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How well equipped are companies for the future?

Digitalization is one of the biggest and fastest change processes that has been set in motion in decades. Just as CDs replaced records and cassette tapes, new technologies like social media, mobile, big data and the cloud are changing customer behaviour and expectations and forcing companies to modernize existing business models and processes. Only those companies that adapt to the shifting technological and social conditions and keep up with their competitors have long-term chances of survival. Ultimately the competitiveness individual companies and thus of entire economies depends on digital maturity.

With its “Digital Readiness Index” the German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche recently worked together with Karl-Heinz Land from Neuland consultancy to highlight this topic. The index measures the readiness of 233 German companies for the digital age for the first time. The results show that digitally healthy companies have a higher turnover, a better yield and a higher value. But whereas the automotive industry has largely aligned itself with its customers by implementing digital processes, other industries such as pharmaceuticals and the public sector have a lot of catching up to do.

There are plenty of examples of start-ups and large corporations that have transformed entire business models with innovative, digitalized and self-learning products. These range from online mail order solutions that replace catalogue shipping and retail outlets to print-on-demand offerings that replace traditional print shops and flight reservation portals that replace stationary travel agencies. However 90% of the growth that this accounts for is happening outside Europe. The entire continent is lagging behind this revolution, which is why Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel recently declared “Industry 4.0” a top priority.

“One of the main reasons for this is the fact that traditional companies are finding it hard to reduce the distance between customers and companies and to promote closer partnerships. Today’s informed and networked customers want genuine dialogue that is prompt and individual. Seeing this as more than just an obligation or a burden can open up entirely new growth opportunities and business models”, as Kai Hattendorf explains. As head of Messe Frankfurt’s Digital Business division, Mr Hattendorf is very familiar with this subject and actively promotes measures to this effect within the company. “Customers are increasingly demanding fast high-quality digital solutions and services, and therefore trade fair organizers have to upgrade the digital infrastructures and technologies of their premises, halls and convention centers on an ongoing basis. Digital products and services in the event environment have become a necessity.”

Companies have to develop a clear digital vision. What is to be achieved? How can projects be quickly set up and implemented? According to facebook pioneer Mark Zuckerberg, “better done than perfect”. It is important to do, to learn and to produce sustainable results in the end. “Time and speed to play a very, very big role here.”

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