The Future Workshop is our digital workbench for new solutions!
On the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the ACCONSIS Future Workshop (ZKW), we asked Stefan Herzer, member of the Executive Board and responsible for organization and digitization at ACCONSIS, for an interview.
We were particularly interested in how the idea of the Future Workshop came about, what has been implemented so far and what the future holds for the Future Workshop now. Now that it is more experienced and slowly entering “kindergarten age”, so to speak.
ACCONSIS Future Workshop
AAlice Pater, Project Manager in Organizational Development at ACCONSIS in an interview with Stefan Herzer.
Mr. Herzer, ACCONSIS opened the Future Workshop 3 years ago after careful planning. What was the idea behind it and what is your assessment today?
Digitization has been on our minds for quite a while. For several years now, we have received an annual award from DATEV as a “Digital Law Firm”. But we want to go one step further: Digitization is shaping all the processes in our lives, including our ways of working, and there are so many opportunities to break new and ever more advanced ground. It was and is important to us to use this proactively. What would it look like if our clients approached us about ways of working together that we were not aware of? Therefore, the basic idea was to define the future together with our employees in our future workshop and to shape it in a contemporary way.
In this thought process, we want to imagine how we will be working with our clients in five to ten years, both internally and externally.
Building on this perspective, three years ago those employees who wanted to think outside the box in addition to their day-to-day tasks were integrated into the Future Workshop. Together, we determined the focal points and gave the employees a certain amount of time to do so. In teams, they then defined their goals for the projects, worked out the results and presented them to the Executive Board at regular intervals.
What topics did you work on in the Future Workshop and what came out of it?
The first task was to equip the employees of the Future Workshop optimally for a future working environment in their new office. One team, for example, dealt with the topic of workplace design. After considering their needs for modern working, all employees were equipped with a Surface Book. It was important to us to have flexible workplaces in the open space office, but also to be able to sit down with the laptop in the nearby Hirschgarten in the summer and work mobile from home or at the customer’s site at any time.
A newly rented office space was redesigned and furnished according to the employees’ ideas, from plants and partition modules to make the open space office more homelike to a large sofa landscape that replaces a classic meeting room and encourages creative collaboration.
On the advice of the Future Workshop, a high-performance scanner box was purchased that just “swallows” the receipts so that they can be digitized in seconds and assigned directly to the right client and clerk.
Then came Corona! And on our red sofa landscape, not many more creative ideas have emerged. Nevertheless, it was good that we were well prepared through the Future Workshop with its other teams (Digitization & IT, Customer Journey, Communications). Because with Corona, the future caught up with us all of a sudden. From one day to the next, with the onset of the pandemic, all ACCONSIS employees had to work mobile. And suddenly all our employees were part of the future workshop. Things that had been developed for the future were needed by everyone in everyday life from one day to the next: Video conferencing, remote maintenance, new ways to exchange documents, digital signature, etc. All of a sudden, our office was located at many different mobile workstations and employees were working digitally for our clients to the greatest possible extent.
How did the switch to mobile working work out?
The option of mobile working had been available to our employees for a long time and was also used extensively in some cases. But we also managed the very short-term closure of our office to protect our employees very well and without difficulty at the beginning of the pandemic. In the meantime, many employees no longer want to miss the flexibility of mobile working. As a result, we have also completely changed our office concept.
Following a survey of our employees on their preferred place of work, the number of fixed workplaces was significantly reduced. Many colleagues now share flexible offices. This means that there are always conversations with different colleagues. That’s inspiring! And otherwise, we come together permanently and quite easily virtually when needed, whether from the office or from a mobile workplace. In the meantime, we also recruit on a supra-regional basis. Thanks to virtual possibilities, our office in Munich is no longer an exclusion criterion for employment at ACCONSIS.
And how did the clients feel about the changeover at the beginning of the pandemic?
We handled it flexibly from case to case. Depending on the client’s needs. For those who still want to send their documents in the traditional way, our secretariat takes care of the digitization. Others have embarked on new paths with us according to the motto “make a virtue out of necessity” and will benefit from the development in the long term. Because digitally, documents are always available from anywhere, mailing times and costs are reduced and, on top of that, we protect our environment.
The important thing for us is to always stay close to the action. Because that is the guiding principle of ACCONSIS:
“Getting closer” in order to know our clients’ needs better and to proactively offer them solutions that they themselves may not have thought of yet. A team from ZKW also dealt with this topic and made important findings for our work.
That sounds like a very exciting time behind you, Mr. Herzer. How do the employees feel about the work in the Future Workshop?
We are pleased to receive a lot of positive feedback. Everyone enjoys thinking about different topics for a change, and one or two employees have developed wonderfully in this creative project activity. For us, the Future Workshop is an opportunity to interact with our employees on a different level. Because when it comes to digitization, the younger employees still have a lot to teach us managers. In this way, we are working together to implement our vision and equip ACCONSIS for the future, with flat hierarchies and a modern management structure.
After the first successful years, we will bring new topics into the future workshop. For example, our presence in social networks could be a topic, the optimized use of our internal resources, and also how we can increase the efficiency of our processes through specialization and automation. But the use of artificial intelligence such as RPA and chatbots should also be tested. And last but not least, employees can also make suggestions as to which topics they would like to develop for ACCONSIS.
In any case, I am already looking forward to getting together with our employees in the ZKW again soon to get creative together on our sofa landscape and send out important impulses for the future of tax consulting!
Thank you very much, Mr. Herzer, for this insight and the interview!