Innovative tools Where are digital services worthwhile for companies?

From automatically generated invoices or info mailings to the completely networked exchange of various internal information to the artificial bot for the service hotline – digitization offers innovative solutions for numerous company areas. What new developments are there, how can they make processes more efficient and which actually offer useful added value?

1. Finance

This area is relevant for all companies. In particular, processes related to dealing with sober numbers are predestined to be carried out digitally in the future in order to conserve capacities. One of the greatest challenges here, however, is ensuring the security of sensitive data and protecting it from unauthorized access.

Digital invoice management

In the area of ​​digital invoice management, the technologies are already well advanced. Accordingly, it is possible for companies of all types, sizes and industries to completely digitize invoices and thus also to automate them for the most part. Invoices paid too late are a thing of the past, as are liquidity bottlenecks. First and foremost, it is therefore possible to save important resources such as time and costs through digital invoice management.

However, there are hardly any negative aspects to consider. Only the quality of the digital invoices has to be ensured as well as the correct functionality of the system. Various regulations must be observed for legally effective processing, including those relating to the Value Added Tax System Directive (VAT Directive):

  • The recipient must agree to the digital procedure in accordance with Art. 232 of the VAT Directive.
  • The authenticity and integrity of the invoice content must be guaranteed.
  • In the context of the Value Added Tax Act (§14), further requirements must be met.

A certain amount of control by an appropriate specialist is still necessary – however, significantly less work is required than before, i.e. the staff can be used elsewhere or completely saved.

Direct and internet banks for business customers

In the context of digitization, the banking sector is also currently experiencing fundamental changes. As in corporate accounting, more and more processes can be automated using digital technologies. The personal support in a branch, as it was common for a long time, loses its relevance. Companies often also receive a special business advisor. A bonus that numerous business customers still appreciate and therefore prefer the classic branch banks.

Nevertheless, the advantages of the innovative direct and internet banks cannot be dismissed out of hand – also in a business context: First and foremost, it is about cost savings, because the branch banks also have to refinance the extra service through higher fees. In contrast, these fees are usually significantly lower for banks without traditional branches.

More and more companies are therefore also relying on digital solutions for business accounts and other business services.

However, there are certain limits to be considered for many offers, i.e. the accounts can only be requested for certain industries or company sizes. Large companies and international corporations in particular therefore still rely on branch banks as a rule, although future developments may well show a different trend. At the moment, however, internet and direct banks are more of a cheaper option in the truest sense of the word for SMEs, freelancers or (part-time) businesses.

Digital insurance management

There are now not only direct banks that are considered particularly cheap without an extensive branch network – this is also possible in the insurance sector. Although (personal) advice and trust play a major role here, there are offers for which suitable solutions have also been developed in the digital area. For entrepreneurs and the self-employed, the focus is not only on securing the company, but also on their own person.

Anyone who wants and has to use time and financial resources efficiently can now also find digital service providers for their health insurance. These not only offer more favorable conditions, as they save corresponding resources elsewhere, but above all a wider range of special services – especially for the self-employed: This not only makes it possible to save costs, for example by not having to pay contributions to private health insurance are more income-related. In addition, policyholders save additional resources because digitalization enables the provider to provide a new type of support.

The same applies to other voluntary and compulsory insurance that is relevant for entrepreneurs. These include, for example, company or professional liability insurance, private pension provision or legal protection insurance – to name just a few examples of the long list of important policies.

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Digital tax processing

The internal digitization of invoice management is particularly suitable in combination with digital tax processing. Because the numbers that are already digitally recorded and processed can be passed on digitally to the tax office or to the tax advisor as a stopover. In any case, the German tax offices now only accept documents sent electronically, with a few exceptions.

When it comes to digital tax processing, entrepreneurs are not asked whether they want to implement them in the future, but when and in what form. There are various solutions that can be integrated into existing systems as plug-ins or individual software. The faster these are implemented, the sooner appropriate optimizations can be made in terms of costs and time spent on bookkeeping and tax processing.

2. Process optimization and cross-location collaboration

With several branches or when cooperating with external companies, there are diverse areas and processes that can harbor potential for errors. Digital solutions can help make these processes safer and more efficient.

