Who drives digital transformation in companies? This is the question we want to explore in a three part article series. European and Germany politics are one catalyst of digital transformation. Günther Oettinger certainly does not count as a digital native in the office of the EU commissioner, but the politician does have experience in dealing with corporations and knows how they work.
The federal government’s digital agenda
In August 2014, the federal government of Germany presented the digital agenda to Chancellor Angela Merkel. This paper contains plans for the future of digitalisation in Germany. Apart from the expansion of infrastructure and cyber security, the digital agenda is also supposed to drive the digital economy forwards. This change goes by the buzzword “Industry 4.0” and should for instance establish cloud computing and big data in corporations. Stronger start up support is supposed to be planned for the future as well. At least the digital agenda can be recognised as a road map, which although it does not demand any kind of concrete implementation, it still provides a general direction. However, this is exactly the source of much criticism: Coming in 2014, the paper is too late and contains no concrete plans as to how the digital economy in Germany can be put into gear.
Not a national matter
Even an especially successful implementation of the digital transformation within Germany is useless if the other European states don’t follow suit. Günter Oettinger has set his sights on the digitalisation of Europe. Because of his vita, he is viewed as unsuitable for the post of EU digital commissions. However, it has to be noted that a pure digital native would be just as unsuitable here. The previous Minister President of Baden-Württemberg may not have any experience in the topic of digitalisation, but he does know how corporations work. This knowledge will be of great use when it comes to the implementation of the digital transformation, which primarily affects companies. It remains to be seen how Oettinger will tackle the task of digital transformation in Europe. However, with him there is certainly a more capable person in position than it may at first appear.
What can be clearly seen with Günther Oetthinger, is an increasing change in the idea of who is capable of leading corporations in the future in general. There is a change of the watch in marketing departments for instance, as the Chief Digital Officer is established to manage interdepartmental processes.
What will be done exactly?
Both the digital agenda and the aims of the European Union regarding digitalisation within corporations have been extremely vague so far and are still not specific. The extension of infrastructure would be an important step. However, it must also be noted that some companies have had little contact with the digitalisation of internal processes to date.
The initiative of the minister for the economy Gabriel can also be seen as a further step in the right direction: offering programming as a subject in its own right in the early school years. This would make children familiar with digitalisation, although it would mean losing other subjects.
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