“And one day, our expedition will have 6,000 pioneers,” Sebastian Murawski says, smiling contentedly at the prospect to the group. In front of him today, 30 of these pioneers are seated. The other 260 brought on board to date hear these same words at similar events. Sebastian is a personnel developer at OTTO, tall, mischievous and calmly enthusiastic about the matter at hand. He believes that what his small group of pioneers is talking about is the right way for the company to go. And he enjoys taking his pioneers along with him on the expedition.
The pioneers are OTTO employees from all departments, hierarchy levels and career stages, young and old, hipster and non-hipster. The IT specialist is on exactly the same level as the purchasing administrator or the trainee, who “just felt like helping out and getting things going”. In OTTO’s case “things” means the introduction of Microsoft Office 365. And the pioneers, who bear the fancy title “O365 Pioneers” are the community to help with this. Their mission: to discover the new working world, their goal: to motivate all of their colleagues to become part of this new working world and culture and to become discovers - a.k.a pioneers - themselves.
“Companies should not make the mistake of trying to transfer existing processes and structures one by one to the new tools. New programmes alone will not change the culture and working methods.”
6,000 people at OTTO and the Otto Group Holding are in a position to use the new Office 365. In theory. In practice, they are currently being encouraged and empowered to do just that - among other means by the pioneers, a dissemination network of volunteers, who, in addition to their own work, invest time and energy to bring the idea of new work to the organisation.
Background: What is O365?
New work - the mega trend - is incorporated into the “Future Work” Initiative at OTTO. “Future Work” brings together all activities at the company which relate to changing working methods. From converting office spaces to working in so-called ‘digital workplaces’.
At first glance, this involves a colourful bouquet of new tools and apps for self-organisation and collaboration, upon closer examination, this bouquet has the potential to revolutionise collaboration at the company - in conjunction with all other future work activities.
A matter of approach
“We don’t just use new tools, we are also changing the way we plan to work together in future,” emphasises Sebastian. The technology behind this is apparently irrelevant. “Whether it’s Microsoft, their big competitor or a completely different name is incidental. What matters is the approach with which we use these new tools.”
The digital workplace - so it’s all just a matter of approach? Lots of German companies are currently surfing the new work wave and introducing new collaborative tools very much in the vein of quick and transparent collaboration. This works for some of them - but not others. In this context, “working” means on the one hand that the IT staff have done a good job on the technical implementation - and on the other that in the best case scenario all of the company’s employees also make use of these new opportunities. According to Sebastian, “But it is often the case that after the technical roll-out, many companies live in two worlds: the old systems and processes continue to exist, the new ones haven’t yet been established and using them is more or less voluntary.”
This situation is currently leading many people to ask themselves: is this “collaboration or collapse?”
It is clear that the parallel existence of new and old working methods doesn’t give rise to adapted, more efficient working methods. It can be very expensive for companies if additional expenses are generated rather than reducing and optimising.
The solution? “The employees should get involved in the process early and take the opportunity to shape it. To do this, they should identify why they will work differently together in future. It must be clear how the whole process relates to them - and to the company that they work for,” stresses the personnel developer. And it must also be clear that the success of the expedition requires a combination of technology and company culture. According to Sebastian, “Companies should not make the mistake of trying to transfer existing processes and structures one by one to the new tools. New programmes alone will not change the culture and working methods.”
OTTO is in the middle of this technical and cultural transformation. In the end it depends on how each person acts on this expedition. Whether they actually manage to convince all 6,000 employees remains to be seen. “But of course, it would be great!” - Sebastian grins.