Bitkom study: digital optimism caused by Corona

Status: 11/24/2021 2:12 p.m.

Home office, networked production, artificial intelligence: companies invested in digitization during the pandemic. The results of a survey by the Bitkom association show what this means for the competition.

Home office – that is probably the first answer that most people think of when asked what role Corona has in the digitization of the economy. Video switching conferences, joint editing of texts on different computers, digital signatures: Working in the home office was only conceivable for many thanks to these technical possibilities.

Innovation boost in the pandemic

Many people have experienced this way of working since the beginning of the pandemic. Because eight out of ten companies expanded their home office or introduced a new one. As a result, the digitized office has experienced a real surge in renewal. That was the result of the Bitkom survey of more than 600 companies in various industries. “Many companies said goodbye to paper during the pandemic,” sums up Bitkom President Achim Berg. “That shows: digitization in a company is not something abstract, digitization consists of a multitude of specific measures paired with a new way of thinking.”

It is therefore not surprising that companies have reorganized and invested heavily. 92 percent of those surveyed have introduced or expanded video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings, three quarters have purchased tools for digital collaboration and around two thirds have purchased additional hardware. Most of the companies surveyed received further training for their employees.

All work areas affected

But digitization has not only changed office activities. All areas are affected. Production workflows were digitally converted, and marketing and sales were renewed. To this end, three quarters of all companies also use big data, primarily for data analysis. That is significantly more than two years ago. The Internet of Things, which is particularly important in networked production, is also growing in popularity, and now employs almost two thirds of all companies – in 2019 that was not even the case for half of the companies.

The buzzword artificial intelligence – or AI for short – has been filled with content in the German economy. Many companies have used the downtime caused by Corona to rethink. This is also reflected in personnel policy. Almost every fifth company has hired digitization experts.

Digitization as a competitive advantage

The companies were also asked how digitization is affecting competition. The clear result: it has tightened. Half of the companies surveyed had to self-critically state that competitors from their own industry who had relied on digitization at an early stage are now in a better position.

In addition, digitalization means that competitors from other industries are appearing in the respective markets. Companies from the Internet and IT sectors in particular are expanding and displacing traditional companies.

Data protection requirements perceived as an obstacle

The companies are not really satisfied with their own progress in terms of digitization. In the survey, they had the opportunity to give themselves a school grade: on average it was a three. Above all, the requirements of data protection have prevented the companies from implementing their plans, according to their own statements. “There is huge uncertainty in Germany, fueled by a confusion of interpretation that is unique in the world, with 17 data protection supervisory authorities in the federal states and one in the federal government,” said Bitkom President Berg. Correspondingly, 72 percent of those questioned would like the federal states to abolish data protection oversight and pool their tasks in a federal authority.

Another problem for companies is the lack of suitable skilled workers who could implement further expansion of digitization. In the future, 82 percent are therefore calling for computer science to be introduced as a compulsory subject from year 5 onwards.

Home office is not the model of the future

After the pandemic, companies essentially want to keep their digital innovations that were introduced due to work restrictions due to Corona rules or that were used for modernization. Some want to invest more, others less. Only when working from home is an unexpected but clear trend: Here only a quarter want to adhere to the Corona regulations or expand them, but 71 percent want to withdraw them in whole or in part.

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Karsten Zummack, RBB, 11/24/2021 1:59 p.m.

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