Digital success is man-made – Part 1

CargoForwarder Global’s first guest author of 2024, WIPRO’s Senior Manager for Talent & Change, Philipp Maier takes a look at the People element when it comes to implementing change. In a 2-part series, he addresses why the Human Factor is crucial for the air cargo industry’s digitalization and business transformation, and how change management can help companies to do it right.

Change Management starts and ends with the people involved. Image: Philipp Maier

When IATA launched eFreight as part of the ‘Simplify the Business’-program in 2006, nobody thought it would take that long for the industry to adopt it. Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of IATA at the time, admitted at the end of 2012, that it was harder than they thought and explained: “Some airlines are saying that now isn’t the right time to run this initiative when they are losing money on freight. But we need to at least prepare the ground to make it work when things are better.”

Releasing the brakes on the benefits
Later, data revealed that in removing time-consuming manual processes, eFreight could cut a day from transit times, from which carriers and forwarders would benefit significantly. When you’re losing money on freight, gaining efficiencies and reducing cost is the right step forward. In short, eFreight today means achieving 100% adoption of eAWB, and continuously working to adopt standards such as eCSD, eHM and eDGD. The doubters, blockers and critics have vanished, and finally the industry has started enjoying data accuracy and greater efficiency, and the full potential of data is being unlocked. But those naysayers were the people who made this initiative a marathon walk rather than a sprint; the Human Factor. Today, the air cargo industry is being urged even more to be ready for quick adoption of digital challenges: ERP platforms tailored to the industry, Artificial Intelligence, ONE Record, Augmented Reality, and more digital innovation are waiting for outperformers to make a difference in a volatile business.

So, the question is: How can we sprint into innovation and digitalization instead of a long and painful marathon? Is the Human Factor really such a big deal? What are other C-level managers saying? Let’s dive into the topic!

The Human Factor in facts & figures
The image above shows the results of a global CIO survey on successful digital change implementation:
As you can see, with 82%, the Number 1 top barrier mentioned by CIOs worldwide, is ‘resistance to change’ in general. A non-supportive user base and/or a non-supportive middle management will clearly slow down the progress on any digital innovation, and probably bring it to a point of complete resistance and therefore project fail. Change Management addresses this issue directly by enhancing a better user experience. Every affected user of a new digital solution has a different journey through the change, and therefore different concerns, benefits, but also fears. These must be addressed to reduce resistance.

We also see that ‘inadequate sponsorship’ is mentioned by 72% of CIOs. How can that be? Do not all projects have sponsors? Well, the question is more about how good the vision of the outcome is aligned between leaders, and how clearly the change story is documented for the employees. Do you have a clear change story, that explains the reasons for change and the benefits for the organization in an easy and understandable way, before you send people into training? If not, your investment in training, software, and innovation might not develop any value.

And finally, 65% of CIOs mention ‘unrealistic expectations’: “You’ll have the fastest, greatest, and easiest-to-use tool ever, my dear end-users.” Well, that is a very generic and very subjective statement. Especially if the solution is probably not even defined and particularly if we talk about enterprise software that is rarely self-explanatory. Still: Many enterprises make the mistake of overpromising to their end-user base. Why? This is usually a mix of unprofessional communication and, above all, a lack of change management experience.

Ok, what now?
It doesn’t have to be this way. In considering the human aspect when it comes to change, many of these barriers can be avoided from the start. Next week, I will provide you with three practical change management activities you can begin with, immediately!

Philipp Maier, WIPRO, Senior Manager Talent & Change



  1. My colleague Gerton Hulsman and I are publishing a new book about the air logistics cool chain and the main theme will be the change from old to new thinking, the impact of technologies, the environment and sustainability. We are aiming partially at students in an effort to encourage a new generation of bright young people to join our exciting industry. Your approach and thinking seem to be very much in the same direction as our and we look forward to reading your articles in Cargo forwarder but would also be happy to discuss a possible contribution to our own. work.


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