QR codes, RFID chips and NFC tags

For a long time, digitization posed a challenge to logistics because there was a lack of solutions for the most common problems. In the meantime, however, the QR codes or RFID chips have established themselves here and caused a real revolution in these areas. The QR codes have made it possible to quickly and clearly identify goods. In combination with smart apps, everyday processes such as inventory are considerably simplified. This saves time as well as avoiding costly mistakes.

As a relatively new development, the NFC tags offer even more, almost infinite possibilities with many advantages:

  • They are used for the internal optimization of processes as well as cross-location cooperation, marketing, cooperation with business partners and much more. NFC tags are currently used, for example, in advertising, but also in giveaways, digital business cards and product certifications.
  • They are also becoming increasingly relevant in terms of timekeeping and access control in the company.
  • In addition, they simplify property monitoring and inventory, whereby the QR codes can be added or replaced.

Tools for automatic data reconciliation

The comparison and exchange of data within and across locations is gaining relevance in the course of digitization. Appropriate solutions ensure that no errors can creep in or important data are lost. With technologies such as cloud computing, the personal presence of employees, as well as that of the entrepreneurs themselves, is often no longer necessary – provided the appropriate infrastructure is in place.

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Furthermore, data synchronization is an important security tool for every digitized company in order to avoid data loss. The selection of different tools for this purpose is correspondingly large, so that a holistic concept should be developed at an early stage in order to develop the optimal infrastructure for the respective company, in which all automated processes mesh like gears of a clockwork.

Digital work logs

Work logs are one of the most important developments in the field of digital assistance software, because they can bring about a comprehensive increase in efficiency in the company. They are therefore a fundamental tool for identifying weak points in processes and optimizing production operations. Furthermore, this can make the everyday work of the employees easier, and ultimately they serve to fulfill the legally stipulated obligations to provide evidence.

However, the introduction of such digital work protocols is often misunderstood by employees. They perceive it as a control instrument, feel monitored or even bullied. It is therefore important not to implement the digital work protocols without warning, but to inform the workforce in advance about how they work and what purpose they actually serve.

Various data from the work logs can be used in digital form for other work areas and provide a basis for extensive monitoring and controlling.

3. Marketing

Big data is a buzzword in this area that is related to numerous innovative developments. Not only in the area of ​​e-commerce there are many starting points for using various information from data for marketing. There are already different ways of doing this:

CRM systems

More and more digital systems are being used in customer relationship management, which is becoming increasingly important for sales in particular. Because by collecting and evaluating data, they can have a supportive effect in many important work steps:

  • Improving customer service
  • Increase in customer satisfaction
  • more sustainable customer loyalty
  • Increase in sales
  • Development of new market shares
  • Cost reduction

Especially in times of digitization, where the pressure of competition and prices is constantly increasing in many industries, such CRM systems are more than just a “nice-to-have”. These are playing an increasingly important role in sales and marketing, but they have to be used “correctly” in order to produce the desired benefits.

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Digital mailing solutions

For many (online) companies, email marketing is still one of the most important channels for communicating with their target group. Although digitization is increasingly leading to a diversification of marketing channels, the mailing does not lose its importance. On the contrary: the innovative options make mailing more efficient than ever before and minimize wastage. A distinction is made between transactional, automated and marketing emails.

These are each used for different objectives. First and foremost, however, they all serve to generate (more) leads and consequently an increase in sales while at the same time reducing the time and effort required. The innovative solutions score points above all through the use of relevant customer data in order to be able to design and address the mailings in an even more targeted manner.

Business intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI), especially in the form of Big Data Analytics, is also an increasingly important tool for supporting management decisions. However, the basic prerequisite for gaining relevant knowledge from the available data is, of course, the collection of the relevant big data in the first place. So what it takes to implement such analytical concepts in practice are special IT systems.

However, this is exactly where the problem with BI still lies: The acceptance of corresponding tools in many companies is at a low level, which particularly affects the users of the software. Furthermore, their acquisition, implementation and operation is a major cost factor that not every company can (yet) afford and wants.

