While children as young as three can swipe through online magazines, some top-level managers still ask their secretaries to print out their e-mails for them. Indeed, the generational gap is often quite pronounced. And digitalisation itself is by no means a consistent phenomenon, either. A plethora of standards abound, and the digital revolution has been adopted to varying degrees by different audiences. For many of those still dragging their heels, uncertainty plays an important role in their reticence. What do I need? What can I do? What prerequisites must be met? How can I make digitalisation successful and sustainable?
Artist Mathieu Le Sourd, also known as maotik, has captured the movements of the ocean using real-time digital data and transformed them into an interactive visual installation, on display at Ars Electronica.
What Are You Truly Selling?
While many businesses claim to be “customer-oriented”, reality doesn’t always reflect this vision. In practice, products and services are often developed by decision-makers who rely on their own thoughts and opinions instead of going to the trouble of asking the customer. Today, however, consulting the customer is the only way to succeed—and it’s a great opportunity. Younger generations in particular are more likely to use a smartphone for shopping and researching products. Consumers enter all types of specific questions into search engines, voluntarily providing information to get a response. This is akin to a free gift for any provider able to process such data. Only by recognising and understanding what customers are looking for can you actually deliver on the promise of customer orientation. And as a result, you’ll be able to offer what they want: the right features, highly customised solutions and, if necessary, small quantities. Digitalisation aims to put the customer at the centre. But this is not just the end goal, it’s also the means by which to get there. You want to connect with customers wherever and whenever you can, and much of this takes place online. In fact, an increasing number of “customers” are just machines whose only form of communication is data-sharing.
Bechtle’s New Digital Platform.
The future belongs to digital platforms that offer integrated, consistent, customer-oriented solutions. Bechtle’s online shop and corporate website are merging into one vast digital marketplace. We’re combining the regional proximity of our subsidiaries with a digital presence to create a state-of-the-art distribution channel marketing Bechtle’s entire portfolio for the mid to long term. This will allow us to fine-tune how we handle searches and inquires. And by analysing data, we’ll be able to better identify customer requirements. Customers will receive offers that truly match their needs, supplemented with suggested services, specialist information, videos, references, contacts and more. This marketplace will bring Bechtle closer than ever to its customers. Our goal is to continue developing Bechtle into a leading European digital IT solutions provider. Experience it for yourself from mid-2017 at bechtle.com.
Building a Strong Foundation.
Successful digitalisation means being willing to genuinely and consistently pursue a new paradigm. This may mean turning your current outlook on its head. You may feel like you’re performing a balancing act between traditional and future models of success. While you don’t have to bend yourself entirely out of shape, a bit of room for manoeuvre is key to remaining flexible, agile and adaptable. Management must be able to fire up their employees’ enthusiasm while also establishing an organisational framework and meeting technical prerequisites. In future, digitalisation will be a daily routine in all areas of business, and each department will be able to—and should—have their say in how it is implemented. Machine operators and forklift-truck drivers, for example, know the ins and outs of production and logistics first hand and can provide valuable insight.
Explore the project behind the photos in this article: a digital ocean in real-time data at „Ars Electronica“.
Forget Everything You Knew About Organisation.
Digitalisation means being fully open. Refusing to relax strict departmental boundaries and immutable hierarchies will lead to certain failure. IT and specialist departments must join forces and cooperate within and across hierarchical levels, creating temporary teams for specific tasks. Partners outside of your organisation can also join in, and you might even consider collaborating with competitors to tackle large challenges together. By doing so, you create living ecosystems that come together and disband as needed. This new approach doesn’t, however, preclude close partnerships. Rather, such partnerships will forgo traditional structures and instead base themselves on a continual quest for success.
Technology, of course, must also be open and flexible. IT infrastructures and applications must be available and able to meet user requirements at all times. You’ll have to clean house in your own physical IT environment and link it with external capacities to form hybrid solutions. As a result, opaque IT landscapes resulting in unproductivity, intransparency and out-of-control costs will be a thing of the past. By contrast, hybrid multi-clouds offering clearly defined IT services are the future. Anyone will be able to use whatever they need—from computing power, memory and operating systems to databases and all types of software—at any time. Resources can be booked by the month or by the minute, independently of each other or in any desired combination. The result is a technological environment that fits perfectly with your new organisational ecosystem, merging two essential success factors of digitalisation into one.
With Bechtle, There’s More Than One Way to Digitalise.
