How to create intelligent value-added processes


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2016)

Most companies today are in a process of digital transformation and are among other things continuously creating new systems for e-commerce, content management and content marketing. Few however care about the integration of all these different areas through interfaces both technical and procedural. 

Such an organisation is not unlike a zoo as they still existed in the nineteen-eighties, with separate quarters for each species, only connected when employees (zoo keepers in our metaphor) at times peer over the walls and gates that separate the living quarters. Consider them bio-optical compounds. Regardless, it is clear that they are disfunctional and ineffective. The large number of recycled information, the desired consistency for external communications and ever-faster time-to-market speeds require individual care and enclosures with often manual interfaces. Such human interference is increasingly becoming undesired. 

But how to start this conversion? How to replace everything with a new technical solution that covers all and is fully integrated? The search for an encompassing solution presents itself as tilting at windmills. On the one hand there is a lack of providers for such solutions, on the other hand it often happens that some special systems have already been constructed over the years. So the redesign – aka transformation – will not be an IT system project, but an intrusion into a somewhat disfunctional ecosystem at large; consisting of enclosures, well-kept animals and responsible guards. In short: a zoo of systems!

Many consulting firms and consequently many industries, trading companies and mail order businesses have their tracking systems still operating as system-based concepts (tunnel vision alert!). These leave the transformation of overarching processes – and especially the transformation of the business organisation – largely unaffected. Indeed, within the organisation and in work processes lie value and growth. These are the areas where things have to work, where one has to face up the long-term challenges of the ever-changing digital world. 

Being simply reactive will by far not suffice here. An active role is required. As companies for the first time are facing such conversions, realignment of processes and organisational changes, remodeling of the underlying supply, data and media streams, possibly also the no longer appropriate or simply obsolete IT systems also need to be reconsidered. Many shy away from this mammoth task and start delaying the process of change. The reconstruction of the classic zoo is repeatedly postponed. Clients however simply will no longer accept seeing animals being kept in small cages. Their expectations have completely changed.

The result: If you wait too long clients will stay away and revenues will plummet accordingly. The funds for transformation to bring about the conversion are no longer available. Time has run out. Suddenly everything needs to be finished fast on a small budget. This process has not only affected zoos but many other companies which waited too long to adept as customers today have become fully digital and are always on the move. Companies that have not yet made the change will not survive the next digital revolution focused on digital business models.

A fully independent survey is the foundation for a successful transformation into the digital age. To engage in the subsequent implementation phase on the other hand, having a provider with its own solution portfolio makes perfect sense as it can provide a thorough implementation expertise in the relevant subject matter. Once coordinated, the process can be accelerated, even orchestrated for several companies, integrating the expertise to the benefit of the transformation process through the parallelizing capabilities.

How to deal with this task? Firstly it is important to get a clear picture on the current state of affairs across all corporate levels and sensitivities and to identify any possible tunnel visions. This works in the rarest cases with internal resources dominated by blindness, lack of market knowledge, false concepts of what is digitally possible and above all the fear of sacred cows which are obstructing a clear view. Here, a company must make use of an external viewpoint, because only based on such a neutral view board and management can be sure that the analysis of the current situation is not coloured by political concerns or issues that are internally seen as taboos.

Caution is however required with external consultations. All too often they come with their own solutions or solution partners in the portfolio and next to the advisory mandate may keep track of their influence on the subsequent transformation project due to economic interests.

A fully independent consideration is thus the foundation for a successful transformation into the digital age. In the subsequent implementation phase it makes perfect sense to engage a provider with its own solution portfolio, since they usually have the deep implementation expertise in the subject areas. Well coordinated, even several companies can be orchestrated, thus integrating both the highest total and specialized expertise for the company and also the transformation process by parallelizing capabilities. 

However this remains one of the biggest tasks companies have had to deal with over the past 20 years. Compared to the digitization of business communication and the next step up: the introduction of digital business models, the introduction of e-mail, centralized document management and digital ordering and invoicing processes have been a child’s play. And time is short as increasingly digital pure players press on to the brand domain. Companies who think that their market is not concerned are suddenly confronted with being cut off the market or pressured. A current example is DHL whose largest customer and growth driver Amazon suddenly became a market competitor.

Everything is possible. Anything that can be digitized will be digitized. In Florida for example the real estate market has been completely digitized. Who would have thought two years ago that you could buy a house or a few acres with an app? In the US this is a reality today.

Back to the zoo of systems: Prepare your company swiftly to this task of realignment, reordering and transformation and do not remain an outdated place as the drawbacks are numberous: 1. Everything will take longer. 2. Even longer than expected. 3. Often three times longer. Only those who start today will in two or three years have a company which is no longer digitally transforming, but acting as a digital leader, transforming the market in which it operates or at least being able to react when a digital pure player tries to take over. Beware: As long as the preparation and conversion of a business takes, markets can be digitally taken over by newcomers. And usually three times faster than you think.

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Dirk Jurkowski is an expert on digital transformation processes. He and his team support well-known companies, among others Liebherr, Kaiser&Kraft, Bosch and Manufaktum.

Picture credits © Frans Lanting/Getty Images

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