"Anything that can be digitized will be digitized. And everything that can be connected will be connected. This applies equally to people, machines and products" - this quote from Timotheus Höttges, Chairman of the Board of Management of Deutsche Telekom AG, makes it clear where this development is heading to.
For companies, digitization is not an end in itself. It is always a means to an end. It serves to better implement the corporate strategy and to make necessary investments in a more targeted manner. Ultimately, the aim is to make companies sustainable and competitive.
From the company's point of view, digitization is therefore a company program from the outset that needs to be designed appropriately for the entire company and its specific needs.
This poses the core question for every company:
"In concrete terms, what does it mean for us to shape the transformation to a digitalized company and what is the best way to proceed?"
As a result, there is a need for discussion and clarification, particularly on the following issues:
- Which corporate elements (processes, organization, employees, IT landscape, etc.) are affected by transformation and are subject of the change task?
- What dependencies exist between the various elements of the company and what does this mean for the concrete procedure?
- How "digital" should the company and its components actually become?
- How do you "digitize" which corporate element and which sub-steps are necessary for each of those elements?
- What conditions must be met for the company to become "digital" at all?
The further the topic is advanced, the more urgent it becomes to answer these questions and to make clear that:
A systematic and pragmatic approach is needed!
The required procedure should ensure that all essential aspects, topics, methods, instruments, sequences of steps and necessary expertise are thought through and integrated from the very beginning. In particular, the close interaction of business and IT staff is a key success factor.
The approach therefore needs an overarching, sustainable frame. This frame is provided by a company-specific digitization strategy that fulfils four functions:
1. "Digitization strategy as an orientation frame“
The digitization strategy offers orientation for all participants and each individual employee on the transformation journey of the company. It is an important element of information to be able to walk the path together and master challenges.
The first step is to develop the digitization strategy specifically for the company. In addition to all positive aspects, potential "critical aspects", such as appropriate handling of effects on the company's structural and process organization, must be included in the discussion and debate.
Of course, the digitization strategy should also integrate topics such as automation, cloud strategy, agility and IT strategy - up to now often the exclusive domain of IT departments - as essential design factors or design areas.
The management of the company should communicate the confirmed digitization strategy appropriately throughout the company before its implementation.
2. Digitization strategy as cornerstone and direction sign“
The confirmed digitization strategy forms the cornerstone and points the way for the concrete digital transformation of the company and its value creation areas. It answers all fundamental questions in terms of "What and to what extent, when, where and with what priority" digitization should be done? It thus defines the specific foundations and the path of the company through the digital transformation for all those involved and affected.
3. "Digitization strategy as operationalization aid”
The steps necessary for preparation and implementation can be derived and broken down from the digitization strategy so that a systematic approach can be ensured.
For example, the digitization strategy will specify which elements of a company (e.g. selected processes) have to be digitized, to what extent and with what priority. This information then determines the program and individual project plans required for operationalization.
4. "Digitization strategy as a feedback instrument“
At the beginning, the transformation usually focuses on realizable changes. This means that the implementation process is initially "evolutionary" and all those involved go through a learning curve. It is therefore important to regularly check whether you are still on the "right" path.
The digitization strategy provides the necessary feedback instrument against which the implementation can be checked to ensure proper orientation.
Digitization can also lead to completely new business ideas and initiatives. For disruptive changes of this kind, the digitization strategy is also the feedback element, as these new approaches should be outlined in the strategy development phase.