Whenever we talk about digitalization and industry 4.0, the topics of jobs and the shortage of skilled workers are also discussed. There is the possibility to oracle over what it can look like in a few years. However, it makes more sense to take a look at the challenges and challenges that await us. If we have a picture of what can happen, we can adapt to it and act accordingly.

First of all, we need to look at what digitalization means and what are the ways to approach it in a company. There is no single, universally applicable way for all companies. If it were the case that a template is simply put over a company and then everything runs itself, it would be illusory. If this should work, the company would have no USP for its own. As already described in the article “Digitalization – the big misunderstanding“, it is a matter of serving the ever faster changing markets.

Driven by industrialization, products and services have been increasingly standardized and mass-produced. The supplier determined which functionalities and equipment he considered to be sensible and the buyer was able to make a selection from the range of products on offer. Processes in the companies were massively standardized and management and its hierarchies were introduced. Clear structures and structures were required.

The Shift of Power

Now suddenly this Internet is coming around the corner, giving birth to social networks and with them the power of the market changes at once from the provider to the customer. If we used to have wishes for the products or services on offer, they were often ignored. This is especially true when no significant income could be generated from it. For whatever reason. The Internet enables us to disseminate our opinions publicly and facilitates the search for alternatives. And there are smaller providers that offer exactly these alternatives and can also be active worldwide. The customer makes wishes, has a high degree of market transparency and fulfils them as precisely as possible. The better a supplier can serve this dynamic market, the better its chances of surviving the competition.

This behavior is triggered by digitization. At the same time, it is also the tool to meet the market from a supplier’s point of view. Due to the fact that the market is becoming increasingly unpredictable due to swaying spontaneous activities, long planning and implementation cycles are no longer appropriate. In the past, for example, you could have planned a product for planning and marketability for 4 years, but today you can no longer predict whether your idea will not completely miss the need in 4 years or whether it will even make sense at all.

What does digitalization mean for working?

In order to be able to follow the speed of the market, I have to make sure that everything that is useful to automate in any way is also automated. The dynamics of the markets confront suppliers with complex challenges. In order to meet these demands, I have to free people in the company from routine tasks, because only people are able to fulfil complex requirements. For example, it makes absolutely no sense that employees are employed to monitor deadlines for documents, to make data available to the right people at the right time or to compile figures for evaluations.

People have the enormous advantage that unlike machines, they are creative and can make their own decisions. Each in his own way. All you have to do is let her go. Of course, one can condition them, only to afford and not to think. However, the added value and people’s desire to think is lost. What we need now and in the future more and more is people who make their potential available for customer requirements. This also means that they must be empowered. This includes training and education, but also the knowledge of how the company in which they work functions.

Employees as sensors for the market

The statement, “I don’t know if we can handle this for you.” means in the future that they have just lost a customer. If the employee receives a request that is not familiar to him/her, he/she must be able to obtain information about it at short notice. This may be possible through a database query, or that he knows who in the company he can ask about it. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many employees to have no information at all about what their colleagues are doing. In hierarchically organized companies, a request is then (hopefully) sent to “top” and forwarded from there. At some point (maybe) an answer will come back. The customer will want to spend this patience less and less. Networking within a company is therefore becoming increasingly important. Above a certain company size, a Social Intranet is definitely the best solution. But please don’t regulate that, because then it’s the same as riding a dead horse.

Apart from that, an inquiry that leads to queries within the company may not only be answered, but should also serve as a sensor for what the market is dealing with. Imagine, a customer asks the service whether it is offered a special function for the product that interests him/her. The inquiry is directed to the production or development department and from there comes back a “no”, which is passed on to the customer. That concludes the request. If that is the case, an opportunity has just been missed to listen to the market. Take advantage of the opportunity to collect and evaluate market enquiries. And if you sell services, then the function may be an additional service that was requested.


Complex tasks can only be accomplished by people who can shape their own work. However, monotonous workflows undermine motivation and creativity. However, these are the building blocks that, in times of digitalization, create significant added value for companies and employees.

Digitalization, i. e. technology, is only a means to an end. Consider it a tool that gives employees the freedom to master the complexity of their requirements. Only those who understand the market and fulfil their wishes will remain marketable.

The question of whether we need more or less manpower is therefore becoming obsolete. What we need are workers who work independently. That is the task that needs to be mastered.

Photo credits

New old stock / flickr.com


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