The first day of Efecte’s virtual event ‘Digitalize and Automate’ has just come to a close, and what a day it has been! More than 1000 people from 20+ countries registered to hear our five speakers deliver their vision for a future of business where efficiency, digitalization, and powerful human interaction are in focus. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key points that were delivered throughout the day, and what the most important takeaways were.
Reidar Wasenius, Chief Creative Officer at Breaks Finland, served as event moderator for the event. He offered an impactful opening statement that set the tone for the day, touching on how we are all operating in a world on the threshold of an ever-changing landscape. The challenge is to adopt technology while still remaining distinctly human.
Efecte CEO Niilo Fredrikson took on from there, framing the day with an introduction where he highlighted, in no uncertain terms, how Europe has dramatically fallen behind in the race for digital growth. Now it’s time to wake up and start taking action.
“It’s time we change the picture and accelerate the pace of digitalization and automation to stay in the global race as one of the leading continents in the world,” Niilo explained. “We need to create sustainable prosperity and growth for generations to come, and the way to do that is by leveraging existing platforms and working smarter together.”
In a powerful graphic, Niilo illustrated how Europe lags significantly behind in the global tech race. Europe only represents 3% of the top 100 technology platforms of all time. In contrast, the US stands for 68% and the Asia Pacific for 27%. However, this isn’t about creating a ‘them vs us’ scenario but rather about creating balance. We need to come together to digitalize and automate Europe, to create a more powerful force in the world of digital platforms.
Risto Siilasmaa, founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of F‐Secure Corporation, explored what it takes to succeed and enable growth in ‘the era of re-building’. In his session, Risto discussed the importance of understanding what is happening today, and what we can learn about the future from past developments.
“Technology has crept into our lives,” he explained. "The speed of change, in particular the speed of technology dispersion, is increasing at breakneck speed. And this exponentiality is what we’re all struggling to understand.” Risto used the powerful analogy of sitting in a sports stadium that is filling up with water. Sitting on the top level with a pair of binoculars, we could watch a water hose leaking on the ground, one drop at a time. If the number of drops doubles every minute, how long does it take before the stadium is full? The guesses from the audience ranged from a few minutes to a couple of weeks. The answer is a mind-boggling 45 minutes – which is difficult to grasp. “Anyone watching this water hose for 45 minutes should know what’s coming next,” Risto argued. “Still, many of us don’t grasp that we’re about to be underwater. That’s the power of exponential growth.”
So – how do we apply what we already know, in order to understand the future? We can often misinterpret what we do know, which can lead to a misapplication of our efforts. “Never has it been more likely to have wrong assumptions,” Risto explained. “With so many complex and inherently unpredictable things, we can so easily get it all wrong. It has never been more toxic to have one, single plan.”
As we’re facing things like pandemics, brewing cold wars, and climate crises, uncertainties are all around us. The solution is to always plan with the help of scenarios and preparing a number of corresponding plans that will help to take us from today to tomorrow. Organizations that are focused on innovation will constantly find opportunities to experiment and discover new solutions.
Marika Auramo, Managing Director SAP Nordic and the Baltic Region, joined the conference remotely – in the true spirit of connectivity – delivering her session on software Innovation as a growth driver in Europe.
When it comes to the AI economy, a new rulebook is being written. Rather than relying on traditional business models and technology structures, AI is now running the show across a number of industries. Once companies start working without the operational constraints that limit traditional businesses, they can compete on a much larger scale. It transforms the role of competition, as it extends beyond tech firms into companies in more traditional industries. We need to understand the evolutional impact AI has on the competitive landscape.
“Have you ever asked yourself why a vast majority of technology giants are either American or Asian, and not European? Is it a question of resources?” Marika pondered. One point that she emphasized was the role of culture in the enterprise. “Culture is critical, and change starts from the top. Often what prevents bigger companies from accelerating their innovation, is the internal stumbling blocks related to culture. The boundaries and silos we have in place are what are hindering us from driving innovation. So to make the business highly competitive, an organization needs to create an innovative culture from the very top leadership level.”
Marika believes that one of the biggest barriers in Europe is one such cultural matter – namely our own mindset. We are mature, balanced, and well educated, but that is also our Achilles’ heel. “For the typical European, everything needs to be perfect. But imperfection is in fact the key to innovation. We need to move the needle when it comes to risk aversion. We should take time to reflect, and plan for the longer term and not just the next two quarters.”
So, what are the triggers for change? Marika discussed the way we create next-generation business platforms. “The powerful future enterprise is the one that truly uses data as a strategic asset,” she said. “The rise of the intelligent enterprise happens when we create products, services, and processes that improve automatically over time and as people use them, making business inherently sustainable.”
Marika strongly believes that Europe can grow into a technology power player and a leader in disruption. We are already seeing hubs for new innovations that have the potential to grow into technology unicorns. “The greatest responsibility of a leader is to increase the innovation capacity of their organization,” Marika summed up. “We all need to take some time to consider what our own role is in the intelligent economy, and take steps to facilitate and accelerate innovation.”
