CorporateJuly 09, 2019

The digital frontrunners: What happens after digital transformation?

According to the recently published FD Transformers 200, an annual study on leading digital transformers in the Dutch business landscape, digitization has entered a new phase.

In the article, an Innovation Manager at the Dutch multinational HR company Randstad says digital transformation is just the beginning of a genuine revolution led by algorithms. Another executive confesses: “retaining the right people for digitization is an ongoing concern.”

On a fundamental level, digital transformation entails optimizing an organization’s strategy and functions using digital technologies. However, the research studying Dutch digital frontrunners by Vlerick Business School and Het Financieele Dagblad, a leading Dutch financial paper, revealed companies are facing fundamental questions about their business model, ethics, and challenges related to talent development.

In 2019, Wolters Kluwer was once again selected a “digital transformer”, one of the leading Dutch companies that score highly in all aspects of their business operations. According to the FD Transformers 200 study, Dutch organizations have been on the right track in their cut-throat race with digital competitors. They have set up experimental labs, acquired start-ups, involved customers in their innovations, and started becoming more agile. What was also observed in the findings is the fact that frontrunners are pivoting to the next iteration of digitization, namely adapting digital technologies to incorporate and meet privacy concerns, while ensuring a consistent talent pipeline.

Earlier in 2019, Het Financieele Dagblad interviewed CEO Nancy McKinstry and asked about the origins of Wolters Kluwer’s digital transformation, “I really wanted to get the company going because I felt we were at a crossroads. If we didn’t digitize, the company wouldn’t be able to survive. I was honored to be asked [to be CEO] but I also felt that I had a duty to take on the role.”

“Successful pilots and experiments were initially sufficient for companies to be among the forerunners. But now they must implement their digital approach throughout the entire company. Otherwise, there is no real impact on business performance … it may also be possible that participants in the study are becoming increasingly self-critical [in their self-evaluation],” says Stijn Viaene, Professor of Digital Transformation at the Vlerick Business School in Belgium.

The Vlerick researchers have a specific method for determining who is at the forefront. These are the companies that score high on all fronts simultaneously: management and strategy, technology and talent, business processes, and corporate culture. The digital leaders self-evaluate how their company is performing in a survey. The Vlerick team then determines the leaders whose results are similar.

Why companies are digitizing

The FD Transformers study among 52 large Dutch companies shows that the motives for digitization vary widely.

  • 84% answered: because of changes in customer expectations
  • 55% answered: because other companies in their sector also do it
  • 53% answered: because companies outside their sector are working on it
  • 42% answered: because of the emergence of start-ups
  • 40% answered: because they are influenced by tech companies, such as Google and Amazon
  • 21% answered: because of new legislation

This coverage originally appeared in Het Financieele Dagblad on June 21, 2019 (Dutch/Paywall).

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