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Interview with Friederike Lauruschkus, Founder and Partner

In the interview with Katja Diehl, Friederike Lauruschkus, Founder and Partner at civity, reports on the findings from matters no. 3 "Eine Frage der Unternehmenskultur – Voraussetzungen für die digitale Transformation von Verkehrsunternehmen". She explains the influence of the "human factor" on digitization in municipal companies and the opportunities that bring about a successful transformation for customers and employees.

  • Digitalisation in the turnaround in transport is often characterised by technical aspects – your study focused on the ‘human factor’ and more importantly on corporate culture – which is, however, followed by a question mark in the title. If you had to break it down into two points, what would your conclusion be?

The conclusion is both simple and demanding: The human factor decides whether digitalisation is successful or not. It is the people working in the companies who have to shape this development – it is the people who can make it fail. ‘Defending existing structures’ and the existing corporate culture are therefore correctly listed among the obstacles to digitalisation. Especially the latter does not yet seem to be open enough for the change that is needed: Action across all departments for the benefit of the company.

  • Seen from the outside, transport companies were somewhat overwhelmed by the digitalisation of their customers, especially since this sector did not have to proactively address this for many years. Now it is being actively shaped. Where is this transformation to be found according to your study?

One striking factor is that two-thirds of the municipal companies surveyed consider digitalisation to be THE topic for future business success – driven by the customer (90 percent approval). This shows that digitalisation is not seen as an end in itself, but as an essential factor for successful customer orientation in the future. After all, the customer acts entirely in a digitalized world, be it as a private person or as a business partner. This also influences what the customer expects of municipal service providers. At the same time, however, it is also acknowledged that the topic is not intrinsically anchored. Only seven percent rate the degree of digitalisation at their company as high. This may be because politicians and clients of transport companies are not perceived as drivers of digitalisation. And in the past, transport companies geared their activities largely towards these players. Now, however, new, agile, private/entrepreneurial service providers are entering the market. This development and customers themselves have made it clear that there is a great need to act with the customer in mind. Accordingly, sales approaches in particular are seen as the focus of digitalisation. Both at a technical and at a product level.

  • Based on your findings, where do you see great opportunities to accelerate the turnaround and to convince people to take on an active role? At present, digitalisation is still a ‘matter for the boss’ in 40 percent of all cases. However, that can be harmful.

Participation in the design of digitalisation was stated to be a success factor, as was the willingness of managers to make decisions. In my opinion, these two aspects cannot be separated either. Everyone in the company must be convinced of the different stages of digitalisation (and the most convincing way to do this is to ensure participation in the transformation), so that digitalisation can become a success and part of business processes and services. However, this also requires a certain amount of courage on the part of decision-makers. None of us can predict what will be right in ten years from now. This certainty and planning security is part of the past that transport companies have to leave behind (perhaps painfully). Digitalisation means greater flexibility, but also the will needed to decide to make a move without 100% certainty.

  • What implications does this have for an industry facing an impending shortage of skilled workers?

Once again, this is where digitalisation offers a huge opportunity for transport companies. On the one hand, it can mean that employees who have already been recruited will be trained for other jobs, but it can also mean that doors will be opened to people who have not been interested in working in this industry in the past. This is because various teams are needed to analyse the customer, especially those customers who may still be using their car today, and to develop products that motivate them to switch to public transport. Opportunities for both sides!

  • How personalised is the digital transformation at transport companies? And what do you recommend for companies who recognise themselves in the results of your study?

In the latest ‘matters’ study, we wanted to take a closer look at how things look at transport companies. And there were no surprises to be found here: These companies consider their managers to be responsible for digitalisation, but they give them poor marks for its implementation. Only 28 percent of the transport companies surveyed work cross-departmental. In 24 percent of cases. Digitalisation has no fixed location in the organisational structure. This shows the enormous discrepancy that exists here. After all, change can only succeed if it is not developed in isolation in certain specialist areas. At the same time, however, cross-departmental drivers are also needed to monitor the process and its stakeholders. This is where we, as civity, can position ourselves very well and provide objective support during the transformation process. We can contribute our external expertise in the process and the industry environment while acting as an intermediary between the departments involved. We believe that companies who do not yet have a strategy or are ‘stuck’ in a process can make good use of this outside view.