Anyone who manages a transformation needs a whole range of skills. For example, analytical thinking: relevant new technologies must be identified and implemented at an early stage. Psychological sensitivity is also important: Any transformation can only succeed if everyone in the company is convinced of its added value. Isabel Effert brings these talents together. She is part of the Digital Team, which coordinates and drives forward Xella's digital transformation. This includes the Blue.sprint and Building Companion projects. Sometimes Effert also works as part of a task force, for example in 2022, when she joined an initiative to react quickly and strategically to rising gas prices.
Effert, who has a PhD in business informatics, values networks of all kinds in her various roles. "It's interesting to meet women at completely different positions at Xella" she says. "Now I can just call Monika in Poland and say: 'Hey, can you give me the figures, please? Such a network makes sense, especially in the construction industry. But I also benefit a lot from the individual coaching that is offered here at Xella. I've never had anything like this before, despite a lot of other training“. The analyst also has a suggestion for improvement: "I would like to see a career pool for young talent in Xella outside the women's network."
New digital technologies
In the construction industry, too, the leap forward in artificial intelligence (AI) is changing plans, processes and products. "It's the next big thing we should be looking at," says the transformation manager. "Because I also look after our strategic projects, I have a good overview of what is happening in the industry," she says. She adds with some pride: "Xella has long been a digital pioneer, both in terms of our inventiveness and our customer-focused products. We have a suitable platform that no competitor can even come close to matching.”
That's why Effert hopes that Xella will also become a pioneer when it comes to AI in the construction industry. Something else is important to her: "We should be courageous and open-minded in exploring our possibilities" - even if this means that success is not guaranteed from the outset. This is important to her now, because "in a downturned market, digitalization strategies help to maintain our stability". A next goal has already been set: "I hope that in the future we can also digitally improve the back office."
Priorities and trust
Effert has many different projects on her desk and in her mind. But as a former employee of an international management consultancy, she also handles stressful moments in a structured and calm manner. "The first thing for me is to establish a quality standard for my work. It’s convenient, isn’t it? This way I don't have to touch the same task twice. A good starting point, but not enough when digital tasks start to pile up. "The most important thing to keep track of is to have a sense of prioritization. That is, what really needs to be done now and what needs to be done later. This skill is important for my job at Xella.“
Setting priorities also means: You have to be able to let go. Micromanagement is the opposite of efficiency. "But I know that all Xella projects have competent project managers. We often work very closely together for a while and then I don't call for three weeks.”
So much autonomy only works on the basis of trust. "When I feel that we have a focus, that we have agreed on the next steps, that we know what the strategic goal of our initiative is, then I trust a good team," says Effert. If things don't go as planned, she expects communication and transparency. "It is important to communicate problems that arise quickly and openly. I see this as a sign of strength, not weakness.“
Feedback and appreciation
The digital team is spread across several countries. All the more reason for the colleagues to get to know each other outside of work. This year, for example, at the BIM days in Prague. "At these meetings I can talk to colleagues from many countries and learn from them. Why is the project going so well for you? Or, if a project is stagnating: can we support you? It's all formalized, but the personal contact is important.“
She is happy to take the time to do this, because she is an organizational person. Not only in her job: Isabel Effert is married, has a one-year-old son and looks after a dog and a horse. Boredom is not in her nature.