(Matthias Mahn, Andreas Schmidt, Peter Kropsch, left to right)
“A Year Without Construction Work Is a Lost Year”
By Peter Kropsch
When the digital transformation and a global pandemic coincide, the pressure to change becomes intense – companies, markets and societies change permanently. On the way to the new reality, a lot of “construction work” needs to be done. In the case of dpa, these building sites involve strategies and processes but also some genuine construction projects. The progress achieved is already clearly visible.
We have embarked on numerous developments in recent years. We have brought our products into line with digital user groups and use cases. We have invested in platforms in order to turn ourselves into a marketplace for news professionals. We have repositioned parts of our editorial, technology and sales teams. In the last few months all of this has been accelerated dramatically. We are doing our utmost to learn as much as possible from what we are experiencing in these corona times. This is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Constructive change always calls for a target and a blueprint. When we imagine the future and outline the role which dpa intends to play in it, we have a clear aim in mind:
With its core journalistic products, the German Press Agency is a beacon lighting the way through an incredible amount of information. Factual accuracy, reliability and independence are the qualities which make our services essential to our customers and to society as a whole.
“With its core journalistic products, the German Press Agency is a beacon lighting the way through an incredible amount of information. Factual accuracy, reliability and independence are the qualities which make our services essential to our customers and to society as a whole.“
Grouped around these core journalistic products are a range of activities carried by dpa and its subsidiaries, each of which occupies a leading position in its particular market. These develop in line with company strategy and secure dpa’s financial position. After all, journalistic independence is always a pillar of economic strength.
The entire dpa group is guided by the permanent need to satisfy customer needs, reduce bureaucracy across the board and the willingness to invest in people, markets and technologies.
The global pandemic has done nothing to alter this blueprint but it has influenced the speed at which our goals are being realised. We are getting much faster.
dpa Is Developing New Worlds of Work
Even as Germany was still in the throes of the first corona wave, we were thinking about “what happens next”. It was clear straight away that the changes would be lasting and that there could be no return to previous times. Corona is showing us the way to new worlds of work.
Our digital competence grew in leaps and bounds. When in March 2020 almost all of our locations had to close from one day to the next for fear of employees infecting each other with corona, regular office working was no longer a viable option. Thanks to thorough preparation, the switch to a completely digital organisation went off without a hitch. It was a steep learning curve as we coped with video conferences, digital workshops, digital signatures and coordinating everything on a daily basis.
This applies to external communication too. We thrive on contact with customers, interview partners and many other people outside the company. Since March 2020, this communication has been conducted mainly by video conference. It is amazing how much more quickly contact persons are available for a video meeting than for a “normal” appointment. This speeds up decision-making dramatically. The German Press Agency has definitely become much faster – I sometimes think it is almost like working for a start-up. At the same time, travel costs have almost completely fallen away. You don’t have to be a prophet to predict that the volume of business trips under the new working arrangements will be dramatically lower than in pre-corona times.
Remote working is replacing the need for physical presence at the workplace. It has become part of daily life to work from almost any location as long as it has a digital connection. Our research shows that assuming team size remains the same, around 30 per cent fewer workplaces for employees will be needed. “On site” working goes hand in hand with work-from-home practice. This means our locations will grow in importance as social spaces. We need to adapt our buildings to take this into account.
The dpa company headquarters on Mittelweg in Hamburg is the model location for the New Worlds Of Work. Joint teams have been working on draft concepts for this since June 2020. Since various subsidiaries are located at the site, Hamburg is predestined for this. At the same time, the merger of various IT departments within the group and the burgeoning business activities of dpa-Infocom and Custom Content has created a dynamic demand for office space.
The building stands virtually empty because of corona and we are using the time to carry out alterations. The foyer has been expanded by the addition of a communications zone and the former newsroom has been completely renovated. Headquarters in Hamburg will be the first place where shared desks, functional working areas and the new kind of everyday working will become a reality.