“Act Local, Think Global” – Bernd Gewehr from Vössing

BerndGewehrLeading up to the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT in Paris we traditionally do a series of interviews with (keynote) speakers, panellists or moderators.

For this first instalment we tackle Bernd Gewehr (@bgewehr).

1) Bernd – you are the IT director of Ingenieurbüro Vössing and in charge for the digital workplace strategy in your company. Can you briefly give us some background on the project?

As an engineering company with over 500 employees we are located in 20+ sites all over Germany, Poland, Katar and China. Small to medium local groups of experts work on local customer projects in different kinds of engineering services like bridges and tunnels, road and railroad planning, construction supervising and project management.

2) What is for you the key objective of the project? And how is this aligned with the overall objective of your organization?

In the last years we found a strategy to act local but to think global. Reusing expertise from other similar projects can possibly save us a lot of money. While proximity to our customers is essential for us, physical proximity to each other expert can’t be reached at the same time.

Finding the right expertise quickly and globally collaborate easy and without barriers is key to success in our business. That’s what we wanted to achieve with introducing a global social collaboration platform at Vössing.

Physical proximity to the customer and digital proximity to each other.

3) What was or is the key challenge for reaching this objective?

Besides technical challenges like merging all user directories together, we see the main challenge in the company culture and in changing peoples behaviour.

It needs a change in the peoples minds to see the personal benefit in sharing knowledge to each other when – at the same time – your desk is filled with work from your customers projects. We see this as a process beginning slowly but improving constantly.

One shares and gets awarded, one benefits from others shares and can be more successful so he maybe gets better recognition by the customer. All those small wins put together will be the force that changes culture over time.

4) You are very much emphasizing the importance of the integration of social with the business process tools and informational systems. Which of these is the leading front-end environment for the user?

In the question of “What and how must the workplace of the future be?” my vision is clear: In the past we made a bunch of complex business tools, each for special business problems and special business processes. People got trained and used the tools as tool experts. They often jumped from one complex tool to another for changing to another process or another business object.

In the future I see one workplace for process experts like a HR manager which may be similar to what we have now – but I see another workplace front-end for all the process participants in the organization who use that particular process only once a month or once a year. For this majority of employees the workplace integration should be easy, the front-end should be well known, the working device should be a free selection of people and the alerting that they have to do something should be clear and in one place.

I see the social business tool as a good candidate for this participating workplace. No leaving your main dashboard, no entering the complex tools, just answering your process steps inside where you do most of your communications anyway. Easy, convenient, device independent and reduced from complexity is what we need in the future to free the resources for making business instead of managing process and tool complexity.

5) There is an evolving discussion about social technology being to monolithic and not integrative enough. Some evangelists even are buzzing nowadays single use case services like Slack.is as the new “hot stuff”. What is your opinion on this? Would this fit into your digital workplace strategy?

Exactly. But my perspective is different. There will always be some fragmentation in the social tools. Twitter wil stay and LinkedIn will not be absorbed by social business tools.

But the current social business tools often act as if they were the next complex experts tool – for the social stuff. We need extensive API support and good integration points to do the integration I mentioned before so the people work inside the social front-end, but participate in all the processes of the expert tools without noticing it.

No thinking in tools, just working.

6) What are your key advises on the development and implementation of a digital workplace strategy?

Keep in mind that what you decide to do should not only match your business strategy. It has to match peoples needs and interests too. If not – they will not change their behaviour in years, for sure!

Think people centric – aligned to your business strategy.

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I'm a Social Business addict coming from the technical depths of IT and rising from these dark ages, through web and social, to the enlightened field of Social Business.
Also blogger, podcaster, talker and listener.