This blog post was first published on our Norwegian blog and you can read the original interview here (article in Norwegian).
We have had a chat with Vidar Evensen, CEO of Visma Consulting AS, about digitalisation and how companies can start their digital transformation. Vidar has experience from digitisation projects through various roles over the past 20 years and has led Visma Consulting AS since 2011.
Explain to us briefly, what exactly is digitalisation?
— In its simplest sense, I would say that digitalisation is about supporting, simplifying and streamlining work processes with IT solutions. It’s important to understand that digitalisation is not the IT solutions per se, but that digitalisation is about using technology to eliminate and streamline manual work tasks through technology.
In an all-digital world, users or customers do not have to deal with processes, they do not have to register their data—they receive services automatically, according to their needs and consumption.
You might also be interested in reading: Øystein Moan: – We see a new level of willingness to change and adapt.
We often talk about «digital maturity». What do we mean by that?
—I often use the “digitisation ladder” when I talk about digital maturity, where the steps go from digitising the paper-based processes, via self-service, interaction, automation, to optimised and learning.
The digital maturity of a business can be determined by where you currently are in the staircase. I think that many people believe they have digitised their company when they have digitised yesterday’s solution.
And those companies have indeed come a long way, as cutting down on paper and manual processes have an absolute effect. Oftentimes, once you have started this process, it will be easier to keep on transforming the business.
So digitising yesterday’s solution is not enough?
Just digitising a process without changing, simplifying and automating the work processes is a bit like what the English call “to put lipstick on pigs”. This will not help survive, nor does it meet customers’ expectations in the long run.
To survive, you must have the ability to innovate and think in new ways. So, if you’re already in a process of streamlining and improving your competitiveness by using digital solutions, you should try to take it even further.
Also read: Work smarter with digital solutions.
It’s demanding to think completely new, or to completely or partially turn today’s business processes upside down. How should companies handle this process?
—It’s about understanding the opportunities that lie in digitalisation, seizing them—and implementing them. Ask questions such as:
- Are there any of today’s processes that can be automated, or made more efficient through the use of digital tools?
- Is it possible to enable better digital interaction with your customers through apps, online services, or perhaps social media?
- Can you create completely new services or products through technology? This could be, for example, individually tailored services, user-controlled payment for a service, car insurance based on your actual driving pattern or virtual testing of a product before you buy it.
- Do you have the opportunity to develop new markets, or start the transformation into a new business model? Think newly about how you can deliver your services and products
— Apple is a good example of a company that has made this journey of change. They first disrupted the music industry with their iPod and became the market leader in this segment. Then Apple chose to disrupt their iPod with the iPhone, and almost wipe out the market for iPods, but in return take larger market shares in several areas such as mobile phone, digital cameras, maps and navigation.
But Apple is a large organisation with lots of money. What about a medium-sized company with limited resources?
— The recipe is the same for everyone: It’s not enough to do the same as yesterday, just faster. Also, it’s not enough to simply invest in technology and digital solutions. You need the right competence within the company, which can think newly and be innovative. This is extremely important in today’s landscape.
Does this mean that most companies have to hire new people?
— Yes, or educate themselves. Looking at the Norwegian market specifically, perhaps the most important thing Norwegian companies must understand is that all companies become IT companies in some form or another.
What I mean by that is that we are moving away from IT being something that only the IT departments are working on, and lifted as a strategic important element of a company. It appears in all departments and levels of a business and is a competence area that must be spread throughout the organisation.
The IT manager must also join the top management group. If one is to succeed, the IT managers have to sit close to the decision-making processes.
The Norwegian government’s ambition is to teach “kids to code”. But what you are saying is that everyone should be able to code today?
—Yes, you might say that. I believe it’s important that Norwegian leaders improve their IT skills. I think there are two basic qualities a general manager should have: One is to understand the business, and the other is to understand the technology and the opportunities it opens up.
We see a shift in competence and skills within IT in general, and also when it comes to the IT manager role. Today, it’s just as important that the IT manager has business expertise as IT expertise.
Gartner, which is one of the world’s leading analysis companies, says that by 2021, 40% of all IT personnel will be generalists with many different roles, where the majority of the roles are more business-oriented than technology-oriented.
Additional reading: Transitioning to the cloud – 4 steps to get started.
The speed is great, and the future all the more uncertain. How can we make plans for an uncertain future?
—Again, competence is important. Companies need employees with the right skills who can help the company keep up with technological trends and see how the world is changing.
In summary, what is your best advice for companies that want to take some significant digital steps into the future?
—I have a six-step advice for companies that want to get started with their digital journey:
1. Hire the right digital skills
Make sure you hire the right digital skills into the company. If you as a manager in a company do not increase your digital competence yourself, you have to surround yourself with people who know strategic IT.
2. Don’t do everything at once
Refine your plans in the beginning. Start with one process, and gain some experience before implementing major changes for your business.
3. Have great execution ability
It does not help with visions and values if you can’t implement them.
4. Create a culture for change
Create a willingness and a culture for change in the company. Today, development is extremely fast, meaning you can no longer settle for having 5-year plans. You need to make sure your company is ready to transform and adjust quickly.
5. Lead by example
Top management must take the lead in the digital transformation.
6. Invest in new technology
Invest in technology that enables new ways to deliver your goods and services.