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Digital Transformation

The ‘barbarians’ of digital technology do not respect the established models of business.

By Stanislas de Bentzmann, Co-President & CEO Devoteam, 29th September 2015

Whatever the sector, companies are facing new entrants equipped with innovative technologies and business models that put them in a dangerous position. Stanislas de Bentzmann, Devoteam’s co-President, explains why the digital revolution is indeed a ‘Digital Battle’ and summons companies to get into gear.

‘Uberisation’. The term is currently fashionable, but it describes perfectly the steamroller that is crushing our present economy. Paradoxically, this phenomenon began years ago, in fact, with the web challenging the established press on its own turf at the beginning of the new century. It was then music’s turn, followed by the post and the taxis. What about companies in other fields tomorrow, your suppliers, your clients? Every sector is seeing its traditional practices and business models overturned.

However, digital technology is not a barrier, even for the most traditional of sectors. Thus there are three times as many robots in Germany’s industry than in France’s, where we have half as many people employed in industry. This may seem counter-intuitive, but robotisation is a strength that enables the industry to be more competitive and leads to concrete, proactive reindustrialisation. Everyone can feel the effects of this transformation forced by digital technology. So why talk of a ‘Digital Battle’?

Avoiding a war of attrition

The ‘barbarians’ of digital technology do not respect the established models of business.

A characteristic of digital technology is to make room for new arrivals. These ‘barbarians’, as we have become accustomed to calling them, do not respect established models, and one of the points they have in common is to break traditional incomes for the good of the client – be they a consumer or professional – often to the detriment of one or several intermediaries in the value chain. There are many examples in the media spotlight: Uber, Airbnb, etc. Established companies must therefore put up a fight and not forget that triumphing in terms of user experience will make them win the endgame. And at this game the barbarians are often a step ahead. The Digital Battle can therefore not be a war of attrition. A company must commit to it and aim to become the leader in its field.

The three weapons needed to fight this war are well known:

• adapt to the empowerment of end-users;
• take advantage of the disappearance of low added-value intermediaries in its field: removing intermediaries creates a direct link between producer and consumer, whatever the product or offered service; and
• take advantage of the eradication of distance.

Tomorrow’s digital platforms, which are already active today, put a multitude of users in direct contact with products and services, free from restrictions of distance, time, volume and other constraints. In the Digital Battle, the barbarians have exempted themselves from past constraints: they have kicked out the less necessary intermediary investments and have gone straight to the point. This is how UberX argued last April with the State of Geneva that it didn’t possess any vehicles and that it simply put passengers and drivers in contact with each other, unlike a traditional transport company.

When historical strengths become weaknesses

For a traditional company, with a virtually guaranteed income, the lesson is a harsh one: its main assets (distribution network, R&D centres, etc.) are no longer a strength. They can even become a liability. The company therefore needs to undergo an internal upheaval process, rather than simply suffer the consequences, and re-organise itself to set aside outdated elements and to focus on the necessary tools to face the challenges of tomorrow.
What weapons does a transforming company have in this combat? Weapons that allow it to make choices, to render the often-complex logic of the digital world more intuitive. Weapons that also enable it to equip itself with the necessary tools. Not just in software or devices, but also in method, new types of management and processes so that change is not synonymous with upset and pain for employees, but flexibility, compliance and collective intelligence.

Theoretical disruption, operational reality

The beginning of the 21st century showed us an ersatz of what we are witnessing today. The still-ineffective technologies were not able to spawn the development of many new applications. In 15 years we have made progress like never before. Today these new applications are quickly adopted and inspire rapid and agile technological development, which create new and innovative applications in the span of a few months.

There are several steps a manager can follow to embark on this war:

• first of all, by an awareness of these new realities by the top management, essential to lead and inspire its troops;
• next, by an analysis of its market situation. Where are the barbarians? Where could they come from? What action should be taken?;
• finally, an entrepreneurial choice that, depending on the situation, will be more defensive or offensive, including going into start-up mode or creating the company’s own internal start-ups, for example.

This theoretical upheaval needs nevertheless to be put into practice, by equipping a company’s processes with the necessary tools. Meaning both guiding the changes to be made and finely understanding the infrastructures that will enable this change to be brought about. These infrastructures are no longer only internally oriented; they have become the client-oriented tools of the sales department, raising the level of requirements both in terms of applications and of security. Data centres, networks, security, managed services and Cloud remain the ongoing technology of this transformation of business models: we must make the most of them. These are the weapons that will enable managers to establish a winning strategy in this Digital Battle. In this fight the manager will not be alone; he will be able to rely on the technological and organisational expertise of specialists, who can trace their roots back a long way in these fields. But to take full advantage, the manager should also make entrepreneurial choices, give impetus to the process and, above all, lead his employees from the front in order to win this war.


About Devoteam

Present in 20 countries with 3,600 professionals working at the forefront of digital systems, Devoteam is expert in the application of technology to improve business and service performance.

Drawing on Industry partnerships with leading technology vendors such as BMC, CA, Google and ServiceNow, we help organisations transform their IT infrastructure to meet the challenges of the digital age. Our 700+ consultants deliver innovative cloud-based solutions that power the service-oriented enterprise.

At Devoteam, we make digital transformation happen.


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