Korbinian Sontheim/ April 24, 2020/ Digitalization

Ever since the invention of the internet, it is safe to say that the working world has changed immensely. Not only do industries work much faster than they did only 30 years ago, but with many jobs, you don’t even need to work from your companies’ office, but could easily work from home or anywhere else on the planet, as long as you have a stable connection to the internet.

Especially currently with COVID-19, this is a huge asset that helps manoeuver these difficult times. However, it is not a new development either and these drastic changes aren’t isolated, but instead had and still have a ripple effect throughout our now global work culture. One movement that developed from this new normal in our way of working is a movement called “New Work”. It aims to redefine our view of work from something perhaps dreadful, or merely a prerequisite to survive to an occupation that isn’t just a necessity, but rather something we enjoy spending our time on. The most essential factor that is tied to this goal is about giving more individual freedom to employees. Due to digitalization becoming more and more prevalent, it is now possible to have employees work from wherever and choose their work hours more flexibly. Of course, this requires a new kind of leadership, which is another important aspect of New Work. This new leadership should be based on mutual respect and trust in the employees to make the best choices and work diligently even when it might not be possible to check up on their work as easily as it would be in an office. In general, New Work refers to a series of developments which we will explain briefly in the following.

Digital Workspace
Digital work equipment such as laptops, smartphones, and various software programs have long been part of everyday life in many places. This is especially true in the office, but more and more digital aids are also finding their way into production.

Self-organization
Fixed structures and a hierarchical management style have long since ceased to meet today’s requirements, slowing down companies and leading to unnecessary bureaucracy. The New Work concept attributes more individual freedom and responsibility to each employee. This shifts the role of leadership more towards moderation, motivation, and coaching of employees.

Work independent of place and time
In addition, employees no longer have to be present in the office every day, but can work remotely from anywhere in the world and network digitally with colleagues via chats and video conferences. It is not without reason that there has been a boom in recent years in companies and platforms such as Slack, which promote digital working. Moreover, modern programs ensure that data is always available via the internet and that employees can arrange their working hours flexibly. This also helps to better balance work and family life.

Digital and automated processes
In order to be able to react quickly and flexibly to changing circumstances, such as those we currently find with Corona, and to have the possibility to work from any location, the digitalization and automation of processes play an important role. Computers and self-learning algorithms not only automate complete process chains but also carry out more and more complex tasks without human intervention. Under the premise of the availability of current and reliable data, analyses allow future prognoses and the quick approval of relevant parties for decision making.

Flexible and agile Organisation
Product development cycles are becoming shorter and shorter and the number of variations as well as the product individuality is continuously increasing. This could no longer be organized with outdated methods and processes, whereas spatially distributed employees could work in changing teams and projects simultaneously and organize themselves. This allows a fast and flexible reaction to changing customer requirements.

Outsourcing
Companies can no longer be considered as self-contained units. They work in a global business network and in collaboration with a variety of different companies on joined projects and products. Outsourcing work to other companies or freelancers helps companies to save costs and react flexibly to market fluctuations on the one hand and to access valuable external know-how on the other.

Lifelong learning
In order to keep up with the technological changes and requirements of industry 4.0, it is necessary to constantly learn and develop. This is not only about new qualifications in changing or even new job profiles, but also about soft skills such as personal responsibility, adaptability, and time management. The continuous training of employees is therefore absolutely necessary to be able to plan for the future.

But of course, these sometimes drastic changes result in some uncertainties and challenges for employees and organizations.

Cooperative management style
The classic, often authoritarian style of leadership can no longer be reconciled with the expectations of today’s employees, especially those of the Y and Z generations. In particular, it hardly allows the leadership of temporally and spatially distributed teams.

Flexible working hours
The work-life balance is becoming more and more important in our society, which also includes making it easier to combine work and family life. As a result, flexible working time models are gaining enormously in importance. This can usually be implemented in the form of a flexitime model or working hours based on trust.

IT security and data protection
You often hear “data is the new oil”. More and more often, it is the most valuable asset of companies and must be managed accordingly in regard to its confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Strict legal requirements apply in particular to data protection and thus to personal data of employees and customers. As the availability of data and information outside the office becomes more and more important, data security plays a central role.

Hardware and software equipment
Despite the belief that this should actually be negligible in today’s business environment, modern IT equipment is still a challenge for many companies. In order to be able to work from home or on the road, it is, therefore, necessary to provide the required and up-to-date infrastructure to enable secure and resource-saving work with legacy systems that are still often in use.

