Study on Digitalization among “Hidden Champions"
Hidden champions, the world's secret market leaders, are challenged by digitalization. Their transformation cannot be taken for granted. In an interview with ComputerwocheTV, Bianca Schmitz and Prof. Dr. Johannes Habel of the Hidden Champions Institute at ESMT Berlin discuss which strategies lead to success.
Interviewer, ComputerwocheTV: According to our study, corporations see themselves as somewhat further along in the transformation process than hidden champions. To what extent does this agree with your experience?
Bianca Schmitz: This is probably mainly due to the fact that hidden champions tend to think and act in a long-term manner and, unlike very large corporations, do not have to act solely based on the capital market. In other words, they can allow themselves to think things through a second time before falling into a kind of digitalization mania.
Interviewer: Nevertheless, a digitalization strategy seem to be an important point even for hidden champions.
Prof. Dr. Johannes Habel: Definitely. We asked in the study, “What was the biggest mistake in the digital transformation so far?” One thing that was repeatedly mentioned was “too many individual projects and not an overarching strategy." In other words, the strategy actually seems to be a very important point in the digital transformation effort.
ComputerwocheTV: What unites all companies, regardless of size, is the aspect of the most important key technology for the digitalization process: analytics.
Habel: That is how we perceive it when we talk to companies. Ultimately, the fascination of analytics comes from the fact that it objectifies gut decisions, which still largely prevail in management. At the same time, analytics is the prerequisite of many other technologies in the context of digital transformation. For example, if I want to automate, I also need a good database, based on good analytics.
ComputerwocheTV: Technology is one thing; the other is the human component. How do hidden champions find qualified professionals and further develop their skills?
Schmitz: Hidden champions are extremely imaginative. Of course, they still recruit via universities and technical colleges. Festo with its Bionic Learning Network is a fantastic example. But they also go into so-called "Digi-Hubs," where they can exchange ideas with entrepreneurs, where a platform is formed. And what we have been seeing increasingly in recent years is that hidden champions are leaving the very rural areas and taking parts of their business to larger cities. For example, Berner went to Cologne; but also companies such as Viessmann, Kloeckner with Kloeckner-i, and Claas with 365FarmNet consciously moved into Berlin to expand their business and to gain fresh digital talent who can support them in doing so.
Original video published in German by ComputerwocheTV on October 29, 2018.