A sense of ownership among senior management regarding how digitalisation can reduce costs and increase revenue is crucial. This sense of ownership occurs through an in-depth understanding of collaboration across internal silos and probably of other companies that share the same platforms and technologies.

An IT director, who traditionally is responsible for digital processes, is often measured in terms of streamlining, automation and lower costs, while a marketing director is measured in terms of growth and increased revenue. The fact that IT is internally focused, while marketing is externally focused, can be suboptimal and also a source of conflict.

Every business will sooner or later have to make important strategic decisions. Then it is important to identify areas of improvement that are significant enough to generate speed and momentum, yet manageable enough to be viable.

Define the changes you are facing: who could represent a threat and how could you challenge other players? Thus, all companies could ask themselves whether they have put together an optimal board, management group or IT management to lead the company through a digitalisation process.

Knowit has defined three different kinds of strategic focus: improve, grow or change. The three different kinds of focus are crucial to how you organise yourselves, measure results and, not least, work efficiently. Based on the decisions you make, you will encounter various critical success factors.

1. “Mean & Lean” – Strengthen and streamline the core business
This is an improvement-driven development. You would like to streamline the supply of existing product/services to existing customers. This is where digital technology can create value by automating processes. What characterises such a development is that it is problem-driven and linked to internal insight. The project methodology will be milestone-orientated and you will use employee and expert-orientated teams.

2. ”Eat or be Eaten” – Expand, grow the core business
This is an expansion-driven development. You want to deliver the next generation of products/services to a defined market segment. What characterises such a development is that it is needs-driven and linked to domain and industry insight. Feedback-driven agile methodology in combination with sector-transcending teams.

3. ”Change or Die” – Transform and change the core business
This is a transformation-driven development. You want to deliver completely new products/services to market segments that perhaps don’t even exist today. What characterises such a development is that it is vision-driven, challenges the existing business and is linked to future insight and “dreams”. The project methodology will be “trial and error”-orientated, and you will work in open, multidisciplinary teams.

Nordic companies often focus on “Mean & Lean”
In the Nordic countries, we note that companies regard the cost level as the most significant threat. Surveys show that Nordic IT managers are primarily concerned about cutting costs, while American and Asian IT managers have a much broader focus that also includes digital competition, new business models and channel integration. In the Nordic countries, IT primarily focuses on maintaining the status quo, only faster and cheaper, rather than becoming a source of new services or new business areas. Therefore, we find the strategic focus of the majority of Nordic companies in the first option described above: “Mean & Lean”: streamlining the existing business.

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