Digital Strategy: Contemplating Holistically The Future Of Medium-Sized Businesses

interview with Christian Jacob, Head of Marketing at EFAFLEX

interview with Christian Jacob, Head of Marketing at EFAFLEX

“Latecomers in matters of digitization”: This is how more than every second Managing Director or board member in Germany rated his company in January, as a representative survey by the Bitkom industry association illustrates. In order to operate during the Coronavirus pandemic, many of them had to digitize processes literally overnight - without a clear strategy, without clear measures, without clearly defined tasks. The result: the majority of these adhoc solutions have had to be re-established now that an adapted day-to-daybusiness is once again possible. How can this succeed in the long term, what do you have to consider? Christian Jacob, Head of Marketing at high-speed door manufacturer EFAFLEX, reports during an interview on what it takes to implement digital change not only in one's own, but also in the customer's company.

Mr. Jacob, you deal strategically with digitization in medium-sized companies and have developed a model with which you can view the topic holistically. What's behind it?

Many companies only deal with the obvious technical aspect of digitization. However, this focus falls far too short; an efficient and sustainable strategy cannot be built solely on this. Digital transformation is far more complex because it affects different dimensions. It is important to look at this first, to bring the findings together and to derive actions from them. Only those who proceed methodically, farsighted and, above all, holistically can take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization without failing because of the challenges.

Which dimensions of digitization have you defined?

A total of four pieces: The first covers the social and technological developments related to digitization globally. What happens there cannot be directly influenced by an individual or company. Therefore, in dimension one, the first thing is to gradually define the are as that are relevant to your own company. As a result, it is important to stay up to date on these and to derive future behaviour of the target groups from the findings, for example on new digital approaches. A similar observational analytical view is recommended for dimension number two: the customer and his current status in the digital transformation. What degree of digital maturity is it at? Entrepreneurs should pay particular attention to the processes that affect the customer's business. You can, yes, you should ask all of your target groups directly. These first two dimensions are subject to a passive design. They belong in the “watch and listen” category.

How are these two dimensions passive?

To the extent that one does not yet get into targeted action, but rather creates the basis for it in advance on existing facts. First of all, it is a matter of systematically observing, selecting information and deriving initial conclusions for an expansion of action. The entrepreneur takes on an active creative role in dimensions number three and four. The third includes process digitization with the aim of optimizing existing processes in your own company. Internal processes play a role on the one hand, and external processes on the other – these are all those who influence their own business on thepart of customers and other business partners. Finally, there is dimension number four, product digitization. In the B2B area in particular, it is extremely important to find points of contact in this regard. The aim should be to determine which digital developments are sensible and feasible in your own company, and then to start implementing them. Either with internal capacity orwith external help, i.e. purchased services.

In your opinion, what is the most important quality for a company to use these four dimensions to improve its digital strategy?

 

On the one hand, the ability to abstract and the ability to change perspective: Every entrepreneur must be aware that possible digital developments in their own business cannot be transferred one-to-one to those of their counterparts. And that not every technological development that takes up space on a social level is also relevant for our own internal processes. On the other hand, you need analytical competence with regard to the first two dimensions, which I described earlier. The deeper the insights into this overarching social transformation and the greater the understanding of the consequences of it in your own company and in that of the customer, the more specifically you can define instructions for yourself. They focus on both your own digital strategy and that of the customer. In principle it is quite banal: you have to look carefully, listen and understand. Then it becomes clear where to start and in what form.

To what extent do you use these findings at EFAFLEX for a sustainable digital strategy?

We see digitization as an opportunity. That is why we strive to identify potential and drive innovation - not detached from our business partners, but always in dialogue with them. In order to understand and serve the needs of our customers, we define precisely which digital development phase they are in and which interfaces result from this with our processes. From this we forecast future scenarios, on the basis of which we develop digital solutions with added value for our customers.

What advantages do you generate for your customers with this?

All developments are intended to simplify processes and increase efficiency in everyday work. That goes without saying. As part of our digital strategy, we integrate our systems into the customer's work processes so that they can expand their competitive advantages. But what we attach just as much importance to is minimizing digital barriers and removing possible hurdles in cooperation.

How does your digital strategy actually affect your day-to-day business?

We try to react regarding all relevant changes related to digitization. Let's take a look at the construction industry, for example. The digital change there is currently benefiting greatly from a disruptive technology: Building Information Modeling, or BIM for short. With this approach, all building information relevant to planning and implementation can be represented as a virtual model. A virtual twin of the real object is created, such as an office building or a warehouse. These digital product models can be combined to form an overall project without a real groundbreaking ceremony. This is how entire districts are created virtually. This makes planning and implementation much easier. At this point, we start with our digital strategy and support BIM.

What do you mean by that?

We provide planners, engineers and architects with digital models of our doors as BIM data in various formats worldwide. In this way, we meet their changed needs, for example with a view to accelerating or optimizing processes on the customer side.

EFAFLEX is the world market leader in the manufacture of high-speed doors - but can a door even be digitized?

To put it simply, we provide the customer with goals that he can integrate into a digital network; more specifically: in his individual smart factory. Our doors can be networked with one another via the EFA SmartConnect® IoT solution. This means that many processes can be controlled and tracked via the app; maintenance planning, for example, or spare parts deliveries. In the event of a malfunction, our service technicians can be reached directly. The app also simplifies service processes. EFA SmartConnect® thus contributes to all three influence able dimensions of the digital transformation. On the one hand, of course, on product digitization, dimension four: We enrich our product with digital networking options and thus make processes faster. We have set the course for this as part of our optimization of digital processes – here we are at dimension three. Dimension two is taken into account because we design the customer's processes to be absolutely modular, based on their transformation status and digital maturity level. By turning a classic industrial product into a digital product - i.e. transferring it to Industry 4.0 – we are able to support our customers' desire for seamless integration into a smart factory.

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