Interview on digitization: “The image is colorful”
Wolfgang Reinhardt, Principal at Ventum Consulting, was interviewed by the trade journal IT Director where he explains why digitization is not just an opportunity for companies, but a sheer necessity.
ITD: Mr. Reinhardt, in the last two years, the Corona pandemic has become the main driver of digital transformation in Germany. How well have companies coped with the crisis since then?
Wolfgang Reinhardt: The image is colorful. Great leaps have been made in providing infrastructure for mobile working, and the benefits will continue. Nevertheless, associated organizational types have not kept pace, for example when it comes to facilitating creative processes or holding hybrid conferences and workshops.
ITD: What is the current status quo when it comes to the level of digitization in German companies? Which areas still deal with great difficulties?
Reinhardt: German market leaders are well equipped when it comes digitization. Across all industries, the possibilities of digitization are being used to achieve competitive advantages. But here, too, it is important to be that decisive step ahead. This is achieved by making all processes more flexible and faster, and by making more in-depth use of data. Artificial intelligence is an integer part of digitzation, even though it is not the solution to all problems. The virtualization of development processes on the one hand and of customer experiences on the other are also a must in many cases.
ITD: According to a recent Bitkom survey, one in three companies plans to cut back on digitization investments in 2023. How problematic do you think such a change would be?
Reinhardt: We cannot close our minds to major macroeconomic challenges. And neither can we forget about supply chain problems and the shortage of skilled workers. Anyone who acts too short-sightedly here will get out of step. On the other hand, companies improve their ability to make good decisions in critical situations. Technology after all is an enabler. By leveraging effective partnerships and smart buying, budgeting challenges can be overcome.
ITD: To what extent does digitization also offer opportunities for companies to respond to current challenges (i.e. supply bottlenecks, rising energy costs, shortage of skilled workers) and adapt better?
Reinhardt: We actually believte it is not about “also creating opportunities,” but a sheer necessity. In many cases, high energy costs can (still) only be countered by very detailed data evaluation and powerful prediction, i.e. by calculation models. All serious sociodemographic studies show that the shortage of skilled workers can ultimately only be remedied through automation.
ITD: What contribution can digitization possibly make to solving climate change? - Keyword: "Green IT"?
Reinhardt: We actually see it as not “also creating opportunities,” but sheer necessity. In many cases, high energy costs can (still) only be countered by very detailed data evaluation and powerful prediction, i.e. by calculation models. All serious sociodemographic studies show that the shortage of skilled workers can ultimately only be remedied through automation.
ITD: Where does IT offer the greatest potential for large companies (i.e. manufacturing industry) to reduce their own environmental footprint?
Reinhardt: Companies from the manufacturing industry and also from other sectors are already asking themselves in each production step not only how long it takes and what error rates it produces, but also how much energy it consumes. This needs to be measured, evaluated, controlled and managed. Digitized.
“Digitization is an exciting task and at the same time a challenge for everyone”
ITD: How will our working world change as a result of the digital transformation? To what extent should companies prepare their employees for this change?
Reinhardt:The necessary changes are massive, so they come with just as much pressure. With regard to the shortage of skilled workers, this means that companies want to deploy their employees in those areas where it is particularly imperative. Automation will lead to further virtualization and more abstract activities in the workplace, which is a big step for many. Previous forms of organizations are often unable to cope with this. New forms of collaboration will develop. “Reverse mentoring” is currently a promising approach, with which younger colleagues help older ones to familiarize themselves with new things.
ITD: What do companies need to do now to avoid being left behind in digitization?
Reinhardt: Digitization is an exciting task and at the same time a challenge for everyone. But no one can be good at everything. Powerful partnerships and a network of innovation-promoting supply and service relationships are the basis for a functioning digitization ecosystem. It is the companies´ taskt to make good decisions for innovation. This includes the right timing.
ITD: What would you like to see from German policymakers in order to actively support companies in digitization projects and remove hurdles?
Reinhardt:We are well positioned in Germany with the division of tasks between business and politics. Policymakers can provide support by accelerating approval and administrative acts, as well as decluttering standards. In many cases, this cannot be done without digitization. In the process, much has been set in motion, and much still needs to be accelerated.
Principal at Ventum Consulting, who is passionate about digitization, innovation, and social & environmental responsibility.