Agile working methods
An increasing customer focus and fast technological progress mean that requirements often change quickly. In order to be able to react flexibly to these, agile project management methods are being established more and more in many areas. In addition to specialized knowledge, these methods are particularly conducive to a new way of thinking and corporate culture.

Flexible workplace models
This is already the case in many areas and the current home office situation with Corona will also contribute significantly to this development.”The permanent desk has had its day”. In the future, employees will be able to work even more from home or from anywhere in the world. For this reason, there is a need for flexible and “smart” office concepts where employees can find a place to work undisturbed or together with colleagues as required.

Motivating and qualifying employees
The demand for qualified personnel is continuously increasing. New technologies are coming onto the market at ever shorter intervals, which means that employees need to be continuously trained in them. This can quickly lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed, but also to fears of job loss due to digitalization. Therefore it is very important to educate employees at an early stage and to enthuse and qualify them for the new world and new work.

As a young Start-Up, we at Cesonia made a point from the start to try and work as digital as possible. With Corona forcing us in home office from one day to another, we didn’t have the issue of having to digitalize older files that bigger and older companies face as they move onto a more digital style of working. We already hat a lot of the necessary tools in place and needed to adopt some processes and communication. By now, there are hundreds of tools out there that all aim to help you in this endeavor, and everyone has a different preference. But after a year of trial and error, here are the tools that we have found to be most helpful for our company.

Storing Your Files: Sharepoint
First of all, and probably the most essential tool for us is Sharepoint and OneDrive. As we needed a way to store our documents to make them accessible from literally anywhere, this was the best option for us. All of our employees can just log into Sharepoint with their own work e-mail and can thus access it from wherever, including a multi-edit functionality so a document can be edited by multiple parties at the same time. It provides an extensive role and rights management for the administration of access rights to folders and files. SharePoint is one of the most important columns of our ability to work digitally.

Collaboration and Communication: Slack and MS Teams
As our main communication channel, we have found Slack to be the most useful. Although Microsoft Teams is directly connected to Sharepoint and replicates our file structure as channels, we found this to be more hindering than helpful, as not all files for one project or matter are always in one folder structure. In Slack, however, we find ourselves able to organize our channels more flexibly and in a more natural way. Thanks to the extensive integration possibilities of Slack, we are also able to link files directly from Sharepoint to avoid multiplied data storage. You can add on dozens of apps, such as your Outlook Calendar, Confluence, and Jira, to support a lean and digital workflow. Slack has helped us to have more traceable communication for specific projects, but also the company as a whole, as we are able to communicate on different topics more easily while not physically together.

For video calls though, MS Teams has turned out to be the best option for us. Even though MS Teams so far lacks the ability to view all participants, the quality and functionally is one of the best in the market and as it is part of the Office 365 business package, there are no additional costs. Furthermore, the option to view up to nine participants in a call is supposed to be part of an update that has been announced for the end of April. MS Teams is, in comparison to other tools, fairly easy to use, and gives you the option to include external parties, share your screen as well as request remote operations in a safe way.

Project management: Confluence and Jira
Due to the rather small team size of eight people, some employees work mostly alone in their field, but most work with others on projects and need to constantly communicate with their colleagues on what they’re doing and what needs to be done. For better and easier collaboration, we use Confluence and Jira. They both have their own advantages, but since they’re from the same company you can intertwine them easily.

For Cesonia, we use Jira mostly for task lists and workflows. Every department can have their own space and collaborate within it. You can assign tasks to a specific person, add deadlines, and indicate how far along they are in the work process. You can even link tasks to one another, by indicating dependencies or chronological orders.

Confluence, on the other hand, is used twofold: some spaces are part of a “wiki” of sorts, storing general information and documents, such as our financial accounting process or our Vacation Request Form, and other spaces are used for actual collaboration. It’s where we collect and write texts for our website and these blogposts or record the protocols of our team meetings.

Brainstorming Visually: Miro
The last essential tool we use is Miro. Although it can be a little confusing at first, it is incredibly useful for brainstorming sessions. It works much like an online whiteboard, with post-its, stickers and markers. Especially when you need to brainstorm as a group, but aren’t in the same room, this tool is incredibly helpful. Video conferences, while extremely important, just don’t quite cut it in this situation. Though when you pair them with Miro to have a visual representation of that brainstorming session, collaboration on ideas becomes much easier and, unlike a common whiteboard, is automatically documented digitally. No photographing or copying necessary. Miro also provides a broad variety of templates such as for brainwriting, story mapping or Business model canvas to better organize these sessions.

Get to know more about the innovative work being done at Cesonia and don’t miss out on our Blog page, Reshaping Business trough data virtualization in a globalized and connected business world.

Thank you for reading.

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