User-friendliness of IT systems as a success factor – how medium-sized businesses can benefit from digitalisation
Modern digital technologies can help companies make the right decisions. Predictive tools in areas such as inventory management or sales planning offer great opportunities to make business processes more efficient.
But medium-sized companies are often reluctant to implement digitalisation projects. A recent study by the Innovation Alliance shows that nearly one in three decision-makers associated digitalisation with negative feelings, such as fear. That can certainly be explained by the speed of technological developments, which is not just overwhelming decision-makers. For example, a lack of IT knowledge among the workforce is one of the biggest obstacles to the digitalisation of SMEs. According to a survey conducted by Bitkom, companies often see gaps in the digital competency of their employees, especially in data protection and IT security.
User friendliness is the key to successful digitalisation
To participate successfully in the digitalisation process, companies must close the gap between the technology and its users. This can happen in different ways. The obvious way is to develop appropriate skills. However, this is relatively complex and leads to success in the medium term only. That is why the user-friendliness of IT systems is immensely important. A high level of user friendliness brings technology and users closer together in the short term. This reduces the obstacles to the introduction of digital tools. It also gives employees control over the systems they use every day.
In terms of the scale and speed with which digital technologies can be incorporated into companies, each user can only be so agile as the user-friendliness of the system allows.
Advanced companies use decision-making algorithms to support inventory management. These provide the planners with optimized decision-making, based on demand projections and the current stock situation. In particular, if a breakdown, delivery problem, or other unpredictable event threatens to bring operations to a halt, dispatchers can react quickly using this system. However, they can do this only if the results of the algorithms are presented in such a way that they can be understood very quickly by the user.
As one example: In a first step, an alert function makes the employees aware of the discrepancies and abnormalities of the current situation. This is done via a graphical interface, which also clearly sets out the priorities. This means that it is possible to respond quickly to a genuinely urgent problem, without getting lost in the large number of daily tasks. In the next step, the algorithms calculate the recommended actions, such as moving forward an order scheduled for a later date. These can easily be followed thanks to a clear graphical representation. User-friendly IT systems can thus drastically reduce the scheduling costs and expensive overhauls needed to maintain the ability to deliver. As a result, companies that use the appropriate IT systems have a real competitive advantage. But decision-makers can effectively use the information provided by digital tools only when it is transparent and clearly prepared.
Recommendations for action by means of electronic data-processing
Systems based on agile optimisation meet precisely these requirements. This is because interactivity, in addition to speed and planning quality, is one of the concept’s cornerstones. In concrete terms, user-friendliness means: the operating elements are designed to be intuitive, so that employees can easily and quickly implement the concrete recommendations for action of an IT-supported strategy. For example, if there are problems within the operating chain, the user-friendliness of this agile optimisation system is a highly effective tool that allows decision-makers to react quickly to changes and to achieve significant results.
After all, 90% of the managers and directors of German companies see opportunities in the application of IT systems. Now, it’s all about the implementation. “We are convinced that digitalisation is a great opportunity if we understand it properly and implement it pragmatically,” says Carsten Heidbrink, Managing Director for SME sales at Cisco Germany. Within the framework of an innovation alliance, Cisco and 11 medium-sized IT companies are trying to support German medium-sized businesses in the process of digitalisation, and to demonstrate how they can secure their competitiveness with simple and concrete steps.
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