Like many other companies, you are certainly in a digital transformation. It is often the case that one is faced with the fact that existing and grown processes are to be changed and digitized. There is pressure from the management and headwinds from the employees or vice versa. As a consultant and researcher, I am often on site in companies and experience many variants of digitalization in companies. I would like to explain below what I have experienced and give my tips. If you want to experience my experiences in more detail, read my article on organizational rebels.

1. Step by step increase the degree of maturity

A company does not become a digital leader from one day to the next. It is therefore important to determine the current degree of maturity. If invoices are currently written by hand, then it makes sense to first map them via a tool or to support them via Wordmakro instead of “digitizing” them directly in an ERP system. On the one hand, this is cheaper and, on the other hand, it also overwhelms the employees less. Therefore, always try to determine the current maturity level of a process and then raise it step by step.

2. Do not pin digitization on one person

“Mr/Mrs X. You are now responsible for digitization and the company-wide ERP system!” I have never seen such a position drive digitalization in the company forward with success. In my opinion, digitization cannot be pint to one person, but must be driven by each department itself. So give each team the task of “digitizing” and only offer the support of a “digitalization officer”.

3. Digitize unloved processes and ask employees

If you are in the process of starting the first digitization projects, then you should first of all look to support processes that no one wants to make analogous anyway. For example, with my former client, that was the travel expenses bill. It also makes sense to simply ask the employees:“What are we supposed to digitize for you?” The advantage is that there will be no headwinds from the employees and new solutions will be used directly.

4. Avoid holistic solutions

Avoid holistic solutions. These are usually nothing half and nothing whole. They also cost a lot of money and are contrary to the trend of staying flexible. So take one tool per process step and link the tools to each other in a meaningful way. I would like to give an example of this in the figure. A typical sales process is digitized. Each relevant step has a specific tool. The task of your IT is now to link them together in a meaningful way (keyword: workflow).

Reading tip: Example of process digitization

process digitization
Example of process digitization

5. Use Managed Services and Trial Versions

The advantage of this small tool chain is that you don’t have to bring in any big tools, especially as an SME. Try a few tools for a process step. These are often available in the 30-day trial version. A manager once said to me: “We get the 30 days trial and if no one uses you after 30 days, we’ll cancel you and pick up the next one.” Furthermore, many companies notice that IT tool operation is not very fun, so it is worth simply having all the tools serviced by providers. Since the tools often cost between 5 and 100 euros per month, this can be paid for easily.

Reading tip: Example of an IT organization

Conclusion: Digitization is Trial and Error

These are 5 tips I was able to take with me from my time as a consultant. I have seen many SMEs that have achieved great success despite small budgets. I think that digital change continues to be trial and error and you should try a lot of things easily and quickly. I hope that my tips can give some impulses and help some managers with digitization. You can find more about Trial and Error in my article on digital business models.

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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