You head up the Digital Workplace Department at Comma Soft. What does the term mean and what is its current significance for companies?
Put simply, it’s about digitizing the workplace. This has been given a huge boost in the last two years. As sad as it may sound, this is a positive outcome of the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, working from home from one day to the next became a viable option. This would have been unthinkable in most companies before the pandemic: there was a lack of the necessary technology, but above all of the mindset that remote working can be successful if you trust your employees and involve them in this change process right from the start. For me, people, technology, and mindset are the three pillars on which a digital workplace is built. Out of necessity, all of this had to develop in a very short time. Today we can see that this has not only contributed to better health but has also created many other benefits: companies can often reach agreements with business partners more quickly remotely because there is no need for business trips to attend face-to-face meetings. Many employees work more productively from home and are more satisfied because they now have more flexibility. What’s more, many companies have seized the opportunity and put their processes to the test, thereby streamlining and improving them. We also must not disregard the impact all this has on our environment and climate protection.
How does digital working affect the environment?
It is obvious that we can cut down on a lot of travel by working together digitally using collaboration tools. However, another important aspect is cloud infrastructures, which more and more companies are relying on during their digital transformations. An organization may initially focus on the cost factor because it no longer needs to operate its own data centers and can scale flexibly. But using the cloud also reduces the company’s carbon footprint: hardware, power supply, cooling – all of which are incurred by every company with on-premises solutions. The cloud allows you to share the infrastructure, so to speak, and only use what you need at the time. In addition, large cloud providers in particular are increasingly relying on renewable energies and optimizing the energy supply to their data centers using AI and machine learning. All in all, this reduces emissions and, considering the regulatory requirements for sustainability, is more relevant for companies today than ever before.
This all sounds positive. However, there are also concerns that remote working has a negative impact on us as individuals. What’s your take on that?
In my view, it is the responsibility of managers to ensure that their teams do not become alienated and that no one is left behind. This is particularly true for colleagues who live alone and work a lot from their home office, as well as for the more introverted employees. Digital leadership needs to be learned, and this is also a change for managers. I see every day at Comma Soft that this can be done. However, “real” interactions cannot be replaced entirely. Companies can find a healthy and economical middle ground here with hybrid work strategies. To do this, however, we must also develop attractive schemes and motivate employees to come into the office voluntarily. This includes the team spirit that draws people to the office, as well as the technical equipment that allows for a flexible change of work location. This is exactly what my team and I support our customers with.
The digital workplace is intended to enable employees to realize their full potential.
How do you go about setting the stage for digital and hybrid working?
Our work includes conceptualizing, designing, and delivering appropriate digital solutions for a modern workplace that provide optimal support for productivity and collaboration – in the office, when working from home and for hybrid work models. This includes the rollout of all conceivable end devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, as well as access to all relevant user data. There are also supporting automated workflows that alleviate the burden of repetitive tasks, smart assistants that merge information across different applications, and collaboration tools for sharing information regardless of location. The security aspect should not be underestimated either: how can data be protected against third party access without disrupting workflows? All of these aspects need to be considered and reconciled. Besides all the technology, however, you can’t ignore the people. That is why we also support companies with change & adoption management. In the end, we want to empower our customers and their employees to use the digital workplace to their full potential while meeting their individual needs.
What does your own workplace look like? Is that a digital workplace too?
Absolutely! My workplace is hybrid: I have a state-of-the-art home office with three monitors, an external camera, and a height-adjustable desk. I can really concentrate on my work here. I am familiar with all these resources from working in the office at Comma Soft, where I love to come and meet with my colleagues in real life. Despite our collaboration tools, which enable us to work together very well regardless of location, sharing information in person still offers another dimension. With our Co-Creation Campus, we have our own space solution that fosters creativity and innovation in collaboration. The bottom line is that I am very free and flexible in my choice of work location and schedules. This doesn’t just apply to me as a manager: our corporate culture is designed to ensure that all our employees are free to make use of this option. We are trusted to know best at what time and in what environment we can work most productively. This experience in turn motivates me to establish digital workplaces at other companies, both technically and culturally, so that they can become even more creative and innovative.
How important are innovation and creativity for you in relation to digital workplaces? What developments are still in the pipeline here?
As we all know, digitization is advancing extremely quickly. The requirements and innovations of today will be overtaken by a new trend tomorrow. That’s why I think it’s important that we always have our finger on the pulse. What are the latest trends and innovations? What are the latest technologies and how are people’s needs changing in terms of work, media use and work-life balance? At the same time, no solution should be imposed just because it is the trend at the moment. My team and I examine our customers’ requirements, existing IT landscape and corporate culture very closely before recommending solutions. They must fit the company, the industry, and the mindset if they are to work effectively. This requires me to always be curious, tactful, and unbiased, which is also what makes my job in consulting so exciting and varied for me.
Do you have any questions about how to continue modernizing and optimizing the workplaces in your company, as well as how to best address the issue of change management? Feel free to reach out to Ayda Stommel and exchange ideas on the latest trends and solutions.