Smart administration with enterprise information management

Trendsetters in dialogue


Interview with Prof. Dr. Thorsten Riemke-Gurzki, information expert, head of the Global Institute for Digital Transformation (gidt) at Stuttgart Media University, web and intranet pioneer from the very beginning.

Steffen Schaar: Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki, "information management, intranet and digitalisation of business processes" - you could say these are your passions. You are often quoted as a highly respected expert and moderator, you teach young people how to deal with media and knowledge at the Stuttgart Media University and conduct research at the Global Institute for Digital Transformation. Last year, you wowed the participants at the DiALOG conference with your keynote speech on the topic of "Information - Communication - People", which is why I am delighted that you are now revealing your positions and thoughts on this wide-ranging and exciting topic for us in the "EIM Compass" section of the magazine of the same name.

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I would like to start by asking you the same question as our dialogue partners in recent years: Enterprise Information Management - just old wine in new bottles again? Or how do you position the importance of EIM?

Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki: Old wine doesn't have to cork. There are connoisseurs who spend large sums of money on old wine. If we simply translate the term, it means nothing more than company-wide information management. It's a topic that has always been topical and is not losing its relevance with new approaches such as big data. In my view, enterprise information management is a management strategy. If you look at the topic from a consultant's or manufacturer's perspective, it looks completely different. Here, specific products have to be sold. And here you have to outbid each other. I don't think it's a tragedy that there are different ideas about the term on the user and manufacturer side. We will still be managing information in ten years' time. And much more than today.

Steffen Schaar: You set trends in teaching and research and experience the "Gen Y" or "digital natives" live. How do you see the handling of data and knowledge, which I believe others now rightly describe as the number one competitive factor, in the balancing act between quantity and quality - careless or conscious behaviour - or even more clearly: data protection versus social media?

Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki: I don't like the term "digital natives" any more than "digital immigrants". Our generation - the supposed immigrants - built the internet in the first place. We are not immigrants. We are the natives. And perhaps we understand what is happening on the Internet better than the digital natives if we look beyond the edge of the Internet. I see a trend towards carelessness when it comes to data protection. Few people ask themselves where the data from the messenger that is used to send private and business information is actually sent. Basically, however, we need a different way of dealing with knowledge in companies. We have information and knowledge at our fingertips on the Internet. However, it cannot be the case that I can find important information for my work faster on the Internet than in the company itself. By the way: Have you ever thought about the fact that Google could theoretically know better than you what your employees are currently working on? Employee searches reveal a lot.

Steffen Schaar: How is the attitude of Gen Y colouring companies? Does this generation present IT with new challenges in dealing with intranets and corporate culture or do they set completely different priorities?

Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki: The exciting question is: who is rubbing off on whom? Ideally, both benefit from each other. The biggest mistake for both the seasoned professional and the young newcomer is not to learn from the other. From my point of view, the current generation is simply adapting to companies to a large extent. However, there is one point where it is very clear that Generation Y ticks very differently: When it comes to work tools. They are used to working with light and flexible software tools from the cloud. Compared to Dropbox, Trello, Facebook and the like, traditional systems in the company seem like heavyweight tankers. Far too complicated, far too slow, far too boring. This is an issue that we will have to tackle in the coming years. In projects, I see time and again that companies are surprised by their own employees when it comes to tools. Why don't you ask your employees about WhatsApp? Did you think your company didn't have instant messaging yet?

Steffen Schaar: You coined the pithy and clever saying "Everyone gets the intranet they deserve" - what did you mean by this and, above all, what do you want to achieve with it?

Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki: The question behind this bold statement is quite simple: Why do some companies manage to establish new solutions with ease, while others find it very difficult? The key to a successful company is quite simply the corporate culture: how do we deal with external challenges within the company, how do we change ourselves? It is difficult for companies that emphasise hierarchy and rigid communication channels. And if you don't talk to each other in the corridor, you need a social intranet all the more. Companies in the corset of a conservative - or better said - conservative corporate culture find it difficult to react to the new and very fast digital challenges. But it is precisely this rapid change and responsiveness that is an important factor in competition. Companies are increasingly being forced to change quickly, yes, very quickly. Just look at the energy suppliers. No manager would have dreamed of this change. Other sectors will follow. For me, the intranet is a good indicator of a company's future viability. In other words: show me your intranet and I'll tell you whether your company is well positioned for the future.

