Same same but different
21 Dec 2020
2020 was one of the most challenging years for both the economy and society. How has the pandemic changed the world of work? What will remain? And how can digitalization be the key to a better future? An interview with Georg Lindsberger (CEO XiTrust) and Andreas Koller (CEO XiTrust Germany).
How would you assess the consequences of the pandemic from XiTrust’s perspective?
Georg Lindsberger: Companies faced diverse challenges – not only because of economical existential fears, but rather more in terms of how to ensure the continuity of all operational processes. In other words, can you ensure that you can maintain your capacity to act despite the radical changes on the framework conditions? We needed answers to these questions. It is a fact that only through prudent decision-making we can achieve our goal. However, this takes time, time you only have if you can rely on projects being implemented quickly once the decisions are made. Just as in the case of the implementation of electronic signatures in corporate business processes.
Andreas Koller: At the beginning there was a huge uncertainty linked to what we could call diffuse fears. Firstly, because many companies were not sure of whether they would receive any public aid, and also because they did not know if they should stop any investments that had been planned previously. In this situation, it is extremely helpful to return to your core competencies, to what makes your company special.
How did XiTrust deal with the situation?
Andreas Koller: At XiTrust we were always aware of the fact that we had a supportive team that would grow together despite the difficult times. And of course, we knew hat with MOXIS we’ve got a product with huge benefits that have become even more evident in these times where personal contact has considerably been reduced and working remotely is our new reality. Realizing that we could support our customers now more than ever was an additional boost to our motivation.
The COVID crisis forced companies to rethink. Working remotely is one of the key words: what has not been considered possible before, just feels natural today in the daily life of companies in any size. Will this remain? Will this change once the COVID crisis is over?
Georg Lindsberger: I don’t think that returning to the pre-pandemic status is likely to happen. The crisis has given us a sneak peek of how we may be working in the future and what our preferences will be. It has forced us to become more innovative when thinking about the future of the working world. This is connected to the fact that the aftermath of the crisis will last even longer than expected at the beginning. The way we work together will change sustainably. This process won’t be affected even by a vaccine.
Are electronic signatures a key to this new working world?
Andreas Koller: From a technological point of view, they have already been a key for a long time. But it is about way more than that, it is about representing liability and commitment over spatial distance. Here are some examples where this applies: it was quite normal for us to have a meeting with our customers in person at a certain place to an agreed time and to get on a plane to get there, but now a shift has taken place. Entire sales processes solely take place online. Business trips have been dropped down to zero, and we actually ask ourselves: which are the processes that actually make sense? And even the handwritten signature has lost its charm to a certain extent.
Georg Lindsberger: The company-internal communication has especially been put to the test by contact restrictions: signatures are mainly rendered in internal processes. This becomes difficult when the staff members are working remotely. And in particular for this situation, electronic signatures have turned out to be the ideal solution. This is just another example where I am sure that this will result in a long-term and sustainable learning process.
Isn’t it surprising to see that a fully developed technology such as the digital signature is experiencing a breakthrough and a wide acceptance against the backdrop of a global crisis?
Georg Lindsberger: Not at all. Firstly, many of our customers took action in time and were well prepared. Some of them, like the private education centre ibis acam, were lucky to integrate MOXIS into their system two weeks prior to the first lockdown and by doing so, they were able to seamlessly adapt their offerings to e-learning. One the other hand, it is important to be realistic: sustainable changes are usually linked to painful processes and other external influences such as changes in the law.
That was certainly one of the reasons to start the XiTrust campaign “Remain capable of action“ at the beginning of the first lockdown back in spring, wasn’t it?
Andreas Koller: Sure. We realized that many companies had simply been caught wrong-footed by all the severe measures and their consequences, since they didn’t have a suitable and comprehensive tool to implement remote working. In specific cases, this even led to massive infection numbers within a company. The aim of our action was to establish contact as soon as possible to prospective customers for our technology and to ensure their capability of action. It is no secret that landmark decisions are bound to legally valid signatures. And yes, the crisis turned out to be a huge accelerator for electronic signatures.
Georg Lindsberger: Recognizing how the political actions would smooth out the path to new ways of working such as working remotely was also very important to me. Before the crisis, this extensive increase of this new way of working seemed unconceivable. To put it in another way, this is one of the few positive outcomes of the COVID crisis. In addition, we could also observe trendsetting legal measures being implemented over the last years aimed at sustainably enforcing data protection and data security in Europe. And this again promoted the acceptance of electronic signatures. 2020 also led to decisions in the judicature such as the ruling of the European Court of Justice, the so-called “Schrems II” which resulted in legal changes.
Overall, we can say that digitalization is one of the magic words of this challenging year. Despite all these benefits you have already outlined, there are quite some few people, such as the German philosopher Richard David Precht, in whose opinion more digitalization may also threaten millions of jobs.
Andreas Koller: Nobody would seriously deny that this topic has a deep socio-political dimension. However, this is not unidimensional. When you part from the idea that broad digitalization will cost jobs, debates around topics such as the unconditional basic income arise and gain a new perspective. At the same time, this lays the foundation for a serious discussion about topics such as “new work”: How can the work quality be improved? Which individual needs can be met through a better understanding of work? There is one thing that will remain the same in the future: people long to have social contact, they are immutable social beings. An intelligent digitalization will support us on our way.