Navigating Through Digital Transformation Using Bimodal IT: How Changing IT Organizations Facilitates the Digital Transformation Journey at Deutsche Bahn Vertrieb GmbH
Situation faced: Deutsche Bahn Vertrieb GmbH (DB Vertrieb) is a sales company, operating as part of the DB Group in the passenger transportation industry. Around the millennium, the firm introduced digital sales channels in addition to its traditional ones. The inherent increasing visibility of DB Vertrieb’s IT systems for the customer required a flexible and fast IT function. Fifteen years later, the importance and pervasiveness of IT accounted for the need to integrate all parts—traditional and digital—of DB Vertrieb’s channel strategy to allow for a smooth omni-channel customer experience.
Action taken: The company reorganized its IT division twice. First, it established a second IT function within its online and mobile channel division. The new IT unit was small and flexible, incorporating a start-up culture. The divisionally separated bimodal IT approach lasted for about 15 years before both functions were reintegrated within the firm’s new digital division. DB Vertrieb also introduced a framework for scaling the agile approach of the former online IT to the corporate level.
Results achieved: The bimodal IT design enabled the company to implement changes quickly with regard to the online and mobile channels. However, the setup also led to cultural differences between the two IT units impeding desirable collaboration. After the restructuring into a single digital division IT unit, channel-spanning strategies were possible and DB Vertrieb experienced a boost in motivation and employee engagement. Nevertheless, bringing the modes of operation together takes more time than expected, so the new setup still lacked the desired success in terms of tangible results.
Lessons learned: The case demonstrates how bimodal IT as a tool can facilitate the IT transformation necessary to accomplish a company’s digital transformation. A continuous reassessment of the bimodal IT type is vital. It enables the IT unit to support the business in satisfying changing customer needs in the best way possible. In addition, certain strategic components, such as omni-channel strategy, seem to be in need of a specific type of bimodal IT. Furthermore, the case indicates which leadership roles, training styles, and measures are pivotal for successful transformation through bimodal IT and how adaption of a different type of bimodal IT helps to push core IT topics.
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