Question: Many traditional companies, despite trying to go digital, end up as corporate dinosaurs. Why?
Alexandra Jankovich: “It all comes down to whether the CEO acts as a change leader or not. Digital exposes CEOs to three new challenges at the same time. Number one: Game-changing new technologies that imply big shifts in the business model and hence big risks. Number two: There is a need for big investments with long-term pay-offs. Number three: No proven, standard industry metrics to follow. Managers are tempted to hand over the problem to someone else to fix. As a result, companies are spending hundreds of millions on new tech that doesn’t work and often paying someone else to fix it, which never works.
Question: What about traditional firms that ‘incubate’ or acquire digital start-ups? Isn’t such a combination ideal as they can learn from each other?
Alexandra Jankovich: “In the best cases, yes. In the worst, you have two companies – a start-up and a giant – speaking different languages. The result: the start-up dies and the traditional company doesn’t change. The lesson is, you can’t become digital just by buying a start-up. The acquisition is only the beginning.”
Question: Do the ‘best practices’ you recommend apply to all sectors?
Alexandra Jankovich: “There are fundamental principles that we see playing out in all sectors. For example, digital is never just about the technology. It’s about improving things for customers. Also, transformation is always 80% people and only 20% tech. That is where the complexity lies. Things like software choices vary from sector to sector, but those are details.”
Question: What role does IT play nowadays in digital transformation?
Alexandra Jankovich: “IT plays a very important role as it provides the technical solutions. If you delegate transformation to the IT department – or worse still, to external consultants – it is doomed to fail. Successful companies therefore take a holistic and function-transcending approach to digital, with all departments collaborating and with IT embedded at the core.
SparkOptimus is a leading European digital strategy consultancy developing digital strategies and guiding digital transformations at companies such as eBay, Nike, Unilever, Henkel, Nestlé and Heineken: https://www.sparkoptimus.com/