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The Digital Change in Germany


Nov 28, 2019 - 8 minute read

Holger Ewald
See all Holger's posts

2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381


When starting to create this Blog Post, the idea was to write about the experiences, technologies and other challenges discussed during the latest events we have participated in. I did, however, get constantly disturbed by the question of where we actually are in our “Digital Journey” in Germany?

Due to this question, I’ve decided to share my thoughts and experiences following the latest conversations I’ve had when talking to IT and Business Leaders, decision-makers, and other key stakeholders in the digital business transformation.

It has been an extremely exciting couple of months as we’ve attended the “600 Minutes Executive IT” and the “Deutscher IT Leiter” Congress respectively. The keynotes and discussions during those events were again very interesting and gave a lot of insights into where companies are in their digital transformation journey and where the challenges lie.

However, all those conversations resulted in a lot of questions about Digitalization in Germany in general and what is actually going on behind the scenes. On the one hand, it all seems to be awesome – great stuff is happening everywhere. The likes of Alexa helping our daily lives at home, AI supporting farmers to effectively manage their grounds, Humanoid Robots moving and performing tasks almost to the level of how we do it (or even better) as well as millions of awesome looking apps with great designs available to assist or entertain us daily. I could go on and on about the possibilities and technologies which keep emerging and are available to everyone. For instance, at Objectivity we use our own employee engagement bot, build prototypes using Artificial Intelligence to book meeting rooms, or use AI to support our business decisions.

So why is it then that there seem to be so many challenges for businesses and us in general to digitalize our processes and lives? My point is as follows: how can it be, with all the above in mind, that we are not able to provide Internet to every household in Germany? We are talking about bringing 5G to the market with all its possibilities, yet we are not able to have a stable 4G coverage in place. Whilst people in other countries pay via facial recognition, we are still counting the coins in our wallets. Or why do we still have so many manual and repetitive tasks, such as spending time filling in paper documents and bringing them to the post office in order to be sent?

The issue with the infrastructure

Well, some challenges are very obvious and easy to be noticed. Although experts see the future of data transmission practically indisputable in the fiber optic networks, Germany does not yet provide a good picture when compared on an international level. The path to the glazed future and thus into the gigabit age can no longer be averted. However, we seem to be oversleeping the worldwide trend once again.

According to the last ranking comparison of the FTTH Council from 2018, the Federal Republic ranks in the EU-wide consideration only on place 30 (2016 still place 27). Currently, (at the end of 2019), around 4.4 million households in Germany can access “real” fiber optic Internet. In this case, real means the way in which the fiber lines lead directly to the end customer’s home or modem, i.e. FTTH or FTTB. In terms of percentage points, this means a coverage of just 10.5 percent.There are plenty of reasons and aspects that are related and it would take far too much to discuss them in detail on this blog. Nevertheless, I can recommend the columns written by Sascha Lobo in the Spiegel Online or Sascha Lobo – Der Debatten-Podcast (All in German language though). He provides a critical view of the lobbyism surrounding politics as well as the decisions which have been and are being taken by the government in respect to this.

Well, the infrastructure is only a small part of the overall success of digitalization. However, without it, it will be impossible to move forward.

How to bring in a real change and make it work?

Of course there are a lot of different views and opinions to be considered when deciding to implement a real change. And yes, I believe it is impossible to make everybody pleased with the decisions that must be taken. However, I do think that it is crucial to make sure that the decisions always serve the majority and the greater good of the cause. I mean, does it help to stick to processes in the organization just because they have always worked or have been successful in the past? Where does this leave room for growth and innovation if no new paths are being considered and evaluated?

How can I be a leading company if I keep selling or providing the same old stuff whilst others come up with better and more innovative ideas aiming at providing the same but with improved features and a much better experience?

Is it not a fact that I have to invest money in order to make money? But if I only look at cutting down on my costs to increase profitability, where does it give me room for increasing the revenue?

