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The Digital – Lapis Philosophorum of the 21 Century

At a time when people were torn between the material and the ideal world, alchemists were searching for the means of the means, the philosopher’s stone. It should draw the ignoble by transmutation out of base metals and diseased creatures and thus pave the way for gold or the eternal life. However, even under torture, the alchemists did not manage to produce real gold. Nevertheless, many are still looking for a way to turn the world for the better. Currently they speak of the digital.

Like the Philosopher’s Stone, hopes are raised among today’s decision makers, hopes which, above all, offer special benefits for today’s alchemists. Despite this, the digital transformation means dramatic changes in the flow before anything else.

  • Delays affect stronger than before
    Those who couldn’t get a hold on unpunctuality will have additional difficulties with the digital transformation. Processes that take too long, piles of orders that are growing steadily, and delivery dates that are not fulfilled result now faster in problems. As long as parts of the process take place outside of computers, different processing speeds, unnecessary additional activities and extensive reworking burden a reliable flow – even with a high degree of digitization. In the future, the participants expect results that are almost immediately available.
  • Error sources create more serious consequences
    Today’s complexity offers a variety of error sources that are difficult to trace back to the root cause. If a delivery does not reach its destination because the address is incorrect or if the wrong articles are delivered, the customer gets frustrated. First of all because the order does not arrive on time and secondly, above all, he feels badly served – of course because of missing personal appreciation. Digitization offers an improvement by automating simple routines. However, this requires that you know your processes. The launch of IT systems always had been difficult. With digitization, clear processes become even faster and more important and thus the implementation becomes more difficult.
  • Shortcomings harm more intense
    Particularly unpleasant are the little quirks that interfere with the process, such as a less intuitive user interface, products and services which have small defects, and an uncomfortable way to fix deficiencies. Bad response times of the website, excessive entry validation or unclear contact persons spoil the customer for further businesses. Digitization will increase the share of IT in the value creation and accelerate everything. If you do solve these flaws, the customer is gone – forever.
  • Foresight does not work anymore
    The good news is that in the future potential customers can be found everywhere – globally. All are just one click away and expect prompt delivery. This changes the entire previous thinking – ten hour hotlines are no longer enough; many new regulations and laws have to be taken into account; one or two languages ​​are no longer sufficient for the user interface and the hotline. The list can be expanded as desired. Digital transformation needs a new look at the customers – How big is the target group? Where are the customers of tomorrow? When are you active? How fast do we have to deliver? A forward-looking planning becomes impossible, especially because there is no time left to react.
  • Customer loyalty is gone with one click
    In the absence of personal contact it is also increasingly difficult to adjust to the customers. As a result, they remain loyal only until the next click delivers a better result. The digital transformation requires a new form of customer intimacy. For example, completely new services can offer customers added value that motivates them to come back. Examples are the history of past purchases or personal referrals depending on your own buying behavior. Additional services such as access to an exclusive network or the provision of special information are imaginable. Thus, the digital transformation has a fundamental influence on the existing business model.

Bottom line: As in the earlier centuries, it turns out that the philosopher’s stone, the digital, still produces a false shimmer. In all this it would be possible today to benefit from the digital transformation with an appropriate preparation. Delays, errors, shortcomings, the lack of foresight and the crumbling customer loyalty can be improved by overhauling the business model. The digital transformation not only requires IT systems for this, but rather involves all areas of the company. That way the digital becomes the Lapis Philosophorum of the 21st century.

The Bridge – the ideal metaphor for transition

The main reason for a bridge is crossing a hard-to-manage gap, such as a river, a sea or a valley. In most cases, ways should be shortened, eased or simply made possible. The natural difficulties vary each time and need a different type or variant of bridge. The longest bridge with 36 km is the Hangzhou Wan Daqiao, which spans Hangzhou Bay on China’s east coast. The highest bridge is also located in China, the Beipanjiang Bridge in Guizhou, with a height of 565 m.
The chasms that are bridged in business are in no way inferior to the physical bridges. These business challenges are transitions from old to new, involving many employees and internal regulations. The bridge is an obvious metaphor for such transitions.

The following conditions support the safe crossing of the threatening abysses.

  • Clear requirements
    Clarity arises from the description of the specific requirements and, above all, the expectations of the deciding stakeholders. The easiest thing is to determine the physical data, such as length, width, height, or the load-bearing capacity – although sometimes the decisiveness is missing. Most important, however, are the decision makers’ hopes, which are difficult to grasp. These include the ideas of what should be done, what should be the outcome and what consequences they foresee. It is essential to know the requirements, since they ultimately set the bar for the accomplished transition.
  • Documented topography
    A bridge is determined by the start and the end point. The description of the circumstances will cover the whole area, but not always with the required details. This applies to transitions of all kinds. The initial situation describes the foundation, on which one side is based for the crossing. In the business environment, this is the old world with its problems – the hierarchical structure, the legacy IT, or outdated procedures. The destination describes the fixed base on the other side. In business this is the state with its intended advantages – agile forms of working, modern IT, end-to-end business operations.
  • Stable recipes
    The abyss to pass determines which bridge type is used – suspension bridge, cable-stayed bridge, arch bridge, plate bridge, etc. The bridge type is selected, depending on the requirements. Sometimes a cable car is sufficient for the crossing. However, if a large number of people and heavy vehicles have to pass the crossover, then a stable construction is required that brings everyone for a foreseeable future safely to the other side. The same applies to changes in companies when the staff has to adapt to the new business requirements. This cuts all employees to the quick, because they have to rethink and to act in a new way.
  • Decisive implementation
    The change from one side to the other is dangerous and risky. It only succeeds, if it is decisively pursued. It is not enough to wish for a bridge. You have to take the necessary steps. This requires sufficient financial and time resources as well as adequate staff. Such projects are reliable for a long time, if the implementation is not spared at the expense of quality and if the necessary accuracy is omitted. The failure of the project has serious consequences for the involved parties – at the first crossing or later, for example when the life is shortened drastically due to inferior material.
  • Built-in maintenance
    Nothing lasts forever. For this reason, measures must be installed from the outset, which come from the requirements – the expected load and the planned lifespan. Bridges have expansion joints, stretchable asphalt or vibration damping mechanisms. Regular transition monitoring is an additional measure to identify and counteract difficulties at an early stage. In business, this requires ongoing status checks of the transformation activities.

Bottom line: The transition from one side to the other of a chasm needs clear requirements, the documented topography, stable recipes, a decisive implementation and the appropriate maintenance. Ever new abysses require ever larger and higher bridges. However, you hear again and again of bridges that reach the end of their lifecycle prematurely, because the planned utilization exceeds by far the original estimates. In the transition from old to new, the decision makers have to face a similar situation. Above all, the upcoming digitization will take many companies to their limits. The bridge provides the ideal metaphor for these transitions from old to new.