As if the working title “CIO” did not already include enough jobs: Martin Frick of Generali in Switzerland is in charge of IT and logistics, and thus also of business continuity. The IT infrastructure has been completely refurbished over the last 3 years. All employees now have the same laptops, for example. This is paying off especially now in the Corona crisis, because Generali ordered homeworking, and was able to implement this “within days”. Frick himself went to the home office in Klosters (close to Davos – for those of you who remember CIOmove 2014). “I am now a Corona Instruction Officer or Corona Orchestration Officer,” says COO Frick.
Martin Frick, COO of Generali, in his home office in Switzerland
Employees of Generali can also take their large monitor home from the Generali office – where the youngsters from the closed Swiss schools and kindergartens are currently raging. Twenty percent of Generali employees have children under ten, says Frick. They are now very thankful that they can be at home and thus manage their homeschooling. Neighborhood help and grandparents are no longer there for well-known reasons. “Loyalty to the company is increasing. Cohesion is growing,” says Frick: “But the positive mood may soon be reversed if the home office period is extended to months. This must be taken care of.”
At the moment, everything is still running smoothly. The VPN is up and running. Digital signatures and web stamps will be allowed all at once – now that nobody gets real stamps anymore. “We are now living the final transition to digitalization,” says Frick, who says he spends nine to ten hours a day on the phone: “Everything is new. Strong. Suddenly everything goes.” The consultants are pleased that no more customers stumble coughing into the branches. They are now proactively calling customers from the risk group. “Our older customers are very happy about this,” says Frick. “They have never experienced this from an insurance company before.”
One weak point could be the telecom providers, who are slowly coming under pressure in terms of bandwidth. Providers in Italy, for example, have their problems, reports Frick from the neighbouring country, where everyone is switching to telcos and whose infection rate is only slightly higher than in Switzerland. Generali also had its first cases of corona. “We communicated immediately. Everything is very transparent”, says Frick: “I am proud to be with Generali.”
The second big problem is yet to come: Generali has established decentralization as a management principle. Everyone is supposed to work together in decentralized teams. “But how do I keep these teams together if they do not see each other regularly”, asks Frick, who does not see an end to homework: “As a physicist I have to say that at some point loose structures start to disintegrate. Community tools such as Teams or Slack are now being introduced alongside Skype. A lot is still done via phone and email.
Frick thinks a curfew in Switzerland is likely soon. And for necessary. Otherwise the spread of Corona could not be slowed down. By the way, Harry Stevens of the Washington Post has described why this is the case best so far. The “Graphics Reporter” shows in his online article how the fictitious disease “simulitis” is spreading.
While the user reads about the benefits of “social distancing”, or the limited use of strict curfews, simulitis is spreading in a population of 200 people. This is online journalism at its best.