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Digital Transformation, or what?

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1. February 2021
A very popular buzz word nowadays (especially under the pandemic stress) is digital transformation. But what is it exactly? What is required to reach a decent level of forward oriented digital business environment? Is a paperless office the result of digital transformation? Yes, why? Or is it not? It is not that easy!

I think, the pandemic crisis has provided a push towards digitization or better digitalization but not towards a digital transformation yet. Why is this? Businesses were forced to automate their processes within months or weeks to address lockdowns, Kurzarbeit, furloughed worker schemes and containment rules. Priorities have been changed and believe me, there was not much time for decisions towards a sustainable digital transformation strategy.

What was originally put in place as a “quick fix” now needs to be developed into a more robust business strategy.

80% of participants of the D-M-EXCO survey 1-2020 believe that home-office is there to stay, 65% believe that the acceptance of online conferencing will further increase (hence this event ;-) and that there will be new tools for collaboration and communication like Slack, Asana and Teams. However, 25,5% only believe that Data Protection becomes more important.

This is surprising as we currently see as a side effect of home-office or remote working an increase in Shadow IT worldwide such as workers in their home office using trendy Internet based tools or private file share platforms to manage their individual digital agenda. As an example: Billions of confidential documents have been uploaded to private shares like OneDrive, DropBox or Google Drive to support file exchange and they remain there. They have been simply forgotten.

Digitization requires coordinated management, not only of the digitized business processes but – more importantly – it requires continuous training, awareness and acceptance by the workforce. We all know: Information security and process robustness highly depends on people. 80% of data breaches are caused by human error; hence digitization must combine business processes and measures to avoid human error and to maintain information security and integrity.

It was no surprise that the search volume of the term “electronic signature” has been rising by 550% since Covid-19. We have seen a massive increase in transactions using Frama RSign in 2020 and in addition a rise in the use of electronic signature solutions in all business areas like e-procurement, contract management, rentals and sales. To me, this clearly indicates that the digitization of workflows involves more vertical applications and use cases.

Is this digital transformation? This is still digitization.

And if we add tools like Frama RMail to use Registered Email services, One-Click Encryption, Certified File Exchange, Gateways, document management, case management systems? Again, this is still digitization.

But we are getting closer. All this technology, infrastructure, platforms, systems and solutions enable you to transform your business model and the value chain.

It all starts with a logical link between e-business, internet-based services and digital presence in order to create the digital business model. Sounds easy, but one – if not the most important one - of the success factors is the ability of the organization to transform resources into the digital world, like business processes and products. In other words, competence and willingness to address and to manage the digital change is key. Businesses need to identify the internal strategic resources and how these resources need to change. This is challenging.

Oliver Gassmann (University of St.Gallen) defined this as the digital grail: You need to know why, You need to know what, You need to know how! I think, the man is right.

This quote sounds simple whereas the application is more complicated.

Just an example of a quote I found in Derek Osborne’s book “Re-inventing the Post” which was published in 2013”: If the Postal Organisation was the reference and trusted operator for physical mail, it would be able to take advantage of technological innovations and follow the trend of the market, while maintaining its traditional values, to become the reference and trusted operator for digital mail.

The idea and the rational was great.

New digital communication services appeared and will appear. Imnudoo, launched in spring 2020 in Germany is a promising new player on the marketplace. It is built on existing technologies but provides that unique link of internet-based value proposition and e-business tools. It allows smaller business to manage their flow of communication via letter, via fully GDPR compliant Registered Email Services and RSign electronic signature solutions wherever and whenever required.

In summary, technology is the enabler for digital business models, but it does not drive digital transformation. The current Covid-19 pandemic situation sees a strong push towards digitization, bringing new tools, new ways of co-operation and collaboration. An interesting example: Did you know that Teams functionality, that we now take for granted, was available in 2017?

Frama stands for mail. message. managed. It is our mission to help businesses master their digital agenda when it comes to business communication. We believe in integrity in communication.

I would like to invite you to one of our next digital conferences (announced via our channels) to experience a firework of expert knowledge for business process digitization with aim at automation. We will discuss tools, services and concepts that are in reach, affordable and can be implemented with minimal efforts. We have assembled a team of specialist panelists to advise of best practice and insights. You are invited to continue discussion on the best use of the word technology.

Thank you.
Volker Sommerfeld

Reinventing the Post, Derek Osborn, 2013, p. 104, Libri Publishing
Digitale Transformation im Unternehmen gestalten, Oliver Gassmann, 2016, p. 26, Carl Hanser Verlag

Volker Sommerfeld
Volker Sommerfeld
Product Manager eServices and Head of Marketing Services, creator of unique links and flows between physical and digital worlds. Passionate about nature, photography, music and mountain bikes.

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