German SMEs and digitisation – their relationship still has difficulty taking off. The reason is not a lack of desire to invest, but primarily, too few skilled workers and know-how. One thing is clear: a solution must be found, because sluggish timing will ultimately endanger a company’s future. Now is the time for consultants and digital agencies to shine. Nicolas Escherich, Ray Sono CEO, explains why companies often do not benefit from classic consulting models, what responsibilities digital agencies have for this, and how SMEs can still digitise.
Bringing expertise in-house – easier said than done
German SMEs must catch up – ne question. But, unlike many people think, it is not a lack of will, but above all, of sufficient expertise in the companies. According to a recent IDC study, more than 80 percent of companies lack skilled workers like developers, AI specialists, or data scientists – not only in locations far away from major cities, but also in metropolitan areas.
This is where consultants and digital agencies come into play. They fill the know-how gap, offer valuable resources, and thus drive digitisation – with great scalability for the client. But this model has a catch. Often, consultants withdraw too quickly: job done, bill written, one item less on the to-do list.
Who benefits? Primarily the consultants themselves. They gain valuable experience and practical knowledge with each new project. On the other hand, however, processes that have been developed in the company over a long period of time, plus the training of in-house skills, often fall by the wayside. Knowledge literally goes out the back door, companies remain clueless, and in the worst-case scenario, they start back at zero when it comes to further developments or forward-looking strategic decisions.
As an agency, no one has ever had more opportunities to participate in the design and development of a company’s core topics and processes. There has never been a better time to move mountains with your performance.Nicolas Escherich, Board of Directors, Ray Sono
Breeding ground for digital projects – the incubator principle
The problem with traditional agency models is that they are often only designed for short-term project implementation. This short-sighted exchange of „money for knowledge” cannot support long-term investments in digitisation. Agencies often do not get enough insight into the goals, processes, and data of the companies they are serving to create sustainable concepts. Thus, the results are often just interchangeable content with no lasting added value.
A new definition of cooperation is needed, e.g. a strategic and sustainable investment that benefits both sides. With Ray Sono, the Digital Incubator concept has evolved over the last few years. This term can be taken literally. Incubators offer the ideal conditions for exchange, creative ideas, and innovative solutions – right up to their implementation. This goes hand in hand with the transfer of knowledge and the development of company-side competencies.
In concrete terms, it looks like this: Ray Sono’s UX experts, digital managers, developers, and change consultants open their laptops on-site and work together with a company’s workforce to achieve the set goal – whether it’s a strategic set-up or operational implementation. It’s not just a matter of mere knowledge transfer. Rather, a cultural transfer is also being created, which not only includes work processes and tools, but also the establishment of an authentic digital employer brand that helps recruit suitable new employees. The number of Ray Sono employees can be gradually reduced, and new company employees can take over. You could say that the company is being vaccinated with digital DNA.
The philosophy behind this type of collaboration is that digital knowledge without human inspiration is not very powerful in regard to working methods and dealing with essential topics. It is more important for companies and digital consultants to meet on an equal footing and to work honestly and sustainably with each other. And also to develop concepts in partnership with each other – concepts that companies can identify with and that don’t give them the feeling they have made a bad bargain by getting sophisticated but ultimately impractical solutions.
Seven reasons for a paradigm shift in agency and customer collaboration
- Building a foundation together
Specific situation analysis and individual solution approaches for significant, strategic future models instead of short-term projects
- Ensuring quality rapidly and sustainably
Comprehensive support in projects and beyond; critical monitoring and continuous adaptation
- Exchanging valuable know-how
Sharing knowledge to promote the company’s further development without creating dependencies
- Real knowledge and culture transfer
Creative ideas and innovative approaches to solutions – a permanent change in mindset to make digitisation a long-term success
- Developing the company’s competencies
The customer is empowered by their own competencies to independently cover the next part of the digital transformation
- Inspiration through honest and cooperative exchange
Companies and digital consultants meet at eye level to find ideas and solutions that really suit the company
- Operational excellence
With a future-proof strategy, good advice and their own competencies, SMEs are ideally equipped to prevail over the competition
Why agencies should not be afraid of being replaceable
The goal of the Digital Incubator model is for a company to benefit in the long term from the consulting services, to increasingly shift the acquired know-how internally, and at the same time to gradually reduce the agency’s services. Am I saying that agencies should make themselves obsolete? No way! What I am asking is that agencies and consultancies rethink their missions. As an agency, no one has ever had more opportunities to participate in the design and development of a company’s core topics and processes. There has never been a better time to move mountains with your performance.
Successful digitisation requires long-term relationships, lasting mindset changes, and a forward-looking, resilient strategy. It needs people who prepare the way, impart knowledge, as well as motivate and question things – on both the agency and company sides. This can only work with a profound exchange of knowledge. And if agencies make themselves expendable? What better compliment could there be!