation

4. “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs”, Smith, Aaron et al.,
Pew Research Center, 2014
https://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/06/future-of-jobs/

5. “Keine Chefsache”, Peter Laudenbach im Gespräch mit Soziologin und Unternehmensberaterin Judith Muster, 2019, brand eins online
https://www.brandeins.de/magazine/brand-eins-thema/innovation-2019/judith-muster-interview-keine-chefsache

6. „Das erstarrte Land“, Lisa Nienhaus, DIE ZEIT, Ausgabe 33, 2019

7. „Mittelstand Digital — Strategien zur digitalen Transformation der Unternehmensprozesse”, Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi), 2019
https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/DE/Dossier/mittelstand-digital.html

8. „Wo Digitalisierung im Alltag nützt“, 2019, Wolf Lotter,
Heft 03, 2019

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TEAMS is one of the world’s leading design agencies. TEAMS is not just a name — it’s our attitude!

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