Prof. Dr. Steffen Strese in conversation with Andreas F.J. Obereder, CEO and Founder of ATOSS Software AG
Mr. Obereder, before we get to the subject of ATOSS, I'm interested to hear your views on the change to our economic situation over the past year.
After 12 years of economic boom, it became clear to us all in 2020 that there are certain developments which have no immediate remedy. And that we'll probably only understand the full extent of them in retrospect. Today, a major impact of this development is clear for all to see: The future has become the new present! The forced rapid acceleration of technologization on a global scale has entirely redefined economic parameters. This has irreversibly changed the process landscape and the work environment across all industries. There are two key factors driving this change: the inevitable digitalization of all enterprise processes, combined with staff who can now work from home or virtually anywhere around the world. Rapid acceleration of digitalization and real-time availability of data from all enterprise processes have put everyone under serious pressure to act.
Have you observed any changes over the past year that have actually had a stabilizing effect?
Sure! The arrival of a new U.S. administration and more clarity around Brexit have opened up new prospects for cooperation, both across the Atlantic as well as within Europe and the EU. There are opportunities to use strengths, such as reliability and partnership, to lay the groundwork for joint action. I expect this to lead to a far better collaboration to tackle global ecological and economic challenges. And yet, behind the scenes at companies, huge volatility and accelerated change processes are fast becoming the norm. This will continue to be the case for us and our customers.
So, how does volatility impact businesses?
Well, here are a few examples from the last 12 months. Take new health restrictions. These trigger major volatility. Social distancing rules, hygiene measures, protection of high-risk groups and split-team organizational structure – these all now need to be factored into workforce planning. Staff hortages trigger volatility. Topics like childcare, sick leave, and legal restrictions on working time flexibilization have to be taken into account. The current crisis has delivered a double whammy to both supply and demand: on the one hand, through a significantly increased risk of supply chain disruptions and the resulting supply shocks, and on the other hand, through demand shocks caused by changes in customer behavior. In order to optimize sales and costs, both aspects must be taken into account in proactive workforce planning. These factors coupled with financial bottlenecks have created an environment of unparalleled volatility
How should companies address this situation?
Well, volatility is nothing new – it just reached unprecedented levels in 2020. Prior to that, the speed of change across the global economy was already significantly increasing. Even then it was clear that there was a need for increased flexibility – for companies to adapt on the fly to a new framework. And develop the ability to respond to unpredictable changes at short notice. According to a KfW business survey, around one-third of SMEs were already using more flexible working hours and locations in April 2020. Among companies that had already experienced disruptions in business operations due to staff absences, the figure was even more than half. Over 70 percent of mid-size companies with more than 50 staff have expanded their use of remote work from home in the last ten months. The results of a McKinsey executive survey also confirm that this pays off. The study reveals that the companies navigating the current crisis the best are those embracing advanced technologies and becoming more innovative and willing to experiment.
How would you rate the progress the economy has made in terms of digitalization in 2020?
In a recent European survey, more than two-thirds of executives said the pandemic is a driver of digital transformation at their companies. This is especially true for areas in which digitalization was being pushed even before the crisis. 2020 was a year of reckoning for many of us in a variety of ways. Even the best-laid plans CIOs had made for migrating their organizations to the Cloud had to be massively accelerated.
Why have cloud solutions become even more of a focus?
The Cloud has proven over the past decade that it is more than just a technology. It's a key enabler of business innovation. In many cases, it has only been possible to react to the external pace of change experienced in 2020 thanks to cloud solutions. Their use allows companies to not only significantly optimize and expand their IT capabilities but also scale at the speed the business demands. This makes both predictable and unpredictable fluctuations easier to manage. Companies that adopted cloud-based solutions early on were significantly better equipped to meet the needs of their customers and staff while maintaining revenue growth. This is directly reflected in the earnings figures from successful organizations. Our core message from last year's annual report was: "Now is the time to prepare." And even though none of us would have wanted the recent turn of events, it has proven to be accurate in retrospect.