40 years of digitization and not a step further? The current development is stalling, writes Miriam van Straelen in her guest article, although the digital transformation has been discussed for years.
The concept of digitization is not new. The term was already in use in the 1950s, but companies have only started to deal with the topic systematically since the mid-1990s.
Around 20 years later, according to DESI, the index for the digital economy and society, just 54 percent of German companies have at least partially digitized their processes. However, the unforeseeable economic and social events of the past few years have made it clear that it is possible. You just have to want it and you have to know how.
The technologies, the know-how and the expertise have long been available, but German companies seem to be stuck with the implementation. It is about much more than new tools and technologies, but about initiating structural changes and driving innovation in order to remain competitive in the future. What that means is different for every company – there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is important to find a balance between efficiency and innovation, for example to advance technologically despite budget constraints.
It is well known that insight is the best way to get better, and in fact the vast majority of companies recognize the urgent need to master the digital transformation. Somehow. The advantages are obvious: better tools, more efficient work, greater competitiveness and, as a result, more monetary growth. And yet – progress is slow.
Miriam van Straelen is a partner at the international strategy consultancy Roland Berger, where she is part of the Digital Team (Roland Berger N3XT). She is an expert in the development and expansion of digital business areas and advises companies on the development and implementation of sustainable and digital business models.
In an increasingly disruptive environment, agility and quick action are required. Long decision-making processes stand in the way of a digital future – this is also the conclusion of a study by the strategy consultancy Roland Berger: 70 percent of the IT decision-makers surveyed in German companies believe that their company lacks the necessary technological skills to further advance the digital transformation. However, the real problem, the study continues, is largely due to the organizational and strategic limitations of the companies. “The German fear” of substantial change also seems to play a role in digitization. Companies are often very concerned that ongoing operations could come to a standstill, high costs could be incurred and what is actually working just fine would have to be rebuilt.
But actually, the costs of not pushing the digital transformation any further are much higher. After my 20 years of work, in which I have successfully implemented numerous projects on digital marketplaces, in e-commerce and in the fintech environment, I have gained a good sense of where the challenges and opportunities lie. Namely in a significant increase in sales and a much higher than expected cost-benefit ratio.
For example, let’s look at other countries that have long undergone a digital evolution – the US, the UK, our Scandinavian neighbors and Asia. These countries and regions have recently trained their employees, established and prioritized complex systems and are already benefiting from significantly more efficient processes, lower costs and, above all, the ability to adapt more quickly to changes in uncertain times. In order to remain competitive in this country, too, we cannot avoid structural change processes and sustainable digital transformation. But you have to see the opportunities instead of the risks. And even the risks become less daunting when they are known and properly managed.
However, it often fails because of the inability of the employees to work together with other departments in a goal-oriented manner and above all in the interests of the customers – this was the statement of 69 percent of those surveyed in the said study. It is also clear: In order to be successful, the digital transformation must bring together employees, technologies, partners, products and customers into one unit.
It’s about combining the different requirements and needs and actually implementing them with a clear strategy. A purpose that is clear in new German, ambitious goals and clear key figures are necessary so that employees can get the ball rolling more easily, track their progress and goals can be achieved and celebrated together. modus operandi instead of empty words. As a partner in an international strategy consultancy, I always focus on optimizing the company. And this can only be achieved if challenges are tackled holistically. This means not only focusing on the customer experience, but also taking employees with you on the journey. We need holistic, diverse and, above all, solution-oriented concepts in order to remain competitive in the long term.
Because it’s about more than digital transformation. It is about a human transformation – and this is not a one-off project, but something that requires consistent action. Now, because the biggest risk is waiting and pushing change with the handbrake on.
The Mission Female business network, founded by Frederike Probert, is actively committed to more female power in business, society, media, culture, sports and politics. It unites successful women across all industries with the aim of making further professional progress together.