How do we want and need to digitize, transform and further develop our business model? Which stages in our value chain do we need to pay particular attention to? Where do we need to become even more efficient, automated, leaner, more focused? How do we retain and develop our best employees, attract young talents and build the necessary technological knowledge? And above all: how do we effectively contribute to social cohesion and compliance with global climate goals as a company?
The digital decade brings with it opportunities and threats
Addressing these questions swiftly is imperative simply because an abundance of new technologies is flooding our economy and society – coupled with a wide range of opportunities and threats to processes, business models and market positions. To ensure that these changes do not cause structural disadvantages and economic change, the European Union has announced the ‘digital decade’ for the 2020s.
The program also formulates ambitious goals for the digital transformation of our native economy. It is high time for that – the very fact that the EU gives digitization such a high priority in this program should make everyone realize how urgent it is for digitization not to be a fashionable trend, but a comprehensive transformation to achieve results. But how do we achieve these and other digital goals in our businesses? And how can our German economic landscape not only contribute to the digital transformation, but also pioneer, take responsibility and even become a technology leader?
Insight into digital engine rooms
I answer these questions together with 21 pioneers and directors from the German economy in my recently published book “The Digital Decade – How We Can Change Our Economy”. The book provides information on digital engine rooms from various industries and our companies. Readers will find out how, thanks to its digital steering, the freight train moves between a car plant in Bavaria and a steel producer in Austria in highly efficient road traffic. You will learn exactly how the analysis of relevant data protects us from a heart attack. And you’ll be amazed to see what the potholes in the road have to do with bad hotels.
It quickly becomes clear that we no longer have a knowledge problem when it comes to digitization – especially from the turbulence caused by the crown pandemic in our economic landscape and our working lives. The pressure on digitization is high, an urgent need has been recognized. We are all more or less deeply involved in implementing, learning and testing. In short, this is good news: the digital awakening seems to have been accomplished.
Technology changes your thinking
And: In the 1920s, technology will stimulate entrepreneurship, but also socio-political thinking and action, like rarely ever. And it has an almost transformative power. Thanks to digital tools, we can reduce the currently projected CO2 emissions in our country for 2030 by almost a half. Technology can help us detect emerging diseases so early, before symptoms even develop.
In short: technology has undisputed potential to fundamentally change the established position in virtually all sectors, accelerate the slowdown, push the boundaries, turn the unthinkable into the achievable. While these potentials are well known, many have yet to be fully exploited. Our companies are struggling with digitization, but not all of them at full speed and with the deepest conviction.
Focused change needed
We see something similar on the consumer side: most people in our country use technology, while others are more or less enthusiastic about it. However, almost a third of Germans still do not use online offers in the fields of health, administration, education or work. And one in four feels left behind by digitization.
So technology is by no means equally accepted by everyone. Therefore, our transformation efforts must be inclusive and responsible in order to take everyone with us. This is one of the reasons why the topic of digital literacy is a red thread in 21 book inserts. This leads to the realization that there is an urgent need for digital education. We need to invest much more, and this has to start in our schools.
Too often, technology is still understood to compete with and perhaps even outperform people one day. In fact, however, human leadership is even more important in the digital world. It’s about having faith in people. We created digital tools and we need to design them, use them appropriately and develop them further in a targeted manner.
The insights I gained while working on the book convinced me that companies in Germany and Europe meet the requirements for managing their own and the entire digital transformation. But: Digital change can only happen together – and that’s what makes it so difficult at the same time. This applies not only to various entities within the economy, but also beyond it.