How do companies manage digitalisation?

Guest article from Peter Klingenburg

Meanwhile it is obvious that the digital transformation is not a trend, but a necessity. Only companies that start thinking digitally and continuously examine their business models will be able to survive in the market. But how do individual enterprises manage the digitalisation? Are there differences between medium-sized companies and large corporations? And which legal hurdles are to be overcome? T-Systems Multimedia Solutions initiated the Digital Transformation Live Talk in Munich on this issue – with exiting results.

Andreas Zilch, an analyst from Pierre Audoin Consultants (PAC), is sure that the digitalisation will keep bringing radical changes to our professional and private world. However, it is up to us to determine in which direction. So towards what are large enterprises and medium-sized companies heading? Especially groups are regarded as not very agile and flexible. Nevertheless, they do not have an alternative to quickly implementing and advancing innovations in the digital age. This does not mean that everybody has to reinvent the wheel; sometimes it is enough to turn it a little bit. A possible solution might be to integrate start-ups in form of accelerator programs into the company – as for example E.On or the Deutsche Bahn did. Also small pilot projects and surroundings in which employees can easily try their hands contribute to innovations apart from time-proved processes. An open corporate and error management culture is hence not only an issue for start-ups, as Laurence Johnston Peter, an American management consultant, once stated: “The way to avoid mistakes is to gain experience. The way to gain experience is to make mistakes” – with one reservation: Everybody may be mistaken from time to time, but avoidable faults should still be avoided.

Practice from the SME business

And how do medium-sized companies operate? The Hettich Holding, a producer of furniture hardware solutions, approaches the topic quite pragmatically. The digitalisation measures implemented so far look presentable: Machines make themselves heard as soon as maintenance is needed; additionally, they call the responsible technician – according to the motto: Try new solutions and talk about them. Apart from those digital innovations, the company has set up a steering committee who regularly meets for exchange about the topic. With support from the CEO Andreas Hettich personally, of course. That is one of the keys to success: No matter if large corporation or medium-sized company – without the top management’s support, digital change is going to be difficult.
It’s therefore important to make room for new ideas and to not only take the employees through the digital transformation, but to let them participate actively in it. Only like that, the essential culture of exchange is developed, without which a transformation is impossible.

Who owns the data in the Internet of Things?

The topic of digitalisation should also be regarded from a completely different perspective: What about legal hurdles? Lawyers face two challenges. Firstly, they have to keep an eye on the market themselves to see what business transactions and contracts can look like in the digital age. Secondly, the dispensation of justice is everything but well-defined. Detleff Klett, lawyer and specialist for IT Law and data protection, wonders about various topics: What happens if machines talk to each other? When they exchange and generate data? Who then owns the data? And are machines capable of concluding contracts? Who is then liable for them? According to predictions, the digitalisation will make Germany much more international, also in the legal context. Because if a German lift is maintained in China, an international contract is concluded.

Conclusion: There is still a lot to be clarified. Analysts, company representatives and lawyers still agree on one point: The consciousness for the necessity of digitalisation in companies is increasing. A standardised guideline that is applicable to every enterprise does not exist – the task has to be solved individually. Every time anew, because the digital transformation did not only revolutionize the world. It is rather an evolutionary process which will probably never be completed totally.