Steffen Schaar: In my opinion, corporate information management, or EIM for short, still gets far too little attention in companies. Departmental thinking" and "IT thinking" still prevail. Abbreviations and scraps of figures are springing up like mushrooms. How would you approach the transformation in the age of digitalisation? After "ECM 2.0", "Sales 3.0" and "Industry 4.0", is it now "Company 5.0" or are you going one better?

Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki: If I were a manufacturer, I would add five more terms or versions. The terms are either an attempt to create niches in a saturated market or they are an attempt to find a name for an innovative product. The terms don't actually exist. Industry 4.0 was actually a project name, everything else is term 5.0. I'm not going to add to it here. What is exciting, however, is that the terms are catching on in companies. Clinging to terms only shows me how far we are from having our own digital strategy or at least an idea for one. Only a few companies have realised that now is the time to put everything to the test. And by everything, I really mean everything: the company with its business model, its processes and the way it works internally. No more and no less.

Steffen Schaar: "EIM is communication" said one of the protagonists here in an interview three years ago. Do you agree with this, is "communication" overrated or would you add ...?

Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki: .... digital corporate culture. Ultimately, this also includes communication. We need employees and organisations that manage information digitally, employees who network themselves and their knowledge and develop new ideas that can help customers better and more individually. Because they can do it with the knowledge of the entire company, not their own and not that of the department. We need a culture that is more orientated towards start-ups than towards the large, strictly reporting line-oriented corporate tankers. The traditional tankers are too heavy in the digital waters. Some American companies are ahead of us in this respect.

Steffen Schaar: You advise many companies on recognising their information potential and handling data. What role do you give IT in this or is the focus on something else?

Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki: What is missing in many companies today is the CIO with a clear focus on the second letter. Not a box manager or infrastructure manager, but an expert for information and processes - in short, for the digital part of the business. This is a hot potato, because it means that the CEO has to relinquish some of his responsibility. One thing is certain: IT provides important tools, no question about it. But the tools don't make a good company. It's the employees and their good work. Perhaps Robert Bosch's famous quote can be freely adapted for the present day: The company does not have a first-class digital culture because it earns well, but earns well because it has a first-class digital corporate culture. Of course, this also includes fair pay. In future, companies will not be able to avoid acting transparently, fairly and sustainably. IT is the necessary spanner in the works, but ultimately not the journey to the desired destination.

Steffen Schaar: That gives me a great final question. You immediately declared your willingness to support the DiALOG Award "Excellence with EIM" - the sustainability award for people with ideas and visions for mastering the organisational tasks of tomorrow - as a member of the jury. As the initiators, we are very proud that you are contributing your expertise. Why do you advise employees and organisations to apply for this award, and what do you think makes it so unique?

Prof. Dr Riemke-Gurzki: There is still so much potential in the area of digitalisation in companies. We need innovative ideas to gain an advantage in global markets - both in SMEs and in corporations. I think it's important to make best practices and their significant impact visible to other companies with an award. A signal for other companies too. And last but not least: What could be better for a project team than an award that shows that they are not only doing the right thing for their own company, but are also innovative in comparison to others. What I particularly like about the DiALOG Award is that small and medium-sized companies have just as much chance of winning the award as large corporations with a big project budget.

Steffen Schaar: Prof Dr Riemke-Gurzki, those were very interesting insights and thoughts from your everyday life on this topic. Thank you very much and I would be delighted if we could see you again with a new trend article. Until then, I wish you all the best and perhaps you will agree with me when I conclude by saying: "Information only harms those who have none!"

Prof Dr Thorsten Riemke-Gurzki is Director of the Global Institute for Digital Transformation (gidt) at the Stuttgart Media University. He specialises in digital transformation, digital work, intranet and information management. He is the author and co-author of numerous publications in the field of electronic business, including the user study "Intranet Topics and Trends" and the basic work "Corporate Portals and Intranets - Designing, Realising and Operating".

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Steffen Schaar

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