German companies need to greatly increase the speed at which they are advancing their digital transformations. This was the finding of a recent study conducted by the market research and consulting firm Lünendonk on the digital maturity of leading industries.
“Digitalisieren Sie schon?” is a benchmark for the digital agenda, which was prepared together by Lufthansa Industry Solutions and Dr. Peter Buxmann, a professor from the department of Business Informatics at TU Darmstadt. The objective of the study was to find out how large companies are gearing their corporate strategies, organizational structures and IT processes toward meeting the demands of the digital transformation. A maturity model was developed for analyzing the results in order to rank the companies according to the progress they had made with their digital transformations based on some key issues.
Digital transformation is an issue that is dealt with by senior management. The 103 participants surveyed in the study – who come from the mechanical and process plant engineering, automotive (OEM and suppliers), and logistics and transport industries – were therefore aware that digitalization harbors just as many challenges as opportunities. In many cases, first steps still need to be taken to lay the foundations.
In order to keep pace with global competition and meet the ever-changing needs of customers, companies need to either evolve or disruptively develop their own business, which includes processes and supporting IT structures. To ensure the success of such undertakings, companies have to lay the foundations in five key areas of action.
The individual areas of action
1. Digital corporate culture
A change in communication culture is needed to ensure that the ideas being shaped by collaboration and connectivity bear fruit. This requires a digital corporate culture that provides the basis for the success of the digitalization process. Starting with corporate management, in the long run, this culture needs to take root in the minds of the entire staff – from sales to customer service. The combination of technological expertise and an entrepreneurial mindset will provide companies with new opportunities to generate added value and to optimize processes in the value chain.
2. Agile methods and DevOps
Growing customer expectations also mean an increase in how frequently new demands are being placed on products and services. Combining agile methods, such as scrum, DevOps and test automation, is a great way to ensure that departments are able to contribute new ideas every day, which IT teams can then implement immediately. Both start-ups and established companies with digital business models rely on DevOps, which is the close collaboration between project development and IT operations. The development team is responsible for the use of applications in operations and for troubleshooting. To avoid costly, time-consuming regression tests and to significantly speed up the troubleshooting process, this principle is usually paired with the systematic automation of testing and fully automated deployment.
3. A data-driven mindset
To ensure that companies are able to automate their processes to the greatest possible extent, they need to adopt a data-driven mindset. This is why they should make sure that the quality of their data is consistently high and that they introduce company-wide managements system for master data, which is where tools like mater data management come in handy. The twofold aim in the new application field of smart data analytics is to establish a smart data infrastructure as extensively as possible across the company and to set up a data lab. The first step could be equipping products with sensors for transferring data. This ensures that manufacturers are informed at all times of the status of their products at the customer’s location and are able to respond quickly if necessary.
4. A modern IT infrastructure
Digitalization can only be tackled on the basis of a modern infrastructure that has been virtualized, standardized and homogenized. This means that IT needs to have an integrated, uniformly implemented application performance management (APM) system, as well as a security management system. This combination provides the flexibility necessary for digitalization programs. It also guarantees that the application landscape can be operated securely while performing reliably. Furthermore, only an overarching architecture management setup – which also includes the applications and the standardization of the software tools used – can ensure the survival of the overall IT architecture in the long term.
5. Real-time services
Part of doing digital business is making business services available in real time and around the clock. This increases customer satisfaction and ultimately a company’s success. By applying the service-oriented architecture (SOA) principle, it is possible to clearly structure and orchestrate enterprise IT services. The core element is an enterprise service bus that integrates these services. Having an SOA in place means that companies only have to provide business services once and can then use them in various applications.
These five aspects form the foundation for consistently implementing the digitalization process with long-term success. Since companies are unable to deal with all areas at once, they should focus on the architecture-related tasks and specific business projects as part of a strategically planned digitalization program. By doing so, companies will be able to keep growing successfully in the future as well.
Download the study on digital maturity
Study: "Digitalisieren Sie schon? – Ein Benchmark für die digitale Agenda". Download the study here (in German).