You've already chosen your study programme? Apply online now.

How digital innovations have changed the working environment

  -   16. March 2017
Source: Azminsultana/

Digitalization describes the change from analog business processes to electronic-assisted processes using information and communication technology, often called the fourth Industrial Revolution. Technological changes, as part of the process of digitalization, that externally have lead to a new customer experience, internally have impacted the working environment of a company. Welcome to the fourth Industrial Revolution!

The new working environment

The new working environment is characterized by three main trends, influencing business processes significantly:
1. Computing everywhere: This trend includes the merging of real and virtual worlds. Working processes will take place in different environments (for example individually at the work place, one the way mobile, or in collaboration between virtual networks) and in different contexts (for example in the virtual and real world with mixed reality). This enables the autonomous control of value creation processes.

2. Intelligence everywhere: Employees get technological support and access to immeasurable knowledge in different working contexts.

3. Creation of a new IT reality: Employees may use their private devices and systems such as mobile phones, laptops and mail-systems at work. Social solutions support the collaboration and communication at work. The availability of system on smartphones and tables makes the usage and maintenance of data anywhere at anytime possible. Data is collected through Cloud Computing and also enables remote access to it. Big Data describes the smart usage of mostly unstructured, fast changing data of high volume.

Augmented Reality

This trends takes video games on a new level, but there is way more to it than that: One technological innovation that has changed the working environment is augmented reality. Augmented reality is ‘the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time’. It uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it, for example generating sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. The results are specific technology functions caused by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.

Thyssenkrupp elevator: Digitalization transformation at its finest

One example for the use of augmented reality in the real working environment is thyssenkrupp elevator, a German industrial company, using the new technology in intelligent glasses from Microsoft, called HoloLens. HoloLens combines augmented reality and virtual reality (Mixed reality), allowing a user to display interactive 3D projections in the immediate environment, supported by a Natural User Interface. Gestures, speech and head movements of the user control the glasses.

Since 2016, HoloLenses are used to support service technicians at thyssenkrupp’s elevator service to reduce maintenance time significantly. The most important advantage of this new technology is that service technicians can visualize specific details of an elevator before visiting a customer. The implementation of the HoloLens has served as a compliment to MAX, a cloud-based predictive maintenance solution. Implemented in 2015, MAX has connected thyssenkrupp’s sensors and its system in its elevators to the cloud.

During maintenance, HoloLens enables the access to all technical information of the elevator, stored in the cloud, as well as the support by an expert via video transmission with the advantage of having both hands free.

New working environment – new skills

With the change in technology and automation of business processes, new skill requirements on employees have emerged. How is present and future employability characterized?

On the level of professional skills it is important for employees to adapt to the technological changes. Competences that enable to deal with IT, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are important. Also, a programming competence as well as a sensibility with Data and an understanding of IT security may be an advantage.

To go with the change an innovation competence, visionary thinking, as well as a competency for Change Management, are shown to be useful method skills. Another important aspect is the willingness of lifelong learning, paired with a positive handling of ambiguity and complexity.

Where will the fourth Industrial Revolution lead?

Augmented Reality and Cloud Computing are only two examples for technological changes currently taking place. The working environment will significantly change in the next decades: in my opinion, especially upcoming developments in Artificial Intelligence will have a major impact on the working environment, further automating business processes. At the same time we have to critically question some developments, since they also may have negative impacts such as not only supporting people in their work but also replacing them.

What do you think are technologies that have principally changed the working environment? How do these technologies influence employees? And what might be negative impacts of these technologies? Let me know in the comment section below.

Who wrote it?

Mia Zerwas

Mia Zerwas studies at the European Management School in Mainz.


Franziska Blum
21-03-2017 15:58

The trend towards digitalization and more and more technology can be seen without doubt. Many of the examples for this innovation management blog show technologies, processes, etc. that make things easier and follow this trend. Most of them also have the challenge that they might replace people and, therefore, can have a negative impact in these terms. As with many other technologies, I am not free of security concerns here. What if a person hacks a technology like the HoloLens? How might people, their work, etc. be affected? Of course, there are many things that can also be good for us. It can simplify different spacers of life and work and offer some opportunists we der don't even know about. We have to be careful with all those new things and not just adopt all we can get!

