Courage and responsibility in balance
PwC experts Reto Häni and Andreas Eschbach on the success factors behind a leap into the digital age.
Digitisation has changed the business world from the ground up. What does it take to be successful in this era?
Reto Häni: Courage, speed and responsibility. It takes courage to use digitisation in a way that creates something new and different. Swiftness is important as well: try something out quickly and accept the risk that it won’t work. Moreover, companies need to protect their customers’ data as they would a precious physical asset.
Andreas Eschbach: Above all, companies must be able to anticipate. Every organisation needs employees who can grasp not only the technological changes and opportunities, but also their risks, and evaluate the chances for their applicability to their own business model. And this not just every three to five years; rather, on an ongoing basis.
How can the right balance be struck between the opportunities of digitisation and the dangers associated with digital progress?
Andreas Eschbach: Businesses shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the new. Instead, they should embrace the credo “Learn fast, fail fast”. In this regard, an innovation centre can be a good place for enabling employees to develop innovative approaches and – here, too – take the inherent risks into account in the overall evaluation. But not everything that is technically doable is also meaningful. I advise companies not to get involved in every hype that comes along.
Reto Häni:On one hand, it’s right to forge bravely ahead with digitisation. It offers many opportunities: from automation and higher efficiency to entirely new business models. However, it’s just as important to be aware of the potential pitfalls on every step of the way. Data protection and security don’t belong at the end of this process – those measures are part of the process, always.
How can companies secure the trust of their customers and business partners?
Reto Häni: By making them aware that their data are valuable and, as such, are being treated with the utmost care. Transparency is fundamental to creating trust. Companies should clearly indicate what information they collect, as well as how they handle and protect that data.
Andreas Eschbach: In the B2C business, portals help to ensure transparency – at least in terms of price, service and customer satisfaction. However, the security of customer data is usually not addressed here. Certifications are confidence-building, as they attest to a company’s compliance with international safety standards. But in the B2B sector, companies need a sophisticated security concept. Only the fewest companies we analyse for the first time are continuously and optimally protected in a way that is ideally suited to their business model, their geographical business activities and their corporate structure.
You plead the case of using risk management as a strategic tool. How does that function in actual practice?
Andreas Eschbach: One example is real time risk assessment. Most companies conduct quarterly or semi-annual risk assessments. However, those who follow the risks in real time can readily identify trends and possible threats. This allows the company to react proactively instead of reactively, which in today’s world gives the business a strategic edge.
Anyone who follows the media can’t avoid getting the feeling that cyber attacks have increased significantly in recent years. Does this impression match with your experience? And what is the greater risk factor: the human being or the IT system?
Reto Häni: Yes, cyber attacks are increasing significantly these days. Frequently, companies don’t even notice they’re being attacked – and the number of unreported cases is still high, despite the greater visibility. Moreover, the attacks today are so professional that the lone hacker is no longer the primary risk. Investment in security technologies is therefore becoming increasingly important.
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