However, this means that the developers of BI software are constantly optimizing their offers. It is therefore to be expected that these will enjoy increasing popularity in the future and that business intelligence will continue to spread in the German business world. After all, this has many advantages:

  • Business process optimization
  • Improvement of customer and supplier relationships
  • Cost reductions

4. Human resource management

There are many tasks here that lend themselves to standardized processing. At the same time, this area is particularly characterized by an interpersonal exchange. Nevertheless, numerous digital applications have already been developed for this.

Digital time recording

As already mentioned in the section on NFC tags, these and other digital technologies are suitable for automating time and attendance. So digitization has many advantages in this area, but it also has some disadvantages. In principle, it makes sense to digitize an existing time recording system in order to make the processes more efficient and simply automatic.

However, anyone who has previously worked without time recording, for example in the form of a trust-based working time regulation, should find out about the new regulation on working time recording. The European Court of Justice recently passed a decisive judgment on this. It is clearly defined for whom the law is relevant.

If time recording has to be re-implemented, it must be accompanied by a fundamental revision of the working time regulations.

Digital personnel file

For the sole purpose of saving paper and thereby protecting the environment, it makes sense for every company to digitize personnel files as soon as possible. Their functionality hardly differs from that of classic paper files, but automation is possible for entering into a digital document management system. This creates a central administration with a high degree of automation, which makes many associated processes more efficient.

Furthermore, the digital personnel file for entrepreneurs and companies has the advantage of enabling decentralized access by all authorized persons regardless of time and location. This also brings more transparency for the employees themselves. However, the personnel file is about highly sensitive personal data, which must be subject to special protection. Accordingly, separate legal framework conditions must be taken into account when introducing and handling the digital personnel file.

Digital recruiting

The benefits of digital recruiting, also known as e-recruiting, are much more controversial. In view of the shortage of skilled workers, many German companies are currently facing the challenge of finding, attracting, and retaining long-term qualified young professionals.

The digital route is not always best suited for this. After all, people cannot (yet) be selected using an algorithm. A personal evaluation of the candidates by an experienced recruiter will therefore not be replaced, at least in the near future. Nevertheless, there are many intermediate steps: from determining a vacancy to filling it, for which the use of digital tools can make sense:

  • One-click application
  • digital part in the assessment center
  • Active sourcing
  • Pre-selection of applicants

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Especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers, every entrepreneur should deal intensively with the topic. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so in the end it has to be decided individually whether e-recruiting is to be used and in what form.

5. Education and training

The adequate qualification of the employees is the key to remain competitive in the long term. Many markets and industries are changing faster than in the past, making it all the more necessary to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. Tailor-made digital training and further education opportunities can help to learn regardless of time and place.

Online learning platforms and e-learning

E-learning offers great potential not only in a business context, which, however, has so far hardly been exploited. Because lifelong learning has become one of the most important basic requirements for every organization and all of its employees. However, it is time-consuming and costly to constantly send employees to appropriate training courses or to offer the necessary further training internally.

The entrepreneurs themselves should also attach great importance to always staying “up-to-date” and to always be one step ahead of the competition when it comes to know-how.

E-learning offers numerous advantages for achieving these and other goals:

  • It is possible regardless of time and location, so that employees do not have to be released and there are no commuting trips with all associated travel costs.
  • More knowledge can be acquired in less time without incurring significant additional costs.
  • An e-learning course only needs to be developed once and can then be completed by as many employees and as often as desired – which also means excellent learning progress monitoring for the employer and the learners themselves.

But the use of external online learning platforms can also be useful, as their costs are significantly lower than those of face-to-face training. In addition, they are often simply more fun for the participants than the classic lessons, because they are designed as “gamification”, for example.

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Internal knowledge and digital offers

The possibilities of offering corresponding digital products on an internal platform are just as endless. Be it a company’s own news portal or an internal knowledge or learning platform on which employees can exchange ideas with one another – internal training and further education in German companies can look like this or something similar in the future.

Every entrepreneur should think about this at an early stage, because such offers are in turn an important instrument for recruiting and retaining employees, i.e. a component of in-house employer branding. At this point, the circle to e-recruiting comes full circle, which in turn makes it clear that all digital strategies in a company should go hand in hand.

So what it takes is a holistic concept!

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