Patrick Hanke
20-03-2017 22:33

Digitalisation, as you pointed out, has become a central topic of discussion over the last years. Companies are aiming for digital transformation of processes and technology - and for good reason. The benefits of this innovation such as increased productivity are immense. However, Marie nicely pointed out the limitations to this development. It cannot only be seen as a positive development. The dependence on technology and the implications of this on the workforce are substantial. Digitalisation may lead to jobs being made redundant as they are automated. We cannot compete with machines and robots - if we do, there is only one winner, and it is not going to be us. Therefore, we really need to embrace the change, and as you clearly stated, have to develop skills to manage the technology and not let the technology be managing us. Jobs will become more and more IT-oriented which requires, especially in times of the war for talent, not only talented employees but also extensive training competencies of the company. If the transition of jobs without IT involvement to more IT-oriented jobs works out, job cuts can be prevented. In addition, despite the prevailing business use of digitalisation at the moment, the private users may profit from this development soon too. Maybe the next step would be to have Holo-Lenses for private use, so that you can fix the leaking water tap or the broken door handle all by yourself - with the help of augmented reality and the instructions you get from the devices. It is such a rapid and dynamic field that progresses and develops all the time, that this could sooner or later really be the reality.

Marie Schubert
19-03-2017 12:39

In my opinion this development of high technology in all different areas in our lives is hard to limit as it is constantly developed further. There are many good sides like simplifying processes in general, offering a supportive function at the workplace or just making work more exciting. Nevertheless the necessity always should be evaluated critically and the most important aspect is, to use technology to the right degree. It is already exaggerated. Giving technology a too high importance in our lives will rather result in disadvantages such as replacing employees or overstraining the elder generations who are not used to such technology amount at their workplace. They might have problems including this technology to their routine and it might even result in employee resistance. In addition to that it might also result in hindering the personal learning process as people could start to rely too much on technology. Dependent thinking and learning could then limit the creativeness at work. To my mind such an impressive technology development should not only be evaluated as a great progress. This fourth industrial revolution needs to be carefully monitored and accompanied professionally in order to avoid disadvantages. Especially when thinking of the innovation of artificial intelligence. This is definitely going to be an enormous change in all our lives. When it is further developed to be suitable for the daily live it will be extremely present. It is important to always be aware of negative impacts and not only focusing on positive ones.

Katharina Blanckart
18-03-2017 19:08

You addressed a very relevant and impacting topic for our current work environment in my opinion. We all experience every day that the importance of technological innovations increases every day and more and more affects our lives, let it be in our job or private lives. It is definitely crucial that we stay uptuned with the latest trends as this new industrial revolution is already happening and imaging our lives without seems almost not possible. Especially in the course of globalization, a development which exceeds the frame of a simple trend and has become the foundation for the economic world, these new technologies provide a so far unknown benefit. However, we should not neglect our critical thinking and forget about potential limitations or negative byeffects this revolution will bring as well. I liked that you mentioned this at the end of your blog showing that you are aware of this side of the coin. I personally see the risk of a growing dependency on technology which is definitely going to limit us, in thinking, execution and creating own new solutions. Our mind is so great itself and by relying so heavily on technology we neglect the skills we were initially provided with. The change management of technology is unstoppable and surely beneficial in many ways, however, I’d appreciate finding a way where use technology to foster future progress and facilitate how to get there, but also where let our own brains create new fantastic ideas and not losing all of our competencies to the technological helpers -so to say let’s get the best of both worlds!

Beate Gaitzsch
17-03-2017 16:09

Hearing about digitalization and automization all the time, I found it intersting to hear some more about single examples. At the moment, I'm still a bit sceptical where this will lead, because it could 'replace' people as you mentioned. On the other hand I think it is inevitable that things are changing. Employees will be influenced by this on a large scale, as they will have to deal with the changes in their everyday life. For companies it is a chance to progress and develop their processes, while posing a threat in terms of employee retention. Only time will tell if people are well-equipped to handle these changes and to use them in their favour.



Corporate Partners


European Mangement School © 2018 | Imprint | Data Protection