“We need to advance the digital transformation!” This is a frequent statement in various discussions, be it on the subject of education, finance or administration. As important and correct as this request might be, we should first be on the same page of what the digital transformation entails. That’s why this article outlines the diverse fields of action for digitalization as well as the accompanying challenges, opportunities and future outlooks.
Do you know the important fields of action for the digital transformation?
- The IT division needs to be included from the outset for each business model as at least an equal branch of the company.
- A flexible and agile digital organizational structure of the company increases the ability to act and general resilience to crises.
- For employees, it is crucial to be able to work remotely in an effective way which also offers enough space for communication. Social aspects are important, such as the online meeting culture, the handling of technological progress, internationalization and the growth mindset. Each employee should be familiar with and create future prospects of the company and thereby take the opportunity of initiating progress themselves.
- A trustworthy and transparent style of leadership is closely connected with the digital field of action of the employees. Being a role model when it comes to digital aspects of growth mindset, social behavior and internationalization is as much a part of that as is 360 degree feedback. Good leadership combines the components of modern management and of an inclusive leadership style.
- If not already in place, now is the time to think of marketing and sales digitally. An online presence is indispensable, be it with a website with an online shop, online advertising, social media channels or a combination of these options. A CRM becomes the central component in the sales process around the product and for customer communication./li>
- In the production branch, the focus is on setting up flexible supply chains and calculating downtime scenarios in the event of an emergency. Dynamic planning and response is advantageous and the issue of automation must be taken into account. Industry-specific strategic characteristics, such as Industry 4.0, should be further expanded by means of supporting technologies.
- Supply chain management follows a similar pattern as production does – an agile supply chain ensures flexibility. Proof of origin and quality certificates result in an increased transparency vis-a-vis a growing global awareness of sustainability.
- In IT as the central area of digital transformation, professionally created, agile application and service landscapes are required. Continuous innovation calls for simple and creative networking in order to achieve stability. Cloud-based services and platforms such as SaaS, PaaS and IaaS help to achieve this. The vertical range of manufacture is increasingly being reduced, which in turn leads to more freedom for innovative change processes.
- Last but not least, the digital transformation also makes expertise in cyber security essential. It is a matter of closing data security gaps which can arise as a result of constant technical progress. Here, too, you can make use of existing services on the market to quickly and professionally identify the necessary fields of action.
It is all about the harmony of People, Processes and Products and the capability to make courageous decisions.
Jana Bulkin, CEO of S2BConnected
Be prepared for these obstacles in your digital transformation:
In September of 2019, KPMG’s Future Readiness Index found that the majority of German companies had a positive outlook for the future, but that risk management had taken a downward turn in their self-assessment. While 27 percent of companies still invested to adapt to changes within the global economy in 2018, only 18 percent did so in 2019. And lo and behold – barely a quarter later this very aspect was completely put to the test. So it’s not surprising that just short of half of all German companies on the 2020 index said that investing in managing crises and conflicts of international proportions was a high or the highest priority. In the previous year, only 13 percent of companies agreed with this.
While digitization was almost forced by the pandemic to move forward at a rapid pace, it is now important to act prudently and upgrade in key aspects such as IT security and structure. Risks and escalating costs must be anticipated and minimized, while the digital workplace should be optimized for sustainability and effectiveness.
The flexibility to react appropriately to crisis situations, to have plans on hand for a state of emergency, and to find the right balance between cooperation and independence is thus one of the key challenges of digitization. However, achieving this heavily depends on political decisions. Decision-makers do not always see the forward-driving progress as clearly as experts do, and for this reason digitization is often kept on a tight leash in a variety of areas.
Food for thought: It needs the flexibility to respond appropriately to crisis situations and the availability of plans for a state of emergency. Finding the right balance between cooperation, independence, speed and flexibility is therefore the central challenge of digital transformation.
With demographic change comes a challenge that has been foreseeable for years. As the average age of society and thus of potential customers rises, so does the need for change in digital customer needs. This does not always require a complete alteration of the system, but it does require foresight to protect investments that have already been made. One solution is to use artificial intelligence or machine learning technology, which in turn support predictive maintenance and customer retention.
But beyond that, customer needs are continuously changing even without demographic change. Fresh trends emerge as quickly as they disappear, which is why an informed assessment is needed about which product or service has a future; where it is worth deploying; and which trends will quickly evaporate. The sustainability awareness of customers, on the other hand, can hardly be called a trend these days – this has manifested itself especially during the last decade and should always be considered on a digital level as well. Professional input is therefore undoubtedly required in order to meet all needs and be dynamically structured at the same time.
Turn your obstacles into stepping stones towards digital transformation
It is these very challenges that give rise to opportunities in the various fields of action for digital transformation. Here, too, the pandemic can no longer be removed from the big picture. In a sense, the restrictions of the lockdown were a catalyst for entrepreneurial progress in terms of working models, conditions and trends as well as general digitization, which in turn leads to a resilient business design.
This drive for digital transformation can be used to digitally reorganize and optimize those areas of the company that are appropriate. Economic dominance in various key technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data, is fiercely contested internationally, which is why it is worthwhile for companies to always keep an eye on technological progress, its origins and to include them into their strategy.
Dare to have a look at the future today
It is certainly not a brand-new insight when we say that our future, the digital tomorrow, is being shaped right now. Its success depends above all on whether, how and which current opportunities are seized and challenges mastered. The resulting visions of the future could not be more contrary. In the event of further stagnation and sluggish progress, a handful of states or corporations will stand at the pinnacle of global power, dictating the economy, digital transformation and progress, while the world’s population is forced to comply.
Or, in a positive scenario, Europe and the world are joining forces: Technology is used at the service of people instead of the other way around, the world’s knowledge is freely accessible at all times, and societal challenges are resolved with the help of ethically sound, sustainable, and efficiently integrated technology.