"Digitization, a matter of attitude"

Incredible but true, for over 25 years the print and media industry has been talking about the possibilities of database publishing, cross-media publishing, later catalog publishing and multichannel publishing, and most recently programmatic printing. And digital printing technology has been an option for technical implementation for at least as long, at least when it comes to printed information.

Why is digitization taking so long?

Now, even a quarter of a century later, the opportunities offered by this new communications technology are still being underutilized, despite higher response rates, reduced logistics costs, better targeting and all the other advantages.

It seems to me as if the dam has already been built, the inflows and outflows canalized, and the power generators and pumps already installed, only the water, in our case the data, is missing.

This shows that digitization has not yet come far in our industry. This is about everyone.

  • The companies that advertise cannot store, structure and provide relevant customer data,
  • the advertising partners have too little digital know-how
  • print shops lack software and skilled workers.

This is not true for every company. They do exist- the great benchmark projects, mostly from the online market, which is logically already digitized.

So despite the digital transformation of our society and economy, there is still a lack of digitization, especially in the SME sector. And there are many reasons for this. Some have been doing too well, others too poorly to invest. In addition, many companies still lack the necessary know-how, not to mention the lack of motivation among employees.

The right attitude is missing!

What I'm talking about in this blog article, and what I talk about in my talks, is the lack of attitude towards digitalization. Because that's exactly the point. Digitalization is a process, not a technology. That's why it's so elusive. What should I do, where can I start, how should I proceed? There is no clear royal road because, fortunately, there are far too many different companies, industries and business models. Everyone has to find their own royal road.

But the fact that everyone has to set out on the path is a necessity. Even if it may take a little longer in our industry than in the music and film industry, or in banking, where digitization has already changed the entire business. In principle, the Pareto rule of transformation applies. And it says that at the end of a transformation process, only 20% of the companies are left from before the change, the others are newcomers or lateral entrants (who, by the way, are also just the rest of those who have tried).

In my many years of entrepreneurship, supporting companies in the print and media industry with digital solutions, I have met successful companies that are still profitable, operating at capacity and looking positively to the future. They all have one thing in common: their attitude toward digitization.

It starts with management, goes through sales, and order processing throughout the entire company. The people who have the right attitude and the technology and processes are also set up correctly- the company is digitized. Once that is achieved, many things almost fall into place by themselves, but more on that later.

The 3 prerequisites for the right digital attitude

I want to provide you with 3 essential prerequisites that are necessary to set your operation digitally right:

1. Understand what digitalization means.

To highlight the importance of digitalization, I want to clear up a misconception:

Namely, the thought that digitization means: now I buy a CRM or ERP, I install a publishing server or I buy a digital printing press.

"Digitization is not a technology!"

Digitization is about being able to deal with data. The whole world is networking by exchanging data. And anyone who doesn't participate is out. That's the big game changer. Only those who can handle data will survive in the future.

Those who can handle data will benefit from 3 factors:

  1. Automation that saves simple work and creates time for valuable work.
  2. Data transparency that saves time for information gathering.
  3. Networking that reduces the time required for data collection.

And because more and more people and companies are recognizing these advantages, the world is quickly becoming networked and digital data is becoming increasingly important. Customers, suppliers, production partners, payment providers, banks, shippers, tax consultants - they all send and need data. And to be in the game here, you need to be able to accept, process and share business data, as quickly as possible.

"Digitization is the ability to handle data!"

If you can't do that, you won't survive. That's what it's all about.

Or, as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, put it:

"There is no alternative to digital transformation. - Those who don't adapt will fail."

Let me say it again in my own words: digitalization is not an option, it is a necessity.

2. Understanding what digitalization does

Here, too, I want to clear up a misunderstanding: digitization does not happen with a loud bang and is suddenly appears out of nowhere, but, as already mentioned, it is a process- which, if it is initiated and consistently pursued, is successful.

"Digitization is a spiral of success"

For the impact of digitization, I like to introduce the Virtuous Circle. A phrase that does not exist in German. It is the opposite of the vicious circle. This states that when something bad happens, it creates something worse, which in turn creates something even worse. So it's about a downward spiral that is constantly reinforcing itself. The Virtuous Circle, on the other hand, is created because something good creates something better, which creates something even better. An upward spiral of success, so to speak.

Why does this apply to digitization? Quite simply. Once the penny has dropped, that is, once the right attitude is paired with the willingness to invest time and money in digitization, the cycle is ignited.

"The 3 phases of the success spiral"

There are 3 phases involved:

  1. First of all, a way to optimize a process is sought.
  2. In the second phase, a solution path is established and implemented.
  3. In the third phase, the solution is worked with and constantly optimized.

In the end, you have created a positive result, an added value, which you now use to implement the next solution.

"The compound interest effect of the success spiral"

Every business professional will recognize at this point that it is the principle of compound interest. The investment initially earns a small amount of interest, which is reinvested exponentially, improving the profit with each cycle. Unfortunately, however, today the expectations of an investment in digitization are very high from the beginning and quick profit is the priority.

3. Understanding what digitization requires

Here's another misconception that needs to be addressed: Digitization cannot be delegated away; it is a strategic task.

"The 3 strategic tasks of management"

Once management understands what digitization is really about and what it can do, there are 3 tasks to accomplish:

  1. It must communicate digitization.
  2. It must communicate digitization.
  3. It must make digitization technically possible.

"Digitization requires communication"

The first task is exactly what this blog post is about. An understanding must be awakened among all employees in the company as to what digitization is all about. Namely, it is a necessity for the entire company and every single employee. Everyone has to go along with it, even if it now takes 5 clicks instead of 3, because they know that 100 clicks will be saved elsewhere. So this is about leadership, communication, training and further education of employees.

"Digitization requires organization"

The second task means implanting digitization into the organization. This means that individuals, teams, or in larger companies, entire departments, must drive digitization forward. This is not a temporary task, but an ongoing task that regularly generates new projects. The main task is to harmonize employees, technology and processes in such a way that ongoing optimization takes place.

"Digitization requires technology"

The third task is to provide the technical equipment, such as hardware and software, to enable digitization. It should be noted here that modern digitization technology is often cloud-based systems that are linked together via interfaces, such as APIs. The ability to define workflows that enable automatic processing should also be technically considered. A system and database must lead the way for central data control and management.

At Obility, we have developed a web-based digitization platform for printing companies and others that digitizes and optimizes internal and external business processes. It provides comprehensive functions for e-commerce, order management and costing, materials management and logistics, and production planning and control. External and internal systems can be networked by means of open interfaces, and workflows and assistance systems ensure that unnecessary work is saved. Thanks to their central database, all information can be made available in the right form, at the right time and in the right place. So anyone who has found the right attitude towards digitization should take a look at this solution.

A conclusion on the right attitude

Only those who understand that there is no option when it comes to digitization, who understand the benefits of digitization and are aware of the tasks, are on the way to the right attitude for digitization. Bosses and owners who suppress the issue or look for a quick fix instead of strategically adapting to it will fail. And employees, regardless of age, who hinder the digital flow in the company will eventually be replaced. That's the way of things.

Even if it sometimes takes a little longer.