10/05/2023 – The implementation of digital processes is essential for companies to maintain their competitiveness. This poses challenges, especially for manufacturing and industrial companies where large parts of the workforce consist of so-called blue-collar workers. On the occasion of our Business- Breakfast on International Women's Day, the two speakers Christina Schwartmann, Head of IT at Gelsenwasser AG, and Dr. Nora Reich, Product Owner Big Data & Artificial Intelligence at KfW Bank, addressed the topics of digitalisation and automation of processes, among others. In the following five tips, we have summarised the methods that the two experts themselves were able to use to achieve their goals.
1. Find areas of application
Before introducing a new process, the possible areas of application and needs in the company must first be evaluated. In most cases, employees in companies lack the know-how on how to digitalise, automate or simplify their work with the help of digital apps or using AI. It has proven particularly successful when the IT and digital teams accompany the ordinary daily work of employees in the individual departments to obtain a precise overview of all work steps that occur. Because only when proximity to the user is guaranteed, the need and possibilities of digitalisation can be correctly assessed.
2. Reduce inhibitions
The discrepancy in technical fluency between individual employees can be an enormous hurdle to digitisation. While there are individuals who have never held a smartphone in their hands, there are also those who have a strong interest in high tech. This makes communication regarding technical innovations within the company more difficult. The employees of a company who have little digital affinity often shy away from process changes that, from their point of view, happen too quickly, that take them out of their daily routine or that they simply cannot comprehend. As a solution to this, the experts see that employees should be introduced to new technologies step by step. Even during and after the introduction of a new system, it makes sense to accompany the employees on-site and to always communicate with them at eye level. An exchange of information from above should be avoided as far as possible so that employees feel taken seriously and actively participate in the transformation process. Schwartmann also recommends the use of an informal help desk, which is available to employees for all questions and concerns. She has had particularly good experiences with the use of student workers. They usually have a sound technical knowledge base and the hurdles to contacting them are much lower for long-term employees.
3. Establish a data culture
As a recent Accenture study shows, 74% of employees feel overwhelmed by working with data and 59% of employees are frustrated or even at risk of burnout as a result. An important step is therefore training in data literacy, both at staff and management level. According to Dr. Reich, workshops, lectures in the departments or formats such as a "Lunch & Learn" are suitable for this. These trainings should be continued continuously, because this is the only way to establish and maintain good data competence in the company over time. The data culture created in this way helps to ensure that all decisions are made based on data, which makes companies more successful, effective, and competitive in the long term.
4. System and data review
Another difficulty is posed by existing systems, some of which are not designed for the use of AI. In many cases, sources of error only become apparent when new technologies are implemented.
A concrete use case for this is, for example, the introduction of automated invoicing. For this, several thousand invoices must be made available digitally via the system. However, not every system offers this function - sometimes invoices must be retrieved individually.
A review of the suitability of the system used for the planned process conversion is therefore imperative.
Likewise, master data cleansing is a basic prerequisite for the digitalisation and automation of processes. For example, incorrect birth data can creep into the systems if customers do not enter it correctly for data protection reasons. Such sources of error must be identified and eliminated in advance.
5. Involve key positions
The CFO 4.0. as the top helmsman drives the digital transformation of his company and actively contributes to the transformation of the organisation.
The CTO can identify technological trends and opportunities and lead the implementation of an effective digital strategy. Digital transformation is often about integrating different technologies and systems so that they seamlessly merge. The CTO can help ensure that all technologies in the organisation are connected and running smoothly.
The HR department plays a crucial role in the skills development of the workforce. It can set up targeted training and education programmes for employees. Digital transformation requires specific competences and skills that may not (yet) exist in the company. HR is responsible for recruiting talent with the necessary skills and experience to successfully implement digital transformation.
Likewise, HR can accompany the process of planning, implementing and monitoring changes - the so-called change management - of the digitalisation process in the company.
Data scientists also play another key role in the successful digitisation and automation process of companies. By collecting, analysing, and interpreting data, they can help find the right areas of application and technologies for complex issues. They support the establishment of a good data culture in the company and accompany the entire implementation process. They are also responsible for communicating technical solutions so that they are understood and can be used effectively.
Since it is extremely difficult to recruit digital experts for a project, companies should not work on large-scale projects but rather roll out sub-projects of the transformation gradually.
Carolina Thomys is a senior HR consultant at Robert Walters, co-organiser of the event and member of the ED&I Council. She explains:
,My experience is that interim managers can be a great asset to the transformation process of companies, as they have usually already implemented several digitisation projects and thus have the necessary experience. In addition, they can bring in technical skills that do not yet exist in the company. As soon as the project is completed, they leave the company again, but the knowledge they have imparted remains.’
If you need assistance in finding a suitable candidate for your digitalisation project, we would be happy to help you. To do so, simply submit your job specification and we will contact you promptly to discuss your requirements in detail.
Our next event
Our next CFO Roundtable will take place on 7th June 2023 at our Robert Walters Office in Düsseldorf and will focus on "Navigating through stormy times - How agility can help CFOs manage their businesses". Our guest speaker is Dr. Jochen Holzwarth, founder and partner of Dynamic Finance. If you are interested in attending, please feel free to register with your consultant for our exclusive event.