Does Digital Transformation make our lives more fun? My colleague Dominique Goes and I discuss this with Henrike Branderhorst, one of the Directors of TAUW. She shares her views on how society and professional consultancy and engineering services are changing. We are moving towards a different way of working, one that amalgamates the value of data-driven working with human expertise and creativity.
As a leader in TAUW’s consultancy and engineering work area, Henrike is often reliant on data. Insights from dashboards or, as she refers to it, the cockpit - help her in meetings on progress within the business as well as with strategic considerations and decisions. She never makes strategic decisions solely on the basis of data. Other factors play an important role, such as intuition, the context of the decision, consequences and empathy. After all, leadership is always about people.
Many people see potential in the use of technology and data, but it can sometimes kindle a feeling of unease: Technology and data can do so much, but are these things desirable? Where and how will there be room for me to use my creativity and expertise? When it comes to decisions on data use, it is important not to lose sight of the human side of things and to bear in mind how this will change our way of working.
Our focus within TAUW is on our staff and we are fully aware of this value. Creativity, considerations that involve standards and values, and decisions that cannot be made in a linear fashion are hard to capture in algorithms. We recognise the value of our knowledge workers and also give due consideration to the new generation within TAUW. Our young colleagues are introducing a different way of working to the organisation, derived from their studies. Drawing on this amalgam of talented individuals is extremely interesting.
Digital Transformation has tremendous potential to make things hassle-free and to improve our use of data and information. As an example, Henrike cites her sharing routes with other road cyclists through a cycling app. This gives her inspiration for new routes and enables her to get out and about without delay. She also enjoys keeping a record of her mileage and comparing this to previous efforts. The cycling app genuinely adds value, though it is obviously about the activity and being outdoors. Sometimes a tailwind helps you make progress and sometimes a headwind pushes you to your limits as you try to complete the last few miles.
To return to the consulting work for clients, we see that the human touch will always be important. Co-creation and interaction with one another to properly fathom the client’s question or to decide what route is to be taken are examples of where feeling is still one of the most significant factors. Hence Digital Transformation is about more than just automating work processes; it is also about a different way to collaborate.
We are seeing that data-driven working has the capacity to boost the efficacy and innovation of the process. Information is accessed and shared better between disciplines and across project phases. The role of clients and end users is changing. They used to be the recipients of the advice, whereas now they can be active participants in the thinking process and understand and enrich information. External colleagues are better informed, have a clearer picture prior to commencing their activities and are able to work more safely.
Just as Henrike benefits from the routes of other road cyclists, we are benefiting in our work from information amassed and shared by other parties. It enables us to do more in the time we have available. The role of technology and AI will continue to grow over the next years, but it is important for people to move with the times to ensure that we make the right decisions and remain in control of our future. Fortunately, not all human traits will be adopted by AI. We will continue to be needed as experts, and what is more, we will have more time to add value as human beings. After all, as Gerd Leonhard puts it: ‘Societies are driven by their technology but defined by their humanity’.