Does old-fashioned mean equally good? About people’s fears in digital change

In order to successfully initiate the digitalisation of processes of inter-company cooperation and the use of new technologies, these technologies must be accepted by employers and employees alike.

Hopes and fears are associated with digital inter-company cooperation

The Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology (IDMT) conducts in-depth interviews with employers and employees of medium-sized companies in Thuringia in various industries in order to record their conscious and unconscious hopes and fears regarding digital inter-company cooperation with partners. With the Collaborative Analysis Lab (CoALa), a survey instrument developed by the Fraunhofer IDMT and led by the interviewer, the interviewee develops his or her personal attitude to various communication and settlement options in business cooperation. For this purpose, he compares the following four communication and settlement options with their similarities and differences:

ask a friend Processing by phone & mail Processing via a central online portal decentralized business processing

Nothing without personal contact

First CoALa interviews with nine employees reveal their hopes and concerns regarding the four communication and processing options in digital inter-company cooperation with partners. It turns out that the communication and processing paths via telephone & mail and the possibility of asking a friend stand together. Contrary to these two ways the completion over an on-line portal and the decentralized business completion are seen, both likewise relatively similarly evaluated. Advantages and disadvantages are seen for all possibilities:

Processing by phone & mail, ask a friend Processing via an online portal, decentralized business processing
Trust, Security, Proven Performance
in person
direct, fast
Individual agreements, focal points, influence possible
saving of time
little personnel required
Simplified settlement process
Personal initiative/performance must be provided
requires more personnel capacities
unknown and uncertain, scepticism
Impersonal, anonymous
lack of feedback
little room for manoeuvre, handling less flexible
Lack of guarantee of success
The classic bilateral communication and processing channels (telephone & mail, friend) are rewarded with a high degree of trust. Especially the personal contact is positively emphasized and highly appreciated by the employees. These classic communication channels have proven themselves so far and are familiar to employees in their daily work. On the other hand, a negative assessment of anonymity between partners is attributed to processing via central online platforms and decentralised networks. Since decentralized processing is still predominantly unknown terrain for the employees surveyed in their everyday work, there is a certain scepticism towards the technology behind it and foreign partners.
This indicates a fear of the new. Although increased personnel capacities and personal services must be provided via traditional communication channels, employees still perceive this communication as direct and fast due to the tried-and-tested nature of these traditional channels and the unknown nature of new technologies. With the personal contact by telephone & Mail individual arrangements can be made flexibly. On the other hand, the processing via central online platforms and decentralized networks is characterized by less and less flexible room for maneuver as well as a lack of personal feedback.

Recognize obstacles, reduce fears

At present, business is mainly conducted via personal contact by telephone and e-mail, which is highly valued by employees. They are afraid that digital, automated business processing will lead to the loss of this personal contact and that they will lose independent control over the processing and flexible design of this contact. For a successful implementation of digitalized processes of inter-company cooperation, it is important to involve employees in these processes at an early stage and to reduce obstacles and fears of change. Fraunhofer IDMT will conduct further in-depth interviews with employers.

Über den Autor: Mark Straßburg

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