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Collaboration in the digital age

Success factor 'smart collaboration'

Who doesn't know this situation: meetings in which only the boss is talking, holding a monologue; e-mails you are copied into just to be sure; project delays due to absent colleagues. The consequence: major loss of time and few concrete results. According to the current 'State of Work' survey conducted by Workfront, German employees use only 45 per cent of their work time to carry our core tasks.

That is not what modern work should look like. Digitalisation offers us numerous new tools and aids to make work significantly easier and more productive, especially as regards projects. Teams are up to 50 per cent more efficient if they use digital collaboration tools on a regular basis – this is the result of the German Social Collaboration Study 2019.

Digital tools are not enough

Without digital collaboration platforms, home office, international teams or mobile working would simply be impossible to handle, which is why these tools have been firmly established in German companies to simplify collaboration. According to the German Social Collaboration Study mentioned above, approximately 17 per cent of respondents have already concluded the introduction of such technologies, whilst 60 per cent are currently implementing or planning such measures. Only about 25 per cent of interviewed companies responded that digital collaboration plays no role whatsoever.

Digital technologies are an important step to enhance the efficiency and productivity of cooperation. However, major changes can only take place if working conditions are adjusted and if the culture of cooperation within an enterprise changes. The smart collaboration concept makes exactly this claim, assuming that we can only effectively react to a working environment becoming increasingly complex and faster if we can count on cross-functional networks and multi-disciplinary teams. Successful solutions for today's digital age are only feasible if different areas of expertise, experiences and perspectives are brought together across all divisions.

Creating appropriate working conditions

For employees to be able to cooperate in changing project constellations, to play different roles in different projects, and to participate in a results-driven manner, we need digital tools as well as suitable space, organisational structures, and processes. Just as important however are executives and employees who have internalised the principles of new work, said principles including a 'team first' attitude, a high level of trust, cross-divisional thoughts and actions, as well as independent working.

Evolved structures and behavioural patterns institutionalised over decades create a number of challenges, especially for established companies when implementing the smart collaboration concept. In this context, employees often are not the problem. Surveys confirm time and again that employees are rooting for better technological support. According to the 'State of Work' survey, 94 per cent of employees would like to be able to carry out searches at their workplace just as easily as with Google. And 81 per cent of respondents are convinced that it is particularly executives who should reconsider their attitude towards technology.

Evolving cultures

Thus, it can be helpful to seek an exchange of ideas with others in order to reach a mindset that allows the potential of the smart collaboration approach to take effect – with innovative companies, start-ups or research institutions and universities. Thinking patterns and working attitudes there can profitably develop one's own principles and expectations. With its start-up programme, Aareal Bank Group pursues this goal, amongst others. Launched a few years ago, the programme aims at cooperations, the participation in accelerator programmes, strategic investments, and the development of own start-ups. Developing the smart collaboration concept pursued at Aareal Bank Group is an important part of all of these activities.

Start-up programme

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More information about the start-up programme

At the same time, Aareal Bank Group is committed to a cultural transformation process and has launched training programmes to firmly establish smart collaboration principles with executives and employees. The experience from this approach confirms the observations made in the trend survey 'Hands-on Digital' published by the Future Institute. "Adopting collaboration tools can be a step towards saying goodbye to old hierarchies and 'command & control' principles, in favour of autonomous, free and self-organised work, making companies more agile and flexible. This is one of the reasons why understanding digital collaboration tools and their potential is an important element of today's and tomorrow's entrepreneurial skills."

Interview with Henning Zander

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Head of Aareal Bank AG's start-up programme

Mr Zander, to what extent does Aareal Bank's start-up programme support the development of intelligent and pioneering forms of collaboration?

First of all, our start-up programme is obviously a great tool to better recognise and understand the drivers behind the digital development and market trends. That, however, also applies to pioneering forms of collaboration. We are currently putting a lot of thought into how we can further develop our smart collaboration models – which we are already using within the Company – making them even more effective. Discussions and exchanges of information with young, innovative and unconventional companies are a great help.

What does that look like, specifically?

Within the scope of our start-up programme, we continuously invest in interesting young companies and initiatives. In 2019, for example, we invested in PropTech1 Ventures, a venture capital fund specialising in European PropTech start-ups, thus gaining access to ten to fifteen tech-savvy property sector companies, whose development and working patterns we can now closely follow. This way, we don't just increase our innovative strength; we also benefit by developing our collaboration models.

realxdata is another cooperation partner which Aareal Bank won in 2019. What is this collaboration about?

realxdata specialises in standardising as well as digitising and digitalising tenant lists by applying machine learning processes. realxdata will structure and analyse property data in the new lending business and portfolio management for Aareal Bank, integrating that data into the Bank's system via proprietary interfaces, therefore enabling in-depth and precise time series and cash flow analyses within a few minutes. Even after the test phase of only three months, we have found that our cooperation with realxdata will be greatly beneficial for our business.

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