I do think that this has a lot to do with an agile mindset. I was trying to figure it out when a department head told me that they are doing agile now. It is surprising because either you are agile as an organization or you are not, and it is not possible to just “do agile.”

As an organization, we went through the same business transformation about 11 years ago, and of course it is a challenge and a huge change for people in the organization. It is, however, proven that as an organization, we would not have been able to be more and more successful if we hadn’t done it. And yes, we “Are Agile”.

Stuck in the past

It seems that we are spending more time priding ourselves with the great achievements we had and looking at all the things we used to be good at. When having conversations, it became obvious that we were not spending enough time debating how we can still make these things better or even finding new skills, services or qualities we might not yet be aware of. I would like to bring up “Gallups Strenghtfinder” at this point which is a great way to look at one’s strengths and how to build on them. It is much more positive to focus on our strengths rather than concentrating on our weaknesses. It also gives the chance to evaluate what we are really good at and how we can improve them even more. Moreover it gives a way to find the best possible match for us in order to complement our own strengths and to form effective teams not only based on skill and knowledge but also on our natural trades we got. In this way, we can still be proud of what we are really good at and use this to improve ourselves and build on it.

If I can use the words of Henry Ford: ‘’You can not build your reputation on what you will do in the future’’.

Are we scared of taking risks?

This is a bit of a tricky point which is difficult to educate about or open people’s mind too. It goes without saying that taking risk takes courage, and I am not telling you to put everything on one card like when you are gambling in a casino. It is more about evaluating which risks can be taken and what makes a good business sense to try out. Of course, not everything will materialize – there will be failures and it will take good measurements to verify whether making an investment is indeed healthy to the organization.

However, in our culture failure is most often seen as a weakness and the blame shifting in boardrooms is a daily exercise when things are not going the way they should. It is important to allow failure to some extent – it is a great way to explore, evaluate, and re-do in order to create something outstanding. One thing is a fact: if you do want to be successful, you have to keep working on your products or services and constantly improve them. To see how innovation works click here.

There should also be some budget available to try things out, innovate and see if a theory can be put into production. There are several organizations that are very good at this. However, especially in small and medium sized businesses, I’ve met a lot of people who have no opportunity for this in their company. Well, if it is because there is no money available for things like that, then consider how much you spend on recruiting and training new team members. If people don’t have the chance to bring in their creative skills and are not involved in the success of the company, sooner or later they will leave and work for companies that will provide them with such a chance.

People, people, people

Last but not least, the most important part of it all is that it is the people who make a difference. It is all about how we include them and how we make sure that what we do is the right thing. At the beginning of the change process, it should start with how the team is thinking about it and how it can be implemented. In every organization there are  people who have doubts and ask a lot of questions. And this is extremely important so that these doubts can be considered when decisions are being taken. Of course, change brings uncertainty, worries, sometimes fear. But it also brings a lot of excitement, challenges that need to be solved as well as new opportunities. It will all depend on communication and to what extent the team will be included in the process. A huge portion of motivation and some great prospects should help get the attention.

This change process also has to be led by the Management, and they have to believe in the success to be able to transport the message to the team. Potentially, there is also a need to educate the management as there seems to be the lack of understanding on the top.

At Objectivity, we have 4 values which are at the core of our business. They are all surrounding one big overall goal. Win-win and that counts for all stakeholders in a project, process, team or any other decision we have to take.

Well, I guess there is no recipe for success that will suit everyone, and every organization will have their experience in at least some of the above-mentioned parts. There are a lot more reasons and examples, so these are just a few points I’ve raised in this post.

It is important to question the processes in place and come up with ideas of how they can be improved. Give room to the employees to express their thoughts, and most importantly, give them support and space to come up with ideas

Don’t forget –  if you don’t do it, someone else will, and sooner or later they will do it better, faster and most likely more efficient than you.

2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381
Holger Ewald
See all Holger's posts

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