Clash of Cultures – Companies and the Challenges of Digitalization

Published on in Interview, Logistics of the future, Service, Trends
3,5 minutes reading time

Christoph Scherübl, Head of Digital Solutions at KNAPP AG has been concentrating for some time on the topic of digitalization and the headaches it can cause companies.  At the fifteenseconds-Festival 2019 in Graz he described the associated clash of cultures and the challenges of rapid change in large organizations that make such a difference in a new world of technological disruptions. For Christoph, digitalization means using machines and technologies to sensibly support the human, thereby creating a greater total benefit.

We asked Christoph about his keynote address on “Companies and the Challenges of Digitalization” at the Fifteen Seconds Festival. Read the exciting interview here.

smart services from KNAPP
The new Smart Services by KNAPP AG

Why is digitalization such a headache for companies?

Digitalization means that companies have to act. It affects all relevant areas, shortens product life cycles, and forces new data-driven business models and processes. Even though the benefits of digital business are obvious for most companies, the failures of such transformations can become a huge problem. You need both the talent and the technology to lead a company through a digital transformation.

Unfortunately, pressure on companies to change can often lead to premature action. This means that new technologies are being introduced without understanding how they could actually improve day-to-day operations.

What’s the right way to transform your business?

The aim is not to do things differently, but to do different things. Digitalization must be used to do things that, up to now, I have never done as a company, such as establishing new business models.

The motto is “work smarter and not harder” – we don’t have to undergo complete digitalization, but we must digitalize the right products and services to make life easier for ourselves.

It’s also important to keep an open mind towards existing third party solutions. As a company, I don’t need to make everything or solve every problem myself. Sometimes it makes sense to bring in outsiders and get a fresh perspective on things.

work smarter not harder
The aim of digitalization – work smarter not harder

Does digitalization solve our problems?

Again and again, we buy into the delusion that technology solves problems. NO. Problems will only ever be solved by people.  In general, digitalization and technology are just a means to an end. The ideas and the initiative must come from people.

After all, you cannot digitalize corporate culture or how people interact with one another. An incorrect application might even cause interpersonal communication to deteriorate.

Who is going to solve these problems? Do we now all need a Chief Digitalization Officer?

No, although it might make sense as a temporary role. The important thing is that the employees of today and tomorrow receive the right training. But forget about classroom training. You have to make room for competence to develop and not get bogged down in the transfer of knowledge. You see, specific knowledge in a highly digitalized area will be obsolete in two years, whereas the competencies that employees acquire will last a lifetime.

In the same way, companies will need people who are pioneers and who will drive digitalization forward. The world of work is re-aligning itself, affecting not only the employee, but also the management. Digital leadership describes a type of leadership where digital tools and media are used to achieve good collaborative work with the employees.

Christoph Scheruebl

“In the future, it will still be people and not technology who represent the core competence and unique selling point of companies.”

Christoph Scherübl, Head of Digital Solutions, KNAPP AG


What do you see as the actual hurdles or dangers?

  • The predominant expectation that digitalization will solve problems in the future is unrealistic. Digitalization will just make it easier for us to troubleshoot problems. The problems themselves still always have to be solved by people.
  • Don’t assume that you are the one who sets the tone. Give your teams as much time as possible to experience and get to know the best practices. Unlike in your core business, here you are the follower! Get used to the vale of tears and unfulfilled expectations. Every new development must go through these growing pains.
  • Solving problems that already have solutions is an unnecessary step in the wrong direction. If a solution for a problem has already been found, you don’t need to find a new digital solution. These resources should instead be used to master new problem areas.
  • Another big danger is that the process of digitalization is not even addressed. One reason for this could be the fear of making mistakes. A risk-averse corporate culture makes it hard to take that important first step.
Initial defeats with digitalization are difficult to avoid.

In a nutshell, what are the success factors for digitalization?

  • Don’t do things differently … do different things!
  • Establish new business models!
  • The vale of tears is a good sign!
  • Competency trumps knowledge!