By Andy Beth Miller

Tomas Wiemer has had many years of experience within Global Direct and Indirect Procurement Category Management, specifically with a focus on Digital Strategy Transformation. He has also had many years of experience in coming alongside corporations and individuals, helping them continuously improve in procurement and digital transformation.

I had the privilege to sit down with Wiemer and discuss a topic that is at the forefront of many entrepreneurs’ and workers’ minds, automation versus digitalization, and specifically, why digitalization is superior, and so very important to embrace in this ever-evolving world. In fact, the crux of the catalyst for the need for digitalization is exactly that, to address the change constantly occurring in today’s modern business landscape.

But, we will get to all of that. First, I asked Wiemer to start with the basics, asking him to clarify what exactly are automation and digitalization, as well as how they are different. According to Wiemer, there are many definitions, but the most simplified version he shared was that, “Automation remains a business process optimization model that does not contain any form of ‘intelligence,’ while digitalization is a data centric model supported by algorithms that give new decision options based on enhanced internal and external information access.”

Perhaps it was the still slightly stunned, glazed-over look of mild confusion in my eyes, but Wiemer graciously followed up this explanation with further insight that was more easy to unpack, explaining that, “Automation streamlines processes with shorter execution cycle times, reduces error rates, and is based on operational efficiencies principles, [whereas] digitalization drives new business models and gives new decision options based on interconnected data coming from the inside and outside of the corporate environment.” He then added, “It will also develop new types of business collaborations through platforms and social media exchanges.”

And if you are wondering how this will all happen, you are not alone. Wiemer explains that it is all about change, and specifically, our embracing it. This is something, according to Wiemer, that is not always a smooth process. “The majority of companies are more on the automation front, as the digitalization path requires high transformation maturity to be able to embrace the change,” he says. “So, how do you approach hesitant ‘embracers?’” I wonder aloud.

After admitting that change is difficult, and sometimes even scary for a lot of people, Wiemer explains how he uses his skills and knowledge to put their minds at ease, while explaining to them the great benefits of digitalization over automation. “Change management associated with transformation programs needs to be explained by the executive leadership sponsor,” he shares, before specifically giving us the vital questions that these leaders need to address from the get-go, which are:

Why, do we need to change? How will it happen? What might happen?

–Wiemer
At its very foundation, this process of digital transformation and evolution, in order to be done successfully, requires two vital elements. According to Wiemer, “It is really based on trust and clarity. It is important to select from the start the ‘transformation ambassadors,’ with people coming from the ranks who are motivated to drive the changes.” It is these key individuals, Wiemer says, who “need to be convinced and believe in it.”He also shares how important transparency and full-disclosure are, specifically, the need for leaders “to openly address the fact that many execution jobs will be reduced.” This is an unavoidable fact, but Wiemer remains un-phased, insisting that this does not have to be seen as a negative thing, nor viewed through a filter of fear. “It is important to tell the truth and to explain that the work environment will change. Maybe, for some people, the corporate work environment will not be for them anymore in the future, as we are witnessing a real digital revolution that will impact not only our professional activities, but also our daily lives.”Wiemer definitely does not mince words. Simply put, he says that “some will succeed in adapting, and others simply won’t.” This is why it is so important that the leadership needs to be hands-on and involved every step of the way. “The leadership will have to assess carefully their employee population and maturely try their very best to guide their employees through this process,” Wiemer reiterates.Wiemer then gets to the crux of the issue, pointing out that, “Digitalization can deliver dramatic change and results, but it’s really the approach and organizational culture that are critical to getting right in order to achieve the full benefits.” For this reason, according to Wiemer, it is important to do several things from the very beginning:
1

Define the real motivations and reasons for this change (far beyond cost reductions)

2

Establish the maturity stage of the company

3

Have an executive sponsor, who is willing to invest and engage

4

Promote regular communication campaigns or lunch and shares

5

Discuss how far the management is willing to go in terms of potential or-ganization changes, skill sets management, policy changes, etc.

For Wiemer, even though we are talking about utilizing digital technology and innovative processes, it still clearly all comes down to people. “The technology is only the support,” he shares, while giving the example of a linear sequence of necessary change:

=> People – Process – Technology

It was all beginning to make much more sense to me now as I listened to Wiemer’s expert explanations, and in fitting, full-circle form, it all came back to our beginning conversation, whereby one’s mindset is the real critical issue when it comes to receiving the full benefits of digitalization.

“It is first a mental shift,” Wiemer  states. “It is important to develop a personal feeling for it and have a personal opinion on what it could mean for your own business.” In Wiemer’s own experience with the process, he explains that he “realized that I needed to read, learn, be trained and be exposed to a completely different approach,” which is exactly what he did. And now, it is exactly what he is spending his life empowering others to do as well, one person, and mindset, at a time.