Bechtle uses targeted methods to guide customers in developing their IT as a whole to fully embrace digitalisation. The Bechtle IT-Landkarte provides an initial inventory of all IT systems, IT services and related business processes. This serves as the basis for your future IT landscape. A proprietary Bechtle tool determines your company’s degree of digital maturity, recording essential digitalisation coordinates and comparing your status to various benchmarks. This gives you a clear indication of where you are and what options you have moving forward.
Last but not least, the Bechtle IT Business Navigator provides a comprehensive module system to survey and re-organise every area of your IT landscape in detail, providing management with the key data needed to make decisions.
From Processes to Platforms.
Powerful, transparent and needs-based IT capacity is the backbone of digitalisation. The stronger it is, the better able you are to optimise processes, efficiency and productivity while at the same time reducing costs. Getting there doesn’t have to be an overwhelming feat, however. Instead, hammer out a concrete plan and work towards the end goal step by step. It’s important to assess your IT landscape carefully and be consistent in re-organising it, thereby ensuring that the processes relying on it will add more value than ever. Procurement, production and logistics have never been as easy to control as today, thanks to sensors, robots, SCM systems and the Internet of Things. And mobile access to IT workstations means that everyone stays productive, no matter where they are. Global collaboration guarantees that innovations are brought to market more quickly. Well maintained customer relationship management increases service quality, contributes to product development and channels marketing activities. Smart analytical tools help draw the right conclusions from the data collected. All of these elements are key to successful digitalisation.
In addition, digital architecture makes it easier to develop new business models. Necessary IT resources can be provided without any hassle, so teams can get to work straight away, simulating models, building prototypes or simply printing. More and more large companies are setting up their own „Innovation Labs“, similar to start-ups
Digitalisation has given rise to business models that were unheard of just a few years ago. Uber became the largest taxi company is the world overnight, without owning a single vehicle. Similarly, Airbnb is the undisputed leader in accommodation even though it doesn’t own any flats or hotels. And Alibaba, the world’s top retailer, gets along just fine without any warehouses of its own. These are all examples of powerful, fully digital platforms. They’re simply marketplaces that bring together providers and customers. And they’ve climbed their way to the top doing it. Music? Spotify. Films? Netflix. All this and then some? Amazon.
New platforms are springing up all over the place, addressing even highly specialised niche markets. It’s therefore important not to become disconnected from your own market. Instead, become a hub yourself. Specialists focussing on solutions to specific problems have a lot to gain, perhaps even expanding or taking over market leadership.
The Right Team for the Right Situation.
All companies, organisations and government administrations face the same challenge: how to attract the right people to drive their digitalisation. Not only that, they also stand in competition with one another, as talented employees are in great demand and can take their pick of employers. It has to be the right fit. Meaningfulness and the opportunity to truly create something are becoming increasingly important factors. Small companies may not always be able to offer first-rate financial compensation, but they can promise exciting prospects, and this will serve them well on the competitive labour market.
One thing is certain: recruitment, together with staff planning and retention, is now more important than ever. And professional HR management is a major factor in how successfully your company is able to digitalise. Against the backdrop of a skilled-worker shortage, it’s even more vital that employees have on-the-job training and qualifications. Machines powered by artificial intelligence haven’t yet reached our levels of brain power, but they’re always learning. We’ve got to make sure we do the same, in all areas of digitalisation, to make sure we stay zukunftsstark.
Focus areas of Digital Transformation.
1. Customer Orientation.
Digitalisation puts customers front and centre. It allow us to recognise, understand and meet customer needs through tailored offerings and experiences provided via any and all suitable channels along the customer journey.
2. Data Usage.
Collecting, processing and analysing the right data is vital to keeping the focus on the customer and designing appropriate offers. Well-maintained CRM systems are essential. Business intelligence and smart data can then build on them to answer almost any question.
3. Smart Offerings.
Targeted use of relevant data, together with a strong customer focus, allows you to develop and market successful products and services. Digital platforms with a clear service focus and open ecosystems are the way to go.
Openness, trust and collaboration are the characteristics that will shape organisations from here on out. HR analytics will put together the right teams for specific tasks. Re-organisation must be spearheaded and exemplified by top management, and equipped with all the necessary digital tools.
Needs-based, always-on IT resources are the foundation on which to optimise business processes in your value networks. They also serve as a springboard for launching new business models anytime you need to.
6. Transformation Management.
Digitalisation is not a knee-jerk reaction; it’s a long-term, ongoing challenge. It requires a strategic approach and executive leadership. Digitalisation is also plannable and can be realised step by step with the help of professionals. But they key is not to dilly-dally.
This is an article from Bechtle’s ZUKUNFTSSTARK special release on digitalisation. Read the whole magazine here(German only).