The digitization of Christmas


In a good mood, Santa Claus trudges to the gift workshop located directly behind his house at North Pole 1. The elves are already hard at work – after all, it was already mid-September and at this time of year, numerous wish lists already flutter into the Christmas post office every day. Confidently Claus looks at the new incoming mails on his XmasBook. At the beginning, the elves still resisted electronic mail acceptance, but in the meantime everything worked like clockwork. After more than 150 years, the first quiet step in the direction of digitalization had also been bitterly necessary. Claus had to realize that the children not only wanted more and more, but also suddenly changed their wishes more often. On top of that, there were frequent changes of location and spontaneous trips during the Christmas holidays. The entire ChristmasGmbH was doing more and more overtime in the past seasons, no wonder that the team occasionally lost track of things the overtime list became longer and longer. Claus must therefore still come up with a solution for the central administration of the wish list data.

The Christmas bell snaps Claus out of his thoughts. He opens the door, in front of which he finds a gasping Knecht Ruprecht. "Santa Claus, I came as fast as I could. Your new sleigh has just been delivered!" Claus peers into the white winter landscape, but can't spot a new sleigh. Where normally Rudolph was waiting for him with Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem, he saw merely a shiny silver object. "Those up there sent it. Your sled for the new season. It's called Tekla XAE-12."

Claus stares at the vehicle in disbelief. "This is supposed to be my new sleigh? And where am I supposed to put the bridle for Rudolph and the other reindeer?" "You won't need that anymore. Those up there call it autopilot. So you can sit back and relax on your flights and take a nap. However, you'll still have to steer a bit yourself during the transition phase. It will probably be a while before the technology is fully developed." "Excuse me? You've got to be kidding me. I'm Santa Claus, not a guinea pig. And Santa flies a reindeer sleigh. It's always been that way and it always will be," Claus rages.

Ruprecht dares a new attempt: "Those up there think it's high time for a new image." "And you think that's why I should actually fly from house to house with this Tekla XY-Ufo? That's just bullshit! And what if the charging of this high-tech thing doesn't work and I'm late with it or even crash? Will you deliver the presents then? You have absolutely no idea about that!" Santa rages. When he sees the desperate expression on Ruprecht's face, he feels sorry for his outburst. He invites him into his meeting room to discuss over a cup of tea how they should deal with the sleigh situation. But worse was to come ... Once Claus has calmed down a bit, Ruprecht tells him about the huge restructuring plans with which those up there want to completely digitalize the Christmas business in the next few years. "Everything is to become faster, more flexible, smarter, better," Ruprecht groans. "If we want to keep our jobs, we have to get involved in a drastic change. Even more last-minute orders are probably just the beginning – it could all end up with unmanned sleighs and purely virtual appearances under the Christmas tree."
 Claus thinks about it and drums his fingers rhythmically on the tabletop. They had to get ahead of those up there and develop a comprehensive plan that both ushered in digitization and preserved the magic of Christmas and their jobs. And he already knew exactly who could help them do it.

For his next secret meeting with Knecht Ruprecht, Claus invited his good friend Petrus. He was very well connected with those up there and at the same time a loyal companion whom he could trust. From him, they would certainly get more information about the planned digital transformation. "I'm afraid I don't know anything," Petrus affirms. "I was sent to the home office yesterday without warning. Thanks to fingerprint a personal check at the pearly gates is apparently no longer necessary. And with the new Smart Glasses from Fakebook, everyone can supposedly find their way around heaven on their own. I honestly doubt that this will promote social exchange and cohesion among the angels. But I still have an ace up my sleeve," says Petrus, giving his friends hope. "I have access to the SkyCloud from my home office, too!"

That's how Claus and Ruprecht learned that the ones up there had already been storing all the wish lists and the corresponding addresses in the SkyCloud for several seasons. "They call it Big Data and say they can revolutionize Christmas with it. However, they need lots of servers to do it. It will definitely be several weeks, if not months, before this heavenly infrastructure is up and running," Petrus predicts. "And there are also the data protection laws, which are currently a major headache. It'll be at least two Christmases before our Creator signs off on those."

Claus and Ruprecht are relieved, they still have time – but they have to get a move on to catch up with the lead those up there already have. To do that, they absolutely need new team support. Preferably a digital native who can help them transform the analog business model of Christmas as smartly as possible into the virtual world. But where would they find someone like that? 
Excited, the two of them rush into the personnel office and start digging through file cabinets and checking the resumes of the ChristmasGmbH employees for their special skills. How nice it would be if Claus could already access all this information on his XmasBook. With a little luck, however, this wish is sure to come true soon. All they have to do is find the right millennial for the digitization job.

As hundreds of application forms are already scattered wildly around the room on the floor and Santa Claus has more papercuts than hair on his fingers, Knecht Ruprecht calls out: "Jackpot! Marie, 28, from Elfenhausen, completed business and Xmas marketing studies at Harpvard. Special skills: SEO, SEM, Textpress, Pictureshop, public speaking and influencer relations." Claus and Ruprecht storm out of the personnel office. Someone else should take care of the paper chaos later. In the best case, Marie.

Out of breath, Claus and Ruprecht squeeze through the small gate that leads to the gift workshop warehouse. In the course of the restructuring, they should also think about renovating the premises and expanding the elf-size doors a bit, Santa thinks. He had now squeezed through these miniature corridors long enough. 
From the entrance gallery, the two watch as the hard-working elves sort presents in a jingle-bells rhythm, cut wrapping paper, wrap presents and finally bring them to the sleigh station.
"The sleigh ..." At the thought of his new Tekla XAE-12 sled, Claus immediately becomes restless again. But he could not let this absurd-looking flying object upset him now. 
It doesn't take long for Claus and Ruprecht to discover Marie in the PlayNation section. With her wireless CarePods, flashing MapelWatch and smartphone casually worn crossbody, the tech-savvy elf wasn't hard to spot among her colleagues. "BlueFriday and VirtualMonday have become stronger and stronger in recent years thanks to numerous viral stories and are slowly outstripping us. Those up there know this and are now trying to counteract it. We therefore need to develop a concept to get generations Y and Z emotionally involved in Christmas again. We also need to think about how we can keep up with Mamazon's speed and flexibility. Mamazon CRIME now delivers within 24 hours," Marie gushes. Ruprecht and Claus look at the young elf lady with wide eyes. And although they don't understand a word of what she is saying, they encourage her to continue by nodding their heads in agreement.

"Fakebook, InstaFram, TikTak – we have to use the data intelligence of the social platforms, network with the kids and teens and involve them as interactively as possible in our processes in order to be able to deduce their interests and needs in good time and pre-produce the gifts predictively." Marie is in her element and steals an expectant glance at Claus and Ruprecht. "Young people share their whole lives online more or less willingly. We can use this data to better manage our production, better manage our warehouses, and trigger necessary procurements in a timely manner." Claus and Ruprecht have heard enough. Without thinking twice, the two hurry back to the personnel office.

Santa Claus and Knecht Ruprecht want to close the deal as quickly as possible and offer Marie a contract as project manager – before those up there find out about their digital talent. With pointed fingers Claus taps slowly on the keyboard of his XmasBook. Again and again, his index fingers circle searchingly over the keyboard. "Where the heck is that @ sign?" "Give me that," Ruprecht sighs, grabs the XmasBook, and begins to write up the new contract for Marie in perfect ten-fingered fashion. Claus is impressed. Ruprecht shrugs nonchalantly: "I learned it for the heavenly placement test. You should know this, though – it's on my resume under special skills."

Claus and Ruprecht meet Marie at the sled parking lot. Santa wrinkles his nose: "Please get this hideously modern monstrosity out of my sight, Ruprecht." Marie can't help smirking, but finally backs up tech-muffle Claus: "How the Tekla XAE-12 is supposed to replace Rudolph and his reindeer gang is honestly also a mystery to me. The range is now quite okay, but the lack of charging stations is a real problem – especially since you can't hook up to the public pillars with the Tekla XAE-12. A suitable adapter has to be ordered here. Whether you can get around the globe in time on Christmas Eve with it, I therefore currently dare to doubt."

But at least with Marie on the team, Santa happily bobs from his heels to his toes, handing Marie her new employment contract as he does so. "Congratulations, from now on you are our digitalization officer. We look forward to your conceptual design for the digital Xmas transformation." Marie accepts the printed copy and is already about to head to her new office, when Claus holds her back. "Wait a minute, I have one more request." Santa tugs at the jacket of his suit. The wide black belt with the big golden buckle that stretches tightly across the middle of his body is already fastened at the last hole. A small gap has formed between the belt and the jacket, from which Claus' white ribbed undershirt now peeks out. "For more than a century, I've been squeezing through hundreds of thousands of chimneys on Christmas Eve. The fact that almost every Christmas tree has a glass of milk and a plate of sweet cookies waiting for me has finally meant that I have less and less room in the narrow chimneys. Last season I even got stuck once. Rudi had to pull me out by his bridle." Claus pats his belly in embarrassment. "Would you have any ideas on how we can optimize this delivery process?"

Elf lady Marie gives Santa Claus a reassuring nod, "I'll just say one thing: delivery drones." "D e l i v e r y d r o n e s ." Claus repeats the term emphatically slowly. Christmas as he knew it would probably really not exist in the future. But with Marie on the team, at least they had a chance to actively shape that future. 
With Knecht Ruprecht at his side, Claus trudges north through the crackling snow. They needed to fill Petrus in on the latest developments. Starting tomorrow, they would introduce the daily stand-up meeting that Marie had talked about. Claus wonders if they'd need one of those inflatable water boards that have been popping up more and more frequently on wish lists over the past few years for that? But they'll find out soon enough.

"Good News!" Marie has a victorious smile on her lips. "I've negotiated a brilliant deal with Mamazon. All wishes that come in last minute on December 24 will be delivered by Mamazon CRIME starting this season. Best of all, it won't cost us a single XmasCent." Santa Claus, Knecht Ruprecht and Petrus exchange disbelieving glances. "CEO Sepp Kezos wants to polish up his battered image, and he's sure the support of Santa Claus will help him do it." Marie's expected hymn of praise is abruptly interrupted by Petrus ...

"I did a little research, too." Petrus taps promisingly on his XmasPad and opens "Gabriel is one of my smartest angels. Over the Easter break, he quietly trained to become a Virtual Sales Trainer. As an official "explainer of visions" he felt it was time to think a little outside the godly box." Claus is again at a loss to understand. "Gabriel has offered to make your Christmas elves fit in online sales. It'll save you lots of time and money, and you won't have to fly to all the appointments in person." Santa Claus lets out a joyful "Ho-ho-ho!". "That would be a great relief. In addition, Rudi and the reindeer gang could then finally reduce the countless hours of overtime. And I could perhaps even enjoy a long Christmas weekend with Mrs. Claus. At the moment, I spend more time in the air than at the North Pole." 
Santa is thrilled. If his team keeps this up, they'll be able to present a Christmas cyber concept to those up there before December 24.

In order to be able to act faster and more flexibly in production from now on, Marie has obtained a 3D printer for her elf colleagues. "A gift from Sepp Kezos. It arrived yesterday with Mamazon CRIME," the elf winks cheekily at the daily stand-up. "However, this should not become a free ride for lazy elves. Craft should remain craft," orders Santa Claus friendly but determined. 
Angel Gabriel, meanwhile, has set up a present finder chatbot named Nick to give elves and other secret Santa's helpers tips on the right Christmas gift and also to eliminate uncertainties when writing wish lists. "I'm also working on an elf app right now that will allow people to configure gifts, create wish lists and send wishes to Santa. There's a little problem, though ..."

Gabriel bites his fingernails nervously. Delivering bad news was not in his nature at all. It was a task that goblins usually did for him. But there was no one in sight to whom he could delegate his bad news. With fidgety movements, he knotted his fingers. "To develop the elf app, we need seed funding of at least 100,000 XmasDollars. Then, if we also want to improve our algorithm and start rolling out to new markets like Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, we'll need at least another 300,000 XmasDollars."

BÄM! Santa Claus, Knecht Ruprecht, Petrus and Marie had expected many things, but not this. Marie is the first to regain her speech. "Then we'll just have to prepare a rocket-strong presentation and pitch our concept so well that those up there can't help but fund our idea." All enthusiasm disappears from Ruprecht's face: "And how are we supposed to do that? It's unrealistic to think that they'll be able to come up with 400,000 XmasDollars. A presentation can't be that good." "I know a start-up that could help us with the pitch. Leave it to me," Marie says confidently as she puts on her short speed skis, trudges to the sled parking lot, and from there whizzes off south to the Christmas Innovation Center.

As Marie returns to the gift workshop, there is dead silence. None of her elf colleagues were at their workstations. Nevertheless, cheerful jingle-bells sounds resounded through the production facility, which was lit up in a brilliant starry glow. Something wasn't right here. Chief elf Findus would never leave his sacred halls just like that. Marie searched all the rooms. She cannot discover anyone either in the parcel tape room or in the wrapping paper store. Suddenly, she hears excited voices coming from the break room. 
"Preloved presents are THE new thing. You simply can't get more sustainable in gift giving!" Marie can't believe her eyes. The usually shy Findus had climbed up on a table and was giving an emotional sustainability speech in front of the assembled team. Again and again, he put both hands on his left breast and reminded everyone that Christmas is also about neighbourly love. "And by that I don't just mean all our fellow human beings, but above all the beautiful planet Earth. Because if we don't protect that, then there won't be any Christmas." The elf crowd applauds. "I have contacts with Cbay and willbesitzen," a new colleague Marie has never seen before suddenly calls out from the crowd. "With a preloved presents collaboration between these big players, we could start the next generation of Christmas," the new guy announces as the elves erupt into renewed cheers.

Marie wastes no time and runs straight through the winding corridors to the meeting room of the Xmas digitization team. She had to immediately tell Claus, Ruprecht, Petrus and Gabriel about Findus and the elves' brilliant idea. With a push, Marie opens the heavy wooden door that leads to the meeting room. There, she sees her four colleagues sitting spellbound around Santa's XmasBook. They have opened the video conferencing app Boom and are just finishing their conversation with CocaRola's head of marketing, who thanks them effusively in a shrill voice: "We are delighted to be able to accompany you in your digital transformation and to enchant the world with a new Santa Claus campaign. And don't worry about the 400,000 XmasDollars. I'm pretty sure we can support you here as an investor. The only thing I'd need right now is a presentation with all the necessary information to pass on to my superiors."

"Already done!" exults Marie after Santa Claus, Ruprecht, Petrus and Gabriel finish their Boom conversation with the lady from CocaRola. "What's done?" "The presentation! I have it here on my XmasPhone." Marie proudly holds out her smartphone to them. "I told you, I know a start-up that can help us. Together with the team from pretono, I created the perfect pitch deck at the Christmas Innovation Center. And the best part: We can send it to CocaRola via interactive link and evaluate their individual click behavior in detail afterwards!" 
Again, Santa just doesn't understand, but senses at the same moment that they've just taken a decisive step in their digital Xmas transformation. "So there's only one thing left for me to say: MERRY CHRISTMAS!"