Digital transformation at Daimler: Experience DigitalLife@Daimler with #change

Is digitalization just a matter of technology? By no means. It involves a lot more than just data and technologies. When people and machines come closer together, it’s crucially important that we know how to deal with it. It’s no coincidence that it requires us to be more open to continuous change and collaboration-based networks.

For Daimler this means that our digital transformation needs a cultural change. But how do you achieve this in an international Group that has almost 300,000 employees?

There’s a lot happening in our work environments at the moment. New developments, ranging from agile cooperation to artificial intelligence, are not only changing our daily work, but also putting traditional ways of thinking into question. Even if we don’t all work as data scientists or in swarms, these changes are very noticeable to many of us, and very fast paced as well. However, we don’t find every change immediately thrilling.

In fact, we need concrete information as well as the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with new developments during change processes in particular. That’s where the #change team at DigitalLife comes into play. Our task is to support our colleagues during this process of change and enable them to experience what digitalization is all about.

Today a vision, tomorrow a trend and then a hype?

Always keeping an overview and distinguishing important changes from hype is not so simple. Although lots of information is available, which of it is reliable and which is fake? Ideas that seem to be a distant vision today, might already be a trend tomorrow, and difficult to distinguish from hype the day after. To help address this problem, we have been organizing the DigitalLife Days since 2015.

The event makes digitalization tangible. Here, we give employees the opportunity to obtain information about innovations, get to know Daimler’s digital portfolio, and exploit synergies between the various projects and initiatives within the Group and beyond. Originally launched in Stuttgart with about 500 participants, DigitalLife Day is now a well-established format. Last year, the event was also geared toward individual specialist units and an international audience.

DigitalLife Day will be held this year as well. It will take place on July 25, 2019, and offer 1,000 colleagues the opportunity to find out about innovations and obtain new inspiration for their daily work. This year’s event will focus on the opportunities that digitalization offers to boost sustainability and efficiency. It will aim to provide new viewpoints for both of these topics. More than 30 speakers from inside and outside the company will share their perspectives on these issues.

There will also be over 30 booths that will provide exciting insights into digitalization projects at Daimler, while interactive workshops will enable the colleagues to dive deeper into specific topics such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and mindfulness. One of the regular highlights of each event is the in-house competition in which teams of employees pitch their ideas to a panel of judges in order to find sponsors and support for their projects.

We are pursuing a similar goal with the DigitalLife Tour, which is a miniature (and mobile) version of our DigitalLife Day. In this tour, we join up with partners from other specialist units to visit various locations where we present digital solutions, projects, and initiatives.

Expanding networks at DigitalLife events

Digitalization is dependent on networking — and this extends beyond networked products. Valuable synergies are generated whenever people come together to share their opinions and ideas. Each year, experts form lasting networks at DigitalLife Day and during the DigitalLife Tour. These networks are not only created within the Group, but also with partners from other enterprises.

One of our aims here is for the participants to do more than just share digitalization-related information with one another. For example, at our Fail’n’Learn-Nights we also encourage our colleagues to talk about the things that went wrong. For us, successful change includes openly addressing the various challenges and mistakes and learning from them. At every event, it becomes clear that failure is inseparable from success and that setbacks are often also new beginnings, which open up new opportunities.

In addition to organizing events, we also offer people the opportunity to network online. In fact, more than 4,000 colleagues from all over the Group are currently a part of the DigitalLife Community on the Daimler Social Intranet, where they discuss various issues related to digitalization.

However, successful networking extends beyond our Group. Cooperation with external partners is just as important for us as the networking with our colleagues within Daimler. For example, we invite college students to attend hackathons in order to obtain creative new ideas and viewpoints.

Daimler is one of the pioneers in digital transformation

Our Group is currently evolving from a traditional automaker into a provider of a comprehensive range of mobility services. We also want to make this clear externally and show that Daimler is a pioneer of digitalization. Here too, our pioneering spirit is impelling us to strike out in new directions. We like to try out innovative communication formats, which we gradually expand later on. One example of this is the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

Five years ago, we took a look at this format for the first time and made a number of contacts. In 2015 we began to attend the event in a small way, far removed from the big auto show presentations that people know from Mercedes-Benz. However, we gradually enhanced our involvement over the years. At the event, we and our partners now present digital projects from all over Daimler and share our knowledge with other participants. This year, for example, Dieter Zetsche and Satya Nadella appeared on the MWC stage to talk about the future of big companies.

At another event, the Tech Open Air in Berlin, our main aim is to show digital talents that Daimler would be an attractive employer for them as well. This different kind of tech event is seen as a meeting place for everyone who wants to promote innovation and digitalization in Europe. We’ve been one of its main sponsors for the past two years. A couple of years ago, it’s unlikely that anybody would have expected us to take part in such a hip Berlin event. This year, Tech Open Air in Berlin once again attracted around 20,000 visitors, who talked with us about the city of the future.

Our efforts to change people’s perceptions were rewarded last year with the Digital Leader Award 2018. More than 100 submissions were received for this award, but the jury of experts was most impressed by Daimler’s overarching digital strategy. This honor provides us with a further incentive to shape the cultural change process in cooperation with all of Daimler’s current and future employees. We’re looking forward to seeing what this transformation has in store for us and where our path will lead us in the future. 

If you’d like to find out more, check out our channels on Twitter and LinkedIn, where we regularly share the latest news about DigitalLife@Daimler.

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Susanne Stix heads the #change team at DigitalLife@Daimler. She and her team are promoting the process of culture change within the Group.