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How the full potential of digital transformation is realized

Written by Dr. Niklas Kotman

The most important facts in 20 seconds
  • Involving the C-Level is essential for the success of digital transformation.

  • Particularly repetitive, frequently performed process steps such as simple inquiries from business partners or customer document requests can be easily digitised or automated.

  • Shifting IT infrastructure to the cloud preserves liquidity, increases flexibility, and achieves a focus on the core business.

  • The key success factor is a culture of willingness to change to implement any process innovation up to and including disruption on a large scale.

In a recent survey, Statista asked around 150 CIOs and CTOs about their transformation progress. One thing became clear: German companies continue working at full speed on their digital transformation. In particular, the pressure to optimise efficiency and remain competitive in the future is driving this process forward unabated. In the following interview, Dr. Niklas Kotman from our technology partner Salesforce explains in the following interview what companies should focus on to ensure their transformation achieves its full potential:

Potential efficiency optimisation and increased competitiveness are seen by the CIOs and CTOs surveyed as the top drivers of digital transformation. Where do you see the decisive transformation levers for achieving these goals efficiently?

The successful transformations I know of all have in common that the necessary steps are a matter for the boss or have been declared so. Involving the C-level is, therefore, essential. This is because corporate culture can enable and accelerate digital transformation. On the other hand, it can also slow it down or cause it to fail. Although all people in a company help shape the culture, the responsibility lies with the company management. The decisive levers for increasing efficiency are analysing processes and critically examining whether they must be the same. Many companies in Germany are currently desperately seeking employees. One lever for increasing efficiency and thus increasing margins is, therefore, to deploy human resources correctly. People should be able to concentrate on their strengths instead of dealing with tedious, repetitive processes and administration. People are at their best when interacting with people - the more time sales or customer service must respond to individual needs, the more successful the company will be. To make the necessary steps concrete:
consolidation of all customer data in one system or automated synchronisation of all customer data in the company.
Digitization of customer service and development towards low-touch or no-touch interaction. Generative AI can be a valuable support for human customer service here. Automated self-service through chatbots has been working well for some time now and is extremely well-received by customers.
setting up customer and partner portals with FAQ, document management and online store.

Every second company plans to invest more in renewing or expanding its digital services in 2023 than in the previous year. What do you need to pay particular attention to to ensure that these services really contribute to business success?

Every investment should stand up to a quantitative ROI analysis based on conservative assumptions. Digitisation is no exception. Furthermore, it must be critically examined whether the respective digitisation projects fit the company's strategic orientation and whether the prioritisation is correct. Many companies are currently focusing on cost reduction, which is why major transformation projects are postponed or put on hold indefinitely. And even if cost reduction is a focus, a conservative ROI analysis can show whether an investment is worthwhile. The longer the economically difficult phases last, the more room for manoeuvre for investments is limited. Eventually, you will find yourself in a dead end and lose more and more competitiveness once the competition takes over the business.

IT- infrastructure is increasingly shifting to the cloud in the transformation process. What advantages does the cloud offer companies compared to their data centre?

The shift of IT infrastructure to the cloud represents a further step in specialisation, a long-lasting constant in business. In this way, companies preserve their liquidity, increase their flexibility, and achieve a focus on their core business. In this way, companies become more agile, innovative, and future proof.


From your many years of experience, what advice can you give other companies to successfully drive their digital transformation and leverage their full potential? What distinguishes successful companies from those that are currently still struggling with transformation issues?

This may sound strange to us as a technology provider, but culture is the central success factor. If there is a lack of willingness to change at the base, any innovation of processes up to disrupting one’s business models is very difficult to manage. The successful digitalizers don't say "It can't be done," but ask "How could it be done?" Sometimes, it also helps to take a small step to create positive reference experiences. Turning the complete and fully functional ERP upside down in the first step is too much without the appropriate corporate culture. More obvious would be, for example, a customer or partner portal in which contracts, price books, invoices and product data sheets are digitised and made available with modern UI/UX. Especially in the B2B environment, marketing automation and analytics can also be implemented and made productive quickly and with manageable costs and risks. Often, small teams also lead the way with a pilot project in sales and thus become targeted champions of digitisation. If the first small projects are successful, even a relatively static corporate culture has a taste for change and wants a significant transformation.

Dr. Niklas Kotman

Senior Account Executive, Salesforce

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