Company culture in digital transformation
BY SIMON EDEL
The dynamics of a globalised and technological world requires maximum flexibility from organisations and companies. Consequentially, change management has lost its project character and has become an essential companion of trade and economy instead.
Our life is digital. Digitisation has long become a part of us and our everyday life and accompanies us in the form of mobile devices with internet access. We communicate through social media and we buy via tablet and smartphone. But we are influenced by the digital world not only as consumers: the digital transformation is vigorously shaking the foundations and structures the traditional value chains as we know them are built upon, and is characterised by constantly changing conditions that create an ambivalent picture of dystopia and utopia - the fine line between failure and success.
Therefore, the positive development of a company also lies in its ability to change. Hence, change management is tasked to deal with modern living and working environments in detail and intensely, and to introduce a continuous process at strategic and structural levels.
In theory, change management is defined as the detailed, structured and goal-oriented planning and implementation of change processes that lead from an initial to a desired or target state. The need for these processes is derived from changing conditions and environmental influences. All processes that need to be transformed, modified or re-established in the course of change management in order to achieve the target state are directly attributable and incumbent to its planning, management and control. Ergo, the main task of change management is the targeted and active development of an effective and strategically and operationally prudent total implementation of the budgeted targets.
Although the term change management has found significant resonance in the world of media these past few years, it is not just a trend. Theories of organisational development from the early 20s of the 19th century point to core issues of change management. The significance of the latter, however, has grown substantially in the wake of the ongoing digital transformation. This is due to the ever shortening time intervals in which new technologies affect existing ratios of customer contact, business and value chains lastingly. The increased frequency of significant developments also means that change processes are faster, more focused and above all more common in companies. While objective definitions were defined several decades ago as rigid and fixed, change management is now forced to act more quickly and flexibly and also to scrutinize the intended target with regard to changing conditions and correct them if necessary - and if so, all subsequent steps as well. Thereby, complexity increases.
For the successful implementation of change management, regular assessments to check the current situation of a company are essential. The diagnosis reveals current problems and deficiencies within an organisation that need to be addressed. A clear definition of objectives sets out a path made of single sub-steps, so-called milestones. By reaching milestones, strategic expertise, as well as infrastructural and technological conditions are created that are necessary for the rest.
An open corporate communication is the backbone of successful change management. If a company works together and is willing to accept continuous change at all levels and in all running processes also from a strategic perspective, one of the most appealing tasks is already fulfilled. To only command changes does not ensure their implementation.
Systematic change management therefore not only aims to optimise internal structures and processes within the individual company’s context, but rather aspires to actively involve the workforce and to inspire them to take part in the design process. Norbert Weckerle, CEO of apollon, IT service provider from the German town of Pforzheim, adds: ‘Lasting change must be initiated top-down in each company, i.e. from the upper level to the lower. But the enthusiasm for it must ultimately be felt at any stage.’
For his IT company, he sees change management as an important task for every project: ‘Service providers and partner companies will themselves have to take on responsibility for other companies in the future. Especially us, being an IT service provider ourselves, should get used to it. Our solutions result in far-reaching changes in the process chains and can break through structures previously dominant with our customers.’
This insight is not recent but the result of years of contact with customers at large enterprises. Many leading companies such as the Popken Fashion Group, the drugstore chain Müller, or Kaiser + Kraft implemented the omni-channel marketing system Online Media Net by apollon. ‘Uncertainty is always a factor in the establishment of far-reaching cuts in the production and value creation within an enterprise’s culture. We saw this when working with many customers on projects but also had to learn to deal with it ourselves,’ explains Norbert Weckerle.
Nowadays, change management is seen by apollon as a separate field of performance that is an integral part in the design and implementation of new software projects. According to Weckerle, the tasks of project managers and consultants also have to include regular requirement workshops with the clients that not only assess the status quo and thus discuss resulting improvements, but also includes the analysis of factors that could affect the company in the future.
The selection of ever-faster hardware, more innovative solutions and more powerful terminals will continue to increase in any case - the next technological revolution is therefore only a matter of time.
‘Arguments for short-term advantages do not pay off. Customers benefit from long-term and conceptual cooperation in times of increasing dynamics, also in terms of future structural and strategic measures,’ he adds. ‘Change management has thus become a task for software implementation and consulting.’
The digital transformation requires the company to scrutinize itself repeatedly as well. Yet this issue should never be considered a necessary burden. Anyone who feels compelled to adapt to change is just responding, at most. Those who accept change as what it is and seek the positive sides of it will find potential to stand out from the competition and ideally even leave competitors far behind. Change management is to shape the future actively - not to run after the present.
Simon Edel is the PR Marketing Consultant at apollon. He never lost his affinity for digital topics during his arts degree in English and German studies in Mannheim, Germany.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q4 2015.