Digitalisierung – aber wie? Business Intelligence ist inzwischen der Schlüssel für eine Digitalstrategie. Viele Unternehmen wie Mittelständler stehen am Anfang, Großunternehmen hingegen blicken auf Dateninseln. Mit Heine Krog Iversen, CEO von TimeXtender haben wir über den deutschen Mittelstand, Datensicherheit und die Bedeutung des Menschen in der Digitalisierung gesprochen. Das Interview fand in englischer Sprache statt. (Fotos: TimeXtender)
Digitization is a central challenge for many companies. Strictly speaking, it is a megatrend. As CEO of a leading technology provider, can you please discuss what you think of this megatrend?
Any company of any size should be constantly looking at new technology as a way to improve its operational efficiency across the enterprise. This can be done by looking for technology to solve specific problems or needs that they might face, or they can keep an eye on new technologies as they come to market and consider if those are worth evaluating for their specific requirements.
The challenge for executive management is to determine how to rethink its business model so that it can readily adapt and maximize its business performance by using technology and digitization. If you are a mid-sized company, you have significantly more opportunities today to progress your business, than you had 10 years ago. So, keeping your business in a static state is not an option.
What does this mean for mid-sized companies?
Today, mid-sized firms are trying to keep up by being software robust. It is more affordable than ever before to make an investment in technology and to reap the rewards from those innovations.
Technology is available and affordable so that companies can now assimilate and harvest the benefits from all this technology. However, there are two sides to the coin. Technology isn’t about just improving the bottom line but it’s also about being more modern, more innovative, more competitive, and being fast and flexible. Stakeholder groups appreciate and respect companies that possess these traits.
But is it enough to invest in technology? I mean, to implement a technology without management has no value.
One of the current issues in Europe is that many mid-sized companies are getting ready to move on to the next generation of management. Many of these companies are planning to make changes to maximize the value of digitization. As new management executives come into their organization, many of whom are familiar with current technology trends, companies can better evaluate and prepare for modernization and innovation.
The critical question to ask is do these mid-sized firms have the skills and people to manage all this technology and to provide training, support, and change management. Many do but many don’t. People who can bridge between their existing business, but leverage ways to optimize their company’s operations with technology, are very valuable employees.
Can you explain this idea in more detail?
These personnel can play such an important role as they can determine the status of their company and determine how to improve it through technology and digitization to provide greater value. Then, they can go out and find the technology to improve their specific business and improve departmental functions. They understand what benefits will be achieved and how to manage it all with goals and objectives, benchmarks, and financial success.
„It can often be easier for mid-sized companies vis-à-vis larger organizations to bring digitization.“
Some activities in middle-sized companies are status quo and have been in place for 20-30 years. Forward-looking companies know how to use software to innovate and become more competitive in the marketplace, and they have an eye on broader strategic perspectives that can be accomplished through new technology and digitization.
The key is establishing priorities. However, cloud, SaaS, IoT and in our case, data democratization and helping companies move from business intelligence to an intelligent business, should be included in that list of priorities to increase their competitiveness and to maximize ROI, agility, and speed.
TimeXtender has 2,700 customers in 60 countries. So it owns a large range of experience. What are the benefits of mid-sized companies versus large companies in the field of digitization?
It can often be easier for mid-sized companies vis-à-vis larger organizations to bring digitization and other technology innovation into the corporate fold, as mid-sized companies typically don’t have 100,000 employees spread around the world. This means quicker evaluation, faster decision making and simplified adoption for mid-level companies. While larger companies are evaluating and researching new tech, mid-sized companies can implement and harness its benefits at a faster rate.
Discovery Hub™ is the flagship of TimeXtenders. How does it help medium-sized companies in Germany?
TimeXtender helps provide access to corporate data in an efficient and affordable manner, giving medium sized companies the opportunity to truly become data driven. Discovery Hub™ helps a medium-sized company understand what it does and where it’s going by leveraging its corporate data and intelligence. The ability to access data, as needed when needed, from across all departments and with corporate governance, can be accomplished through Discovery Hub™.