As a midway point to the day, Reidar hosted a panel discussion with Janne Aaltonen, Brigitte Falk, Niilo Fredrikson, and Risto Siilasmaa. The panel discussed ways in which businesses can leverage people, innovation, and technologies to succeed in Europe.
It’s clear that we need policies that support entrepreneurship and digitalization, removing any unnecessary barriers – all the way from schools and universities, to the way we operate our industries and governments. The problem is not a scarcity of good ideas, the panel discussed, but a scarcity of implementation. We need to consistently implement what we already know, while policymakers need to create simple, fundamental guidelines that change people’s perspectives on future-proofing, scaling, and investing in technology.
For decades we have seen a super-charged drive for wide-scale success in Silicon Valley, and this drive is now being mirrored in China. In contrast, Europe has become somewhat complacent. We tend to feel like we’re doing fine, on a prosperity level, but with the state the world is in today, we should not feel that the current situation is OK to hand over to the next generation.
In summary, this moment is in our hands. As we see a David and Goliath scenario play out, the panel agreed we can learn from the rest of the world while still growing the European technology market to a powerful international force to be reckoned with.
Janne Aaltonen, CEO of ICT ELMO Oy, discussed the importance of human-to-human interaction in a digital environment. He was able to showcase three significant case studies that illustrate the strength of human partnerships and how this drives solutions that are truly customer-centric.
IT outsourcing is more of an opportunity than a problem, which is something Janne hopes the industry overall will recognize and adapt to. Historically, IT was a commodity providing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ service. But obviously, not all customers are the same. Companies need different solutions, which causes tensions and problems when something doesn’t fit. “Our first priority is to serve the customer, not the machines,” Janne explained. “Processes and systems are important, but they are just the means to fulfill the customer needs. That’s why we need to bring in a people-centric culture, creating more autonomy throughout our organizations. Decisions should be made where the knowledge sits.”
As an alternative to the classic, fixed customer-supplier relationship, Janne calls for a different approach, an alliance model, where there is an openness and a true partnership between the two. This lets the customer form a team with representatives from both sides. They then work together to define a common problem, identify targets, and share the benefits. Decisions are made through an alliance management team of customers as well as supplier representatives. Contracts are fully transparent, sharing open and visible supplier margins, risk margins, and costs.
“The Alliance model calls for exceptional courage from both customer and supplier,” Janne concluded. “It takes effort. It requires entrepreneurship, collaboration, and skill. But most importantly, it is absolutely worth it.”
Brigitte Falk, CIO of the year in Germany (2018 and 2019), opened her session with a bold question: “What was your worst ever experience with a digitalization project?” Several people in the audience admitted to having had terrible experiences, and they are in good company. According to some sources, 70% of all digitalization projects fail. But the question is – why do we fail?
Brigitte has identified a number of factors that cause the failure of digitalization projects. These included issues such as a strategy design that doesn’t relate to the true reality of the business function, half-hearted agility initiatives that don’t deliver the benefits of being truly agile, and working in business silos where systems are left unused as they are not fit for purpose.
So, how do we make it better? “Start by empowering your employees,” Brigitte explained. “Ask them what they want to do for the business. Where do they want to go? And how can you leverage their capabilities, beyond formal education and traditional skillsets?”
The next step is to engage your customers. Consider how well you understand their genuine needs. Get to know their strengths, and collaborate with them to find better and smarter solutions. Once that’s in place, you can optimize your business, the way you operate, and the products you deliver.
“Successful disruption happens when you know what makes your customers happy,” Brigitte suggested. “Delivering what people genuinely want, and are willing to pay for, sets you apart. Netflix is a great example of this, as they actively opt-out of selling advertising just to make more money because they know their customers don’t want that. Netflix customers would shift to smaller competitors who do not use advertising. Customer satisfaction is a key to disruptive service delivery.”
In a disruptive future, Brigitte predicts we will see a number of key strategic players in Europe. These will be transformers who lead digital efforts through major innovation, advocates who experiment and promote new digital concepts, leaders who empower and inspire their teams, and risk-takers who dare to leave their comfort zone. Faith in people, rather than faith in technology, is what drives genuine, disruptive change.
In the closing statement of the day, Niilo Fredrikson took to the stage once more. This time he highlighted how Efecte serves customers and partners on their digitalization journey, making businesses more agile and enabling them to improve the experience while lowering costs.
Niilo also offered a sneak preview of the first AI-enabled features in Efecte, which offer users a range of AI-driven coaching sequences to guide the user to smarter, faster resolutions.
This summarizing session served as the perfect segway into Day Two of the Digitalize and Automate event, which will offer a much deeper insight into the technology aspect of how to innovate to grow Europe’s footprint on the international stage.
We look forward to seeing you for another exciting day of content!
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