Cebit.de: Many German companies view the process of digital transformation with a strong degree of skepticism. Should they be worried about missing the boat if they don’t begin implementing it soon?
Moussavi-Amin: It's still not too late, but they should consider themselves warned. In emerging industrial nations like China, many companies have already gained a considerable advantage.
What is at stake with digital transformation?
It's important to make sure that the individual processes are customized to meet the needs of each company. This makes it difficult to suggest any concrete procedures. There is no patent remedy. You can't purchase ideas the same way you'd buy a software package. The transformation has to develop from within the company. In contrast to technological projects, digital transformation aims to change the corporate culture.
What is the first step a company can take?
First of all, companies should persuade their employees of the benefits that digital transformation will bring. After all, it will have a significant impact on company processes and the employees have to be ready for it. The transformation will not be successful unless it is carried out by motivated staff members.
Does it make sense to follow the lead of companies that have already successfully digitalized their processes?
I think that will be difficult because there are few examples to learn from. As a result, the willingness to take risks is an important factor in the digital transformation. The company needs to know its own risk culture and expectations. What is possible for a company depends on whether or not it sits and waits to see what will happen or chooses to assume a leading role. A risk evaluation has to be performed at the beginning. The question is: What costs and risks will there be if a project fails.
What is important for this evaluation?
Digital transformation means using technology to change the business model. All the IT solutions are already there; they simply have to be geared towards reaching the desired goals. This requires in-depth knowledge from the point of view of the business and IT.
Does digital transformation have to take place all at once in all the various corporate divisions?
It's important to begin with the main arenas. What stands at the very beginning of the process of digital transformation is the entire element of "customer experience". That’s where you need to start.
What does a company need to pay attention to?
Customers use digital technologies in private and business contexts. As a result, they have certain expectations. For example: when I get in touch with a company and we get off to a bumpy start because the website is poorly designed or the call center is difficult to reach, that's not a good calling card and does little to encourage customer loyalty.
Is it easier for larger companies to undergo a process of digital transformation because of their greater capacities?
I wouldn't say so. These companies have more staff which they need to motivate and and more complex processes which they need to map digitally. Smaller companies have an advantage because they can react more quickly and are able to change their business models more easily.
So that means that smaller companies can go digital more quickly?
Exactly. At the moment, small companies can still exploit this advantage. In digital transformation, it’s less about the capacities you have available than about your willingness to take risks. The risks for smaller companies are far fewer than for larger ones. The lack of agility in larger companies means one false step can destroy several months of work that has already been done. In smaller companies, everything moves faster.
Do companies have a future without digital transformation?
In this case, the question is not: 'Does our company need the digital transformation or not?' It's rather: 'When will it be too late?'