Traditionally, companies have allowed some employees to access their data from its various data sources, but this is inefficient and can be inaccurate, as multiple data sources can lead to multiple answers. TimeXtender’s Discovery Hub™ collects and combines all this data that is stuck in silos so that it can be analyzed accurately and providing “one source of the truth.” Discovery Hub™ is a great fit for medium-sized companies that don’t want to spend 18 months with IT consultants for data integration, which translates to a substantial cost and time savings.
Data democratization is a slogan that you have marked with TimeXtender. What does data democratization mean in practice?
We believe that democratizing access to corporate data is a modern employee right. All people within an organization should have access to their company’s data to help them do their jobs properly and make data-driven decisions. More importantly, they should have access to good, quality data. If you’re moving from one data source to another it can provide an inaccurate picture of your information and knowledge.
And how does this idea work in the company?
All business users need to access data in order to make better decisions, abide by regulatory requirements, or report and share information. Measurable data that is constantly made available with governance is very meaningful to the success of individual employees, and when you multiply that effectiveness across all functional departments and all team members, you can see what data democratization means to a company.
To us, giving employees access to their data transforms an entire company from using business intelligence to an intelligent business. A company that uses Discovery Hub™ can collect and integrate all its data into a central hub and make it available at the local level for self-service, with data governance. In the past, granting self-service was difficult given the requirement for data governance, but TimeXtender makes this all possible with Discovery Hub™.
Data security is a central concern of many German companies that face the challenges of digitization. What do you recommend for these companies?
The concern about data security is of course very important and comes in many different forms. For instance, it’s vital to ensure that data within your company is not getting into the public. Can external people hack their way into your data? This is one of the biggest concerns that mid-sized companies have, especially when it comes to the cloud.
How is data security ensured in Discovery Hub™?
Given these risks, many companies are hesitant to work with third-party companies. Here’s what’s interesting: the reality is that you might actually be less safe by simply relying on internal security and safeguards rather than using external third-party providers. This is because you might not have the manpower or expertise for testing, securing, controlling or checking data security. However, with many third-party companies, security is a significant service that they provide and many are very proficient at it. They use modern technology, current security measures, and best practices and can provide a more protected environment for a company.
„In 10 years, companies will look very different. How do we know? Look at where we were 10 years ago compared to today.“
Also, another crucial component is who gets access to what type of data? Discovery Hub™ makes sure that no one can have access to the server who shouldn’t. Discovery Hub™ also allows companies to manage who can see what type of data at their company. Another security measure that companies have to plan for is people having access to confidential and private information while on the road. Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of concerns you have and what steps must be taken to account for them.
Using new technology can be a tradeoff regarding security. Some technology has built-in security measures, while others require separate security be put in place. Let’s use Discovery Hub™ as an example: it provides companies with a central hub to collect, consolidate, and integrate all of its data for centralized access. This capability simplifies corporate data security as a company now only has to safeguard one data source instead of multiple ones. However, as a contingency, if anything happens with Discovery Hub™, a company can go back to their data silos and grab the data from those discrete sources.
I would like to take a look into the future with you. How will companies look in 10 years? What does this mean for organizations, needs in qualification and personnel, company culture, technology and more.
In 10 years, companies will look very different. How do we know? Look at where we were 10 years ago compared to today. If you look at any company it is amazing what has happened with cloud technology, the smartphone and more. All these activities have been digitized for a business. Also, look at the speed of innovation and disruption we’ve had over the past decade. Innovation is speeding up and that should continue to accelerate even faster over the next 10 years.
We should plan on seeing more robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence. On top of all this technology we’ll likely see even more cloud applications, better improvement for workflow, and constant reinvention.
More and more employees will be working mobile, remote, and global and technology will be needed to support these locations. Technology opens up so many opportunities and the up-and-coming generation is more savvy and tech-oriented. They’ve grown up with technology and have been trained to use it in schools. They want the data and apps to work anywhere, anytime. They are digitized. Business structures are adapting for the new generation and the new entrepreneurs. And mid-sized companies have to anticipate and plan for this and those that don’t can be left behind.
Change is the new mindset. Being open minded, more curious, and flexible will allow companies to gain even more benefits from technology as the future unfolds.
“Change is the new mindset.” – what a great final sentence. Thank you for this inspiring Interview, Mr. Iversen.