The pandemic - an opportunity for digitization?

In the meantime, digitalization has reached almost everyone. The development is progressing increasingly in many areas. Digital transformation can be described as “a fundamental rethinking of customer experiences, business models and operational processes. This affects virtually all members of society. Whether in everyday life or at work, more and more devices and processes are being digitized. We buy and pay online, work via the Internet and communicate digitally. But that’s not all – business and industry in particular are increasingly adapting to the digitization of their processes.

What does the Corona pandemic have to do with digitization?

One of the reasons was the lockdowns. Here, ways and means had to be found to keep a company functioning without the physical presence of employees. This, for example, reinforced the trend toward home offices and mobile working. Public institutions, such as schools or universities, also had to adapt to online teaching and the increased use of technological devices.

The same is true in healthcare. After all, the Corona crisis made it particularly clear how important a smoothly functioning healthcare system is. Also, a fast-running administration is definitely an advantage in such crisis situations. This is another reason why many digitization measures were implemented in the public sector.

A great deal happened in industry, however. Because the lockdowns increasingly caused supply chains to come to a standstill. Old production methods no longer worked. Solutions thus had to be found to counter the production and delivery difficulties. Here, too, digitization came into play. It represents a significant opportunity to make processes in the economy more efficient and sustainable. The new trends in digitization that have emerged as a result of the pandemic will be examined in more detail here.

Mobile working

The trend toward home offices and mobile working has probably become very clear. Many people have come into contact with this change. Of course, these forms of work already existed before the Corona pandemic and are nothing new in this sense. Nevertheless, far more jobs have gone digital over the last two years than ever before. During the lockdowns, many jobs were moved to home offices.

But mobile working is also becoming more popular. Mobile working can be done from anywhere, home office usually takes place from home. Both ways of working are called remote working and can be united under the term “New Work”.Of course, remote jobs have advantages and disadvantages, and certainly in many cases it is up to the individual which way of working one prefers. For example, some people really appreciate the personal contact with colleagues and customers, which can come up short when working remotely. On the other hand, working from home or on the road opens up entirely new possibilities for a flexible and free life. It is not for nothing that digital nomadism is becoming more and more common. This allows many people to fulfill their dream of combining travel and work.

In addition, digitalization and the home office have opened up new jobs. Many people find employment in the IT industry, in the world of online marketing or in other digitized fields. Many jobs that were previously performed on-site can now be operated remotely. Thus, in some cases, even the respective workplaces become superfluous. There is no longer any need for a physical office.

New technologies

The use of new types of technology is crucial for digitization. New machines and devices make it possible to design processes more efficiently. Among the technologies, there are some innovations that are on the rise. These include:

  • Robotics
  • AI
  • Autonomes Fahren
  • Big Data
  • Internet of Things
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Cloud Computing
  • Block Chain

Many of these technologies are already in use and research is continuing. In most cases, certain software is used internally within the company in addition to the devices to manage and coordinate the processes. The ERP suite SAP S/4HANA, for example, can be used to track the information flows of processes in real time.

Sustainability

An important point to consider in digitization is the principle of sustainability. The digitized and automated processes should optimize workflows to the extent that resources can be saved in terms of time, material and human resources. The production of the technologies and the digitization itself should also be carried out in a way that conserves resources. More obvious aspects come into play here first. For example, digitization saves on packaging, requires less paper management, and in some cases can even dispense with spatial workplaces. This also reduces waste production and eliminates the need for travel. Production, logistics and communication processes can also be made more efficient. This manifests itself in shorter delivery routes, faster communication processes and smoother supply chains.

These developments are also in line with the direction that policymakers want to take. This is because the Climate Change Act calls on all commercial enterprises within the EU to reduce their CO emissions by 55 percent. This is to be implemented by 2020, so that the EU should ideally be completely climate-neutral by 2050.

Digitization of the public sector

The digitization of all processes in the public sector is also on the agenda. In 2017, Germany even set a target for public administration with the Online Access Act (OZG) that “all services for citizens and companies should be digitally accessible via online portals” from 2022. This applies to healthcare, education and the administrative apparatus, among other things.

As a result of the pandemic, goals were implemented here that would otherwise have been implemented somewhat later. The changes can make up for any staff shortages and execute educational and medical care more efficiently. In healthcare, health apps, data sharing among insurance companies and service providers, and an electronic health card can be used.

Digitization has also optimized many things in the public sector. Here, better networking through video conferencing or sharing content via a cloud is becoming more common. In this sector, too, remote working is becoming more and more the order of the day. In education, homeschooling has been tested or introduced for schools and universities. There are also more and more opportunities for online education. Again, intuitive platforms, cloud applications and online meetings are popular. The meeting tool Microsoft Teams has had the most growth in recent years.

Digitization is also making itself felt in finance. Cashless payment is becoming more and more common – be it via credit cards, online payment or smartphones. Very important with all the changes in the name of digitalization, is the management of all the data that accumulates. With appropriate technologies, this task can also be handled well. Since all of a company’s data can be gathered in one place, this allows for more accurate forecasting and greater transparency. In this way, costs in a process or supply chain can be reduced.

Communication

Digitization is clearly noticeable in the area of communication. Every single person already notices this in their everyday lives. People use smartphones and the Internet to communicate, and work is often done via laptop. Communication is also becoming increasingly digitalized in industry and logistics. In logistics companies, for example, an employee app is used via which communication can take place in real time. This keeps internal company processes efficient and transparent.

An important factor for digitization and the new forms of communication was the introduction of broadband Internet. Its availability has risen sharply and is essential for a fast Internet connection. This is needed for remote working and cloud applications, among other things. The 5G rollout was implemented quite quickly during the Corona pandemic. In 2019, the first connections were established, while by 2022 there was already availability for at least 90% of German citizens. The rollout increased the number of 5G base stations from 139 in 2019 to 29,959 in 2021.

Supply Chains

The digitization of all processes is also progressing steadily in industry. Digitization and automation are to be implemented at all stages of the supply chains. This means that raw material extraction and processing, as well as storage and distribution, will be optimized with the help of new technologies.

Digitization of supply chains will speed up the flow of information, make production more efficient and shorten transport routes. Supply chains should be as transparent as possible so that the individual components can be easily traced. This makes it possible to identify and eliminate any errors in the chain more quickly. The end consumer should also benefit from a better user experience. This is achieved through digital customer services, easy-to-use platforms and individualized products.

What will digitization look like in the future?

Overall, digitization will continue to progress within the framework of Industry 4.0. We can prepare for a wide range of changes and swim with the tide of time. Or as the management consultancy Mc Kinsey describes it: “The time is now for companies to make bold investments in technology and capabilities that will equip their businesses to outperform others.” (mc Kinsey). According to a survey by Mc Kinsey, 64% of companies say they will need to invest more in digitizing their businesses in the future in order to remain competitive. After all, digitization offers many opportunities. Be it professional or private.

Of course, many jobs will become redundant as a result of the precautions taken. However, other occupational fields and tasks will develop instead. For example, specialists will be needed who are familiar with the new technologies. What is your opinion of the current developments and what influence will the changes have on your life? The answer will probably be different for each person. In any case, we can look forward to seeing what new doors will open up as a result of digitization!

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