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Digital Transformation: The Clock Is Ticking

May 31, 2016 by Gabriele Middendorf 181

At the Global Digital Leaders Summit in Berlin, digitalization experts, CEOs, and IT decision-makers are taking stock of the current state of things and showing what’s yet to come.

The digital transformation is in full swing. Companies around the world have recognized that their success now depends on how well they manage their own evolution into digital organizations, and many have already taken corresponding measures.

How far along are they in the process? What are the next steps they need to take? And are they following the right strategies to hold their competitive ground over the long term? These and other questions are currently on the minds of the corporate executives, IT managers, and chief digital officers in attendance at the Global Digital Leaders Summit 2016 in Berlin. Organized by Management Circle, this two-day conference is taking place for the second time. Along with numerous presentations, panel discussions, and topic-specific work groups, it offers attendees a variety of opportunities to exchange ideas and engage in networking.

Social Media and Mobile

Berlin

Corporate executives, IT managers, and digital economy experts discussed digital strategies at the Global Digital Leaders Summit 2016 in Berlin. (photo: Management Circle)

“If you’re not mobile, you’re massively behind,” declared Gary Wheelhouse, Chief Digital Officer for the Australian electronics chain Harvey Norman, in his presentation on the evolution of the retail industry. He has watched more and more old purchasing habits fall by the wayside as customers have come to expect a personalized shopping experience, no matter what channel they prefer.

Wheelhouse also reported an increasing number of purchases being made on mobile devices – around 50% at Harvey Norman, in fact, with financing contracts more or less following suit. While he sees social media playing an ever-greater role, Wheelhouse believes that having brick-and-mortar stores still gives companies a competitive advantage. According to the CDO, a retailer’s digital strategy should focus on the following things: stores and the technologies they use; optimization of the shopping experience they provide on all channels, as well as corresponding measurements; and their employees, who need to be brought on board to be as mobile as customers themselves.

Speed Counts

In his presentation, Christian Graggaber, Chief Digital Officer at Hubert Burda Media in Russia, described the media industry as another that is undergoing a reorientation due to the digital transformation. He reported that very few customers are still willing to pay for journalistic content, which was why his company began adjusting its business model to incorporate new sources of income back in 2002. According to Graggaber, its investments in e-commerce and startup companies have helped Hubert Burda Media generate around 60% of its revenue in the digital realm at present.

“The Digital Revolution is expected to have the same effect on society as the Industrial Revolution,” he revealed. In light of the tremendous pace of the current revolution, Graggaber stated that companies need to adapt just as quickly to ensure their survival. With regard to change management in particular, they need to ask themselves a number of questions. Should they acquire other businesses, or sell off parts of their own? Is it better to cooperate with new competitors, or to draw a line in the sand? Should they build up a separate digital business, or integrate such activities into their non-digital areas?

Whatever the right answers are for each company, Graggaber believes that “innovate or die” is the law of the land.

Solid Approaches Already Emerging

As the attendees took stock of the current situation during a subsequent think tank session, they found that the majority of the participating companies had taken their first steps on the path toward digitalization. This includes some initial guidelines these organizations have developed for their own digital transformation. In addition to monitoring the customer orientation of their relevant departments, they have made efforts to eliminate silo thinking.

Meanwhile, these companies have recognized that digital transformation is a multifaceted and holistic process that requires centralized business management. This is one of the key reasons why many organizations have established the position of chief digital officer, who is typically given the reins to a company’s digital strategy and works with its IT department, among others, on implementing it.

Employee Buy-in is Key

One of the obstacles many companies face involves change approval processes, which are still often seen as much too tedious. For a large number of summit attendees, however, the significant proportion of employees who have not yet arrived in the digital era is the biggest roadblock.

“In the end, it’s all about people,” explained Dr. Claudine Perlet, Head of Digital Strategy and Transformation Office at Allianz SE. Employees need to support the process, possess the necessary technical expertise, and understand how the digital transformation will benefit them. After all, this transition will only succeed when they all work together and adopt a digital mindset in their everyday activities.

Top image via